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I'm reading the first Harry Potter book in Spanish and have noticed that Hagrid addresses Vernon Dursley in form:

—¡Le exijo que se vaya enseguida, señor! —dijo—. ¡Esto es allanamiento de morada!

—Bah, cierra la boca, Dursley, grandísimo majadero —dijo el gigante.

Yet on the next page it seems to be the usted form:

—¡Deténgase! —ordenó—. ¡Deténgase ahora mismo, señor! ¡Le prohíbo que le diga nada al muchacho!

—¿No se lo ha dicho? ¿No le ha hablado sobre el contenido de la carta que Dumbledore le dejó? ¡Yo estaba allí! ¡Vi que Dumbledore la dejaba, Dursley! ¿Y se la ha ocultado durante todos estos años?

And then one more time in the usted form:

—Él no irá —dijo.

—Me gustaría ver a un gran muggle como usted deteniéndolo a él —dijo.

Am I misunderstanding something? Why would someone switch from one form to another like this?

I looked up the German translation (there are also two forms in German): it has the informal form () in all these cases.

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  • Are there multiple translations of HP? It'd be interesting to compare a Mexican to a Spanish (that is, from Spain) translation if so. Also, it could just be a minor translation error. One can imagine someone typing "cierrs" and the spell checker suggesting (or even auto correcting) to cierra just as much as to cierre. Mar 20 '15 at 2:24
  • Self comment answer: there are five Spanish translations (Castilian, Galician, Asturian, Catalonian, Basque), but only one translation into Spanish/Castilian. Mar 20 '15 at 3:21
  • @guifa, Good to know. Not that I'm interested at all in HP, but yesterday after seeing your comment I checked and it was easy to find Spanish/Castilian "Harry Potter y la Piedra Filosofal" in Google books, but I couldn't find anything with a different flavor of Spanish. That explains why. It would have been an interesting comparison, though.
    – Diego
    Mar 20 '15 at 16:20
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    Note that the three pronouns you've bolded in the second quote are all third person, referring to Harry. Mar 31 '15 at 21:01
  • @PeterTaylor: thank you for pointing it out. In fact, I've bolded only "ha" (three times) but the post was edited later.
    – Leo
    Apr 1 '15 at 1:27
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Yes, he seems to be switching forms. "Cierra" is definitely a second person form and usted, in spite of being a second person form, uses the 3rd person form conjugation.

Since the first time this character addresses Dursley he seems to be insulting him, the translator may have thought that no one talking like that to someone else would care to keep the manners, using usted, but Hagrid could have said:

Bah, cierre la boca, Dursley, grandísimo majadero.

And address Dursley de usted tell and him to shut up all at once.

Definitely you are right and the chosen form should be consistent, but since he is using "de tú" only for that one time that he is talking more aggressively, doesn't seem to be a big deal in terms of coherence. He is not "switching randomly" nor continuously, he only seems to switch once and that one time is understandable that the more respectful "usted" is not kept.

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  • I'd almost accept that the first example was a typo in the translation rather than a change in conjugation. Books are never perfectly edited and there are even websites devoted to HP typos in the english editions!
    – Peter M
    Mar 21 '15 at 21:42

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