I hope I'm not giving away any Harry Potter plot points. I just watched the last movie of the series, and I'm pretty sure that they made an error in the German translation of a line from Voldemort taken right from the book:

As you can see in the trailer, Voldemort says

Harry Potter, the boy who lived...come to die.

Note that the sentence ends in a period, not an exclamation point. Now I had always understood this to mean:

(Look at) Harry Potter, the boy who lived (who has now) come to die.

In the German dub, they translated it as:

Harry Potter, der Junge der überlebte. Komm her und stirb!

(Harry Potter, the boy who lived. Come here and die!)

Surely that's not correct. Or is it? Is this ambiguous at all?

  • Should this be migrated to German.stackexchange.com? – Thursagen Aug 3 '11 at 9:48
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    I guess the question is about the grammar and the ambiguity of the English sentence.. the German stuff is just the way for the OP to express what he is thinking – Louis Rhys Aug 3 '11 at 10:02

I think the English (as written) is a bit ambiguous. It could be an ellipsis, as you wrote:

The boy who lived (has now) come to die.

or it could be a command

The boy who lived. Come (here), to die!

The tone of the speaker would probably make it clear. I feel that the if the speaker was speaking in the first case, the word "come" would probably be spoken more softly, whereas in the second case, "Come!" is a command and would be spoken more forcefully.

The trailer is here and it sounds to me like it's an observation than a command, so I think the first interpretation is correct.

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  • +1: Exactly right, but listening to the trailer, I think even the trailer is ambiguous. There is a slight accent on the come, in the trailer, which I think could be interpreted as a command, but doesn't have to be. – Peter Shor Aug 3 '11 at 14:09
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    @Peter: I don't dispute that you could interpret it that way. However I don't, partly because Voldemort is not usually known for such subtle commands, but also because he's basically spent (at this point in the story) several hours commanding Harry to come to him. So when Harry DOES show up it seems redundant to once again command him. – Mr. Shiny and New 安宇 Aug 3 '11 at 14:23
  • I agree that it's probably not imperative, partly because the stress on come is relatively small and partly because, as @TimLymington says, the imperative would more likely be expressed Come and die! rather than Come to die! (although both alternatives are grammatical). – Peter Shor Aug 3 '11 at 15:12

In the way it is written, it is in the imperative mood. The two sentences are grammaticaly separate:

  1. Harry Potter, the boy who lived (a different way of saying “Hello Harry”)
  2. Come to die!

With a different context, the present of the indicative mood could also be used, but the meaning would be altogether different:

(Voice-over) Harry Potter, the boy who lived, (pause for dramatic effect) comes to die

Of course, being the singular third person, comes then has a final s.

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  • comes, or came – Louis Rhys Aug 3 '11 at 10:03
  • OK, this is very interesting for me. So come here couldn't be understood as a past participle at all? Like for example in "a boy [who has] gone forever"? I would have expected an exclamation point, not a period, to understand this as an imperative form. I'm aware that usage of a past participle like that would be uncommon except for poetic language - which is exactly what Voldemort was using in this dramatic scene. That's probably why I interpreted it this way... – Tim Pietzcker Aug 3 '11 at 12:33
  • Yeah, it could be an ellipsis for has come to die, but ellipsis in an ambiguous case is not the favoured meaning in my eye. – F'x Aug 3 '11 at 12:39

Not really ambiguous to me. Even in English, it is "Come (here) to die" like a command.

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  • Surely the command would naturally be "come and die"? Also, as OP says, a command like Die would normally take an exclamation mark. – Tim Lymington Aug 3 '11 at 12:55

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