“Translate To” vs. “Translate Into” – Easy Preposition Guide

When you change something into another thing it is known as a translation. You may have heard instances such as these referred to as “translate to” or “translate into.” Here you will learn the proper times to use the preposition “to” or “into” after the word “translate.”

Is It “Translate To” Or “Translate Into”?

Deciding whether to use “translate to,” or “translate into” depends on what you are translating. When translating a phrase to another language, you always use the expression “translate into.” If a thing is having a change “happen” to it, but not changing completely, you can use the wording “translate to.”

translate to or translate for

When used with the word “translate,” the preposition “into” indicates a movement or a change in subject from one thing to something else. The preposition “to” indicates that you are expressing a change that is abstract or just involves the original subject.

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When Should I Use “Translate To”?

You should use “translate to” when the subject of the verb has something that happens to it and it only involves the subject. In this case, the verb “translate” is used intransitively, which means that it does change one thing into something else. Instead, the action only involves the subject.

“Translate to” should never be used in the context of speaking about a language translation, as you cannot translate a word or a phrase “to” an entire language like English, French, etc.

Let’s look at some examples of the types of sentences when “translate to” should be used.

  • The 2.5% increase in the interest rate on the loan, will translate to another $150 a month on the payment.
  • That amount of Euros would translate to about 650 American dollars.
  • That book seems like it would very easily translate to a movie.
  • Don’t let your enthusiasm for starting the game translate to a lack of taking the time to warm up first.

Notice how in each of the examples the subject of the verb does not change into something else, but rather something just “happens” to it to make it different. The payment increases, the euros are worth a certain amount of American dollars, the book could also be a movie, the enthusiasm makes the person rush.

When Should I Use “Translate Into”?

Always use “translate into” when referring to languages. Additionally, you should use it in any other situation where the direct object of the verb is changed by the translation. In this case, it would mean that “translate” is a transitive verb and the action is done to someone or something.

 In most situations in the English Language, verbs are transitive, which is the reason why “translate into” can be used in many more circumstances than the phrase “translate to.”

Let’s look at some examples so that you can see the different types of context where you can use “translate into” in a sentence.

  • Knowing that they are about to have a new baby can translate into eager parents rushing out to buy all of the latest gadgets.
  • That book was written so that it will easily translate into many different languages.
  • Negative experiences can translate into positive outcomes if you have the right mindset about them.
  • Can you translate the phrase “I love you” into Spanish for me?

Notice how in these examples, the verb “translate” changes the direct object from what it once was into something completely different. The knowledge of a pregnancy leads to buying a lot of things, the book changes to many different languages, a negative experience becomes something positive, and the phrase changes to a different one in Spanish.

Is “Translate To” Or “Translate Into” Used The Most?

The phrase “translate into” is by far the most commonly used of these two phrases in the modern English language. Based on our knowledge of most verbs acting in a transitive way, it makes sense that this would be the case.

The Google Ngram Viewer here shows that the phrase “translate to” is rarely used at all. Up until about 1980, both phrases had relatively low usage but “translate into” was still more widely popular. After 1980, the phrase “translate into” skyrocketed and there is no question that it is the one used more often to this day.

translate to or translate for historical development

Which Other Prepositions Can Be Used After “Translate”?

In addition to the prepositions “to” and “into,” you can also use the prepositions “from,” “with,” and “by” after the word “translate.” Often with these other prepositions, you must change the form of the verb “translate” to the past tense form of “translated,” to make a clearer sentence.

Translate From

According to The Cambridge Dictionary, one definition of the preposition “from” is “used to show a change in the state of someone or something.” This meaning would be the proper way to use “from” after the word “translate.”

The sentences show some examples of this usage. Notice the use of the past tense of the verb in the third example.

  • To translate from HTML to XHTML requires an employee with a specific skill set.
  • Many people can translate from English to Spanish, as both are very popular languages.
  • The paper had to be translated from English to Turkish before the student could read it.

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Translate With

The preposition “with” can mean “using something,” according to The Cambridge Dictionary. When this preposition follows the word “translate,” it only makes sense when used in the past tense form of the verb “translated with.”

These example sentences indicate that something is being translated by using something else to do the translation.

  • I translated with an English to French dictionary when I was touring Paris last summer.
  • I translated with “Google Translate” many times throughout the day to speak with different customers.
  • The books were translated with the help of the department head who was an expert in classical languages.

Translate By

The Cambridge Dictionary defines the preposition “by” to mean “to show how something is done,” which is how it is used in this instance. This preposition can also only be used properly with the past tense of the verb “translate.”

In these sentences, you can see how the phrase “translate by” indicates the person or thing that has performed the translation.

  • The text was translated by the historian and had a few misinterpretations within it.
  • The book was automatically translated by computer so it had some awkward passages that a human translator would have easily caught.
  • The document was translated by native speakers of the language, which gave it more authenticity than the one that was translated by a student of the language.

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