Common non-native english writer mistranslation


They must be thirsty

Recommended translation: They must want to drink.
Mistranslated: They must be want to drink.

We often encounter the fact that “double” or “triple” verbal constructions like “should be” are translated literally, that is, each of the two verbs separately. “Must be” in our case was translated as must be . And this is not true. It is necessary to distinguish between must be - must / must be. Here must is a must, an obligation.

He must be in prison for his crime. He should be in jail for his crime.

There is another expression - it must be, perhaps, most likely, apparently. And this expression is translated by only one verb - must .

She doesn't tell anything about her son - he must be in prison. She doesn't say anything about her son. He must be in jail.

In our example, it is the second case that takes place: "should be" is a synonym for "most likely, apparently." Therefore, we use only must without be . As a result, we get the correct option:

They must want to drink.

Everyone helped write the script

Recommended translation: Everybody helped write the scenario.
Mistranslation: Everybody were helping to write a scenario.

We fully understand that "everyone, all people" is the plural. According to the logic of things, the verb after everybody or everyone should also be plural. This was done by our anonymous user.

But let's take a closer and closer look at the words everybody and everyone . Even an inexperienced user will understand that these are compound words: every + body and every + one. Body and one are singular, so after these words we put the verb in the singular. In this case, we rely on logic and not on the ability to translate. It turns out that you need not were , but was .

In addition, we would put the article the in front of the script, because it is obvious that the participants in the conversation know what script they are talking about. So we get:

Everybody was helping to write the scenario.

We better not go

Recommended translation: We would rather not go.
Mistranslated: We better don't go.

We have already said, using the example of the first expression, that a literal translation rarely brings favorable results. At a minimum, you need to know a few common set expressions with verbs to avoid awkwardness.

The expression "it's better not to do something" is automatically translated by 90% of our users using the word better . And this is immediately false . There is a common verb turnover - would rather do something . It just means "we'd better do something." Accordingly, if you don’t do something better, then it will sound like would rather not do something . As you can see, there is no better at all. Then we get the following translation for our expression:

We would rather not go.

With the onset of spring, as usual, the desire to quickly feel warmth, relaxation and joy intensifies. Many find this wonderful combination of sensations in a vacation abroad. Therefore, we resume our weekly newsletter with an analysis of the most common translation errors.

Phrase #1: He gave me a lot of advice.

User translation: He has given to me a lot of advises.

In this seemingly short sentence, our user made three mistakes.

  1. After give, we do not put any prepositions, the correct beginning of the phrase should sound like 'He has given me…'.
  2. There is a spelling error in the word "advice". The correct spelling of this word is advice. The option suggested by our user - advise - translates as "advise".
  3. The last mistake is that the word advice in English is uncountable . This means that it cannot be pluralized. In Russian, the word "advice" can be pluralized: this is probably what confused our user.

So, the correct translation of this expression could sound like this - He has given me a lot of advice.

Phrase #2: I'm going to tell them to stop following us.

User translation: I am going to say them to stop haunting us.

At first glance, this proposal seems to be correct. But experienced users may notice that the verb say here cuts the ear a bit. When you want to give an order, ask someone to do something, then use the verb tell, not say . In other words, "to tell someone to do something" is tell somebody to do, not say somebody to do.

Therefore, the correct translation would sound like this - I am going to tell them to stop haunting us.

Phrase #3: I promised I wouldn't be late.

User translation: I've promised I won't be late.

Remember the old school phrase 'I am sorry, I am late'? Note that late is preceded by the verb be (after I in the present tense, it changes to am). Late is not the verb “late”, it is the adjective “late, late”, so it must be preceded by a verb. Our user missed it in his translation.

Therefore, a more correct translation would sound like - I've promised I won't be late.

You are overweight by 5 kilograms

Recommended translation: You are overweight by 5 kilograms.
Mistranslated: You are overweight on 5 kilos.

We have already somehow paid attention to the fact that for some kilograms, kilometers, people, etc. does not translate literally, that is, ON. Moreover, VO for some time is not translated as IN, that is, also literally.

If some quality is more pronounced by some or some times, kilometers, person, gram, then we choose the preposition by. And only by is not on, nor in, nor any other.

So we should succeed: You are overweight by 5 kilos

I don't look in the mirror for months

Recommended translation: I go months without looking in the mirror.
Mistranslated: I haven't looked at mirror for months.

At first glance, this proposal appears to be correct. Well, to be honest, we would say in the mirror is a set expression.

Look at the verb - is it in the correct tense? There is for months - and this is a true indicator of Perfect time. But let's remember what are Perfect tenses? These are COMPLETE tenses, they denote actions that have already ended, ended or will end. For example, I have cleaned the carpet. - I cleaned the carpet.

They have written a new song | They wrote a new song

Think, both of these actions are completed - the carpet is cleaned, the song is written. And what about the mirror? The action is clearly not completed, I regularly, every day do not look in the mirror, this is my habit. And what time do we use for regular actions, for describing habits? Correct: Simple. Here we should get

I don't look in the mirror for months.

Here are examples from headlines from magazines and newspapers:

12 Fruits and Vegetables That Last for Months Former minister kept Vestia financial problems secret for months

I forgive what he did

Recommended translation: I am forgiving what I have done.
Mistranslated: I forgive him that he has done.

Recently, cases of confusion between that and what have become more frequent. Dictionaries give the same translation for them - what. And this creates a problem, because these are completely different parts of speech. What - what; things/thing that. This is a noun, it cannot be omitted from the sentence, otherwise it will lose its logic and meaning.

That - what. This is a union, if you omit it from the sentence, then nothing will change, the meaning will not be lost.

Let's take an example: I don't know what she thinks of me.

"What" cannot be omitted here. Also, you can rephrase this sentence: I don't know what she thinks of me. What is definitely needed here.

I don't know what she thinks about me.

Another example: I know she thinks badly of me.

"What" can be omitted here, then it will turn out: I know she thinks badly of me. The meaning of the sentence has not changed. Here you definitely need that.

I know that she thinks badly about me.

Our example from the warm-up is generally very simple - it says “what” in black and white, and this is what.

So we should succeed: I forgive what he has done.