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Hogwarts, the School of Witchcraft and Wizardry in the Harry Potter books, has the following Latin motto: Draco dormiens numquam titillandus.

Most online sources translate this as "Never tickle a sleeping dragon". However, it occurred to me that, since titillandus is a future passive participle, it should not necessarily be translated as the main verb. Additionally, draco and dormiens are both masculine, so I don't think they should be translated as the nominative subject.

I have come up with a couple of potential translations:

A sleeping dragon never to be tickled.

This does not flow very well in English however, so I was thinking that perhaps est was omitted from the motto. On the basis that est should have been included, titillandus est would then be a passive periphrastic. As a result, we could then say

A sleeping dragon is never to be tickled.

or

A sleeping dragon must never be tickled.

Though "never tickle a sleeping dragon" still preserves the meaning, I believe that the other translations I propose are more accurate with respect to the Latin.

I would like to know if anyone can think of other potential translations that I am missing. Furthermore, can the active equivalents of intended passive phrases as such be considered equally legitimate? Are there any other historical or modern examples of this?

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    Your translation is exactly what I thought the first time I read the motto, and I can't help thinking the book's is but a free translation. – Rafael Dec 16 '16 at 19:16
  • Well spotted. Isn't the supine used for negative commands? Numquam titillatum est +Accusative. – Hugh Dec 16 '16 at 19:21
  • The translation is syntactically free, but many translations are to some extent. As long as it preserves the meaning (which it does) it seems unobjectionable. – TKR Dec 16 '16 at 22:20
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You're right that it's a gerundive of obligation, and thus requires a form of esse. However, it doesn't have to be expressed. Tacitus Annals 1.29 contains two without esse, though they're in indirect statements:

certatum inde sententiis, cum alii opperiendos legatos atque interim comitate permulcendum militem censerent, alii fortioribus remediis agendum: nihil in vulgo modicum; terrere ni paveant, ubi pertimuerint inpune contemni: dum superstitio urgeat, adiciendos ex duce metus sublatis seditionis auctoribus. promptum ad asperiora ingenium Druso erat: vocatos Vibulenum et Percennium interfici iubet. tradunt plerique intra tabernaculum ducis obrutos, alii corpora extra vallum abiecta ostentui.

This commentary agrees with this position.

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One could also read the entire motto as a description of the school: maybe Hogwarts is "a sleeping dragon which should not be tickled". I am not familiar enough with the school to tell if this is a sensible interpretation, but it strikes me as a reasonable option. In this reading the motto is not an instruction for students but a description of the school.

I asked a separate question about such uses of gerundive to make sure that this interpretation is indeed grammatical.

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