Una brisa agitó los pulcros setos de Privet Drive, que se disponían silenciosos y ordenados bajo un cielo de color tinta.

  • From Harry Potter Y La Piedra Filosofal (copyright de la edición en castellano © Ediciones Salamandra 1999).

The question I have is if "se disponían silenciosos y ordenados" is grammatically correct. From what I understand, what should follow "se disponían" should be adverbs; however, "silenciosos" is an adjective and "ordenados" is present participle forms of "ordenar".

If my understanding of adjectives and adverbs are correct, "silenciosos" should be "en silencio" or "silenciosamente"; and "ordenados" should be either "cuidadosamente" or "con esmero", since, according to spanishdict.com, present participles can't act as an adverb unless in the gerund form, which "ordenados" isn't.

Do please correct me if I'm mistaken. I'm a beginner to Spanish language and need every help I can get.

Thank you very much for your time to everyone who read this post.

  • 1
    This appears to be a predicative complement, although the choice of verb is a bit off (see answers), because disponerse is an active verb (here it means "to array oneself"). I would've had to think a lot to translate this sentence...
    – pablodf76
    Aug 1, 2020 at 20:52
  • disponerse here can be: which lay is like lay out. disponer for that is really good here.
    – Lambie
    Aug 6, 2020 at 22:07

3 Answers 3


In my opinion, the main problem lies in the verb "disponerse" which, according to DLE, can be used pronominally to mean:

  1. tr. Colocar, poner algo en orden y situación conveniente. U. t. c. prnl.

When referring to things, pronominal "disponerse" can only mean "lie" or "be situated/located" while, when referring to people, it can also be used to mean:

  1. tr. preparar. U. t. c. prnl.

To my ears, the adjectives would sound fine as subject complements (i.e. as adjectives referring to the subject within the predicate) if the subject were animate and with the meaning under (3) above, for example:

  • Los estudiantes se disponían(,) silenciosos y ordenados(,) a escuchar el discurso (Quiet and orderly, the students prepared/got ready to listen to the speech.)

Although "disponerse" may sound fine with adjectives for something inanimate and with meaning (1) in the literary context mentioned, in everyday language it would sound more natural to use "estar dispuesto/s", meaning "be arranged" (in which case the adverbs of manner would be required), or "encontrarse" (in which case the adjectives work perfectly).

I like Krauss's suggestion about setting off those adjectives between commas. Apart from his versions, I propose:

  • Una brisa agitó los pulcros setos de Privet Drive, que estaban dispuestos en forma silenciosa y ordenada bajo un cielo de color tinta.

  • Una brisa agitó los pulcros setos de Privet Drive, que se encontraban silenciosos y ordenados bajo un cielo de color tinta.

Note: I think "silenciosos" adds some personification feature to the hedges.

  • 1
    I think the key here is changing the verb. Encontrarse seems right to me. The English uses adjectives, I suppose, because it is describing the hedges not the way they are lying.
    – mdewey
    Aug 2, 2020 at 12:16
  • @mdewey In English, the hedges lay silent is making the hedges like a person.ergo disponerse is fine.///I have no idea what to use pronominally means.My inbuilt dictionary does not accept it....
    – Lambie
    Aug 6, 2020 at 22:10
  • Just to clarify, the dictionary uses the abbreviation "U. t. c. prnl.", included in my transcription of the definition of "disponerse" above, to mean "usado también como pronominal" (also used pronominally).
    – Gustavson
    Aug 9, 2020 at 0:12

While reading the translation I felt it unnatural and was so puzzled about what color tinta meant so I went to look for the original text in English and found this:

A breeze ruffled the neat hedges of Privet Drive, which lay silent and tidy under the inky sky.

I won't dare to criticize the translation but instead, I'll give some alternatives more suited to my taste.

To start with, the English version uses the adjectives silent and tidy. I am not an expert in the English language but as in Spanish, I would expect adverbs (Please note that I don't have the original book in English so I searched on Internet for the English version.)

You are right about the use of adverbs in Spanish. One way to change the adjectives to adverbs form is by adding the suffix mente (this doesn't always work but it does for these two cases:)

Una brisa agitó los pulcros setos de privet drive que se disponían silenciosa y ordenadamente bajo un cielo de color tinta.

Now, although we have two sentences joined by que, we could attempt to change the order so that the adjectives refer to los [pulcros] setos; for example, I would prefer this form:

Una brisa agitó los pulcros setos de privet drive que, silenciosos y ordenados, se disponían bajo un cielo de color tinta.

An alternative using the same order but with adverbs would be:

Una brisa agitó los pulcros setos de privet drive que, silenciosa y ordenadamante, se disponían bajo un cielo de color tinta.

But one could stretch the writer's license and write:

Una brisa agitó los pulcros setos de privet drive que se disponían, silenciosos y ordenados, bajo un cielo de color tinta.

However, note that I included commas for the sentences that feature an altered order.


I am not an expert on this, just a spanish speaker who end up here, searching for another thing :) -sorry if I make any mistake with my english-

What I can tell you is, first, that adverbs do not always need to end with "-mente", silenciosos can act as an adjective or an adverb, here is affecting the way in which the setos are being seen. And ordenados can also act as an adjective or adverb. Here is not set in the form of the verb, but as a characteristic of the plants.

On the other hand, I read something on the verb disponerse. It is used here as "lay out" "arrange". The hole phrase is written on a literary manner (if that is correct in english) it isn't a way you would normaly speak in spanish, but it is perfect to give to the context and the imaginery set a more romantic characteristic.

Also, I read some comments about adding commas, and here I don't think they are really necessary because "silenciosos y ordenados" is affecting directly to the way they are being "layed out", and an extra silence there isn't really necessary.

I hope this is useful!

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