Dans son bureau du huitième étage, Mr Dursley s'asseyait toujours dos à la fenêtre. S'il en avait été autrement, il aurait sans doute eu un peu plus de mal que d'habitude à se concentrer sur ses perceuses, ce matin-là.

What is “en” supposed to mean in this context? How to properly translate this sentence?

  • 2
    This is a formal form of "Si cela n'avait pas été le cas".
    – Random
    Aug 14 '15 at 16:02

The word "en" is not always a preposition, in this case it refers to the situation, described in the previous sentence ("...s'asseyait toujours dos à la fenêtre.").

An easier and more visual way to figure this is to imagine what the sentence would look like without this word : "S'il avait été autrement ...", it would be a little confusing because "il" could refer to "Mr Dursley".

Hope I helped you with that ;)

You can find more information about "en" and its different use cases on this page


This could be translated as, "if it hadn't been so" or "if this hadn't been the case". Thus, as Martin explains, "en" refers to the situation being described.

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