Hill grows from having to teach herself new makeup trends and translating them to her viewers. (source)

I find the use of "to" in this sentence somewhat strange. Wouldn't "for" be a better choice of word?

If the downvote is because I didn't put up enough information or the assumption that I didn't do my homework, I'd like to say that I did a lot of research but couldn't find a way to put together content in a relevant and succinct manner. What I saw as relevant was simply the fact that it was difficult to find examples to support this usage in Google hits save a handful.

Further information from my own comment:

I hit Google Books for examples. What gave me pause is that most of the Google-sourced examples are from the 19th century or even earlier and that it appeared to me the figurative use of the word is more likely in the form of "translate A to/into B" in which B is an end result so to speak.

  • 2
    The cited text isn't syntactically valid English. Looking at the source, I'd say the writer is very careless and/or not particularly competent in the use of English. But the fact of using to rather than for isn't necessarily an error - it's just a less common stylistic choice for the context. Here are plenty of written instances of [Please] translate it to me. – FumbleFingers Apr 17 '19 at 16:32
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    @FumbleFingers I actually also hit Google Books for examples and saw that same page. What gave me pause is the fact that most of the Google-sourced texts are over 150 years old and that it appears to me the figurative use of the word is more likely in the form of "translate A to/into B" in which B is an end result so to speak. – Eddie Kal Apr 17 '19 at 16:44
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    @EddieKal It's fine, but confusing since you expect the construction "from A to B" but end up with something else. You have to read the sentence a few times before you can be sure what it means. – Andrew Apr 17 '19 at 16:53
  • @Andrew: I just looked at the text again, but I still can't see any way to parse it so it could be called "valid". Please enlighten. I could almost see a valid sentence if translating were changed to "bare infinitive" translate, but even then it hardly seems syntactically credible to me. – FumbleFingers Apr 17 '19 at 17:00
  • The sentence is, at best, unidiomatic. Better would be Hill grows by teaching herself . . . (Which is where the real problem lies. The use of to at the end is fine. While for and to do have different subtle meanings, each of which could be more appropriate in context, neither is clearly better.) – Jason Bassford Apr 17 '19 at 17:16

While the sentence has issues in terms of seeming like natural, well-formed text - and possibly with being grammatical in terms of normal usage - the use of to rather than for there isn't one of them.

True, there are people who insist that the preposition to should only be used for adverbials that modify translate if they are indicating the language that the translation is into (some authorities prefer into for that use, and advise against using to in order to avoid confusion). However, that insistence is contrary to actual usage by native speakers. I suspect that this is because we use to and for, when referring to a person, for slightly different meanings.

If you translate something for someone, you are doing it for their benefit or at their request. If you translate it to someone, you are delivering the translation directly to them. The difference is subtle, but there. You can see the same thing with explain - the difference, albeit subtle, between explaining something for someone and to someone.

However, there's another issue here. Does translating here actually mean taking something in one language and rendering it in another? Nothing I've found, at the source or from some other research, suggests that this is what we're talking about. So it could be figurative, or it could be a different sense of the verb translate. The second sense at Oxford is arguably the original sense, in fact, with the sense related to language originally being a figurative use. Thus, it could be a (slightly confusing) use of translate where one might use convey or transmit.

  • Actually I read the sentence as a figurative use of translate, employing the definition "to express in more comprehensible terms : EXPLAIN, INTERPRET" (MW 1c(2)). And that is why I found the line in question unnatural. I would be perfectly happy with "Can you translate this to me?" My research on Google seems to suggest that the vast majority of sentences with figurative translate are in the form of translate A to/into B (result) – Eddie Kal Apr 18 '19 at 16:28
  • @EddieKal All I can say is that, as a native speaker, I find nothing strange about it and wouldn't be surprised to see it. – SamBC Apr 18 '19 at 19:56

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