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The system may allow different user roles to have dissimilar privileges. . .

How do you interpret the phrase, especially the portion in bold?

The system may. . .

  • . . .allow a number of users with different roles?
  • . . .allow a single user with different roles?
  • . . .allow different roles of a single user?
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    All three miss the point. The concept of user role is one that you need to capture in your translation. It is separate from users. A role may have one or more (or no!) users, a user can have one or more roles, but the sentence says nothing about users. The sentence is about user roles only. One way is to imply "user" by leaving it out. – oerkelens Sep 8 '14 at 12:58
  • @oerkelens : So the answer that I checked is incorrect!? – TheGoodUser Sep 8 '14 at 13:08
  • The specific mention of user roles means that it is seen separately form the actual users, so yes, I disagree with that answer... – oerkelens Sep 8 '14 at 13:09
  • @oerkelens May I ask you to add another answer below? – TheGoodUser Sep 8 '14 at 13:12
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    @DamkerngT. I read it as one sentence that talks about roles and three potential translation candidates that all references users. The question, even when I reread it, seems to be about roles, not about users. The answer also talks about users, the three suggestions in the question talk about users, but the quoted sentence in the question is about roles. – oerkelens Sep 8 '14 at 13:47
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User roles are a concept that I think deserves to be translated correctly on its own.

It is not the same as a user, or even a user with a role. The user role can exist without any users, and the privileges that are granted to roles are granted to the roles rather than to users.

This is a very specific and concious application design decision, removing any direct link between users and privileges. It makes it possible to group privileges based on functionality and you don't have to keep track of which user is allowed to do what.

In practice, user roles and users are sometimes seen as equivalent even though they are different concepts (John the manager may have the "manager" role) but it is quite common that users have several roles, and even that some roles are (initially) not assigned to any users ("system tester" could be a role that is only temporary assigned to some users that at other times have different roles.)

So in short, the translation depends on translation the concept user role. You could drop user and just translate role. It is commonly done in English: within an application context, role-bases privileges are understood to refer to roles that users may have.


Just to add a bit of grammar, the expression user role means a role (that happens to be a "user"-type role), not a user of any kind. The noun user is use attributively to _describe role.

It is common to use this construction, and it is important to remember that the actual main noun comes last:

I can describe my work as "software engineering", meaning I am engineering something: software. On the other hand, an engineer may use specialised software to do his job, which would be "engineering software".

In the case of the user role, it is a role. So it does not describe a user with roles, users with a role, users with roles, or a user with a role. It describes a role that may or may not be linked to a user at some point.

  • I think you're not entirely clear on "user roles and users are sometimes equivalent". I suppose there is sometimes a role that, in practice, is held by only one user. But the whole idea of a role is that we attach privileges to a role and then roles to users, rather than attaching privileges directly to users. The number of users with any given role is than ... coincidental, in a sense. A given user could have one role or many, or possibly none at any given moment. – Jay Sep 8 '14 at 15:05
  • @Jay — that is exactly my point. However, it is not uncommon that the "admin" role corresponds to administrators (users), the "tester" role to testers (users). I understand the conceptual difference, but I cannot ignore the fact that in practice that conceptual boundary is not always clear and people do substitute one for the other :) – oerkelens Sep 8 '14 at 15:18
  • I meant "I think your wording was unclear", not that I thought you didn't understand the difference. :-) – Jay Sep 8 '14 at 15:37
  • @Jay I hope the changed wording is a bit more clear? – oerkelens Sep 8 '14 at 16:54
  • You might want to highlight the fact that, in [user roles], [user] describes [roles]. This differentiates it from [system roles] or [government roles] or ... The [roles] are the core concept; [user] just clarifies which roles, in a system that may contain multiple types of roles. – GalacticCowboy Sep 8 '14 at 18:26
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The normal usage of the term means the former - "users with different roles".

Take a software system and think of, for example, "marketing", "support", "administration". Those are three different user roles, i.e. the users of the system can have these different roles. (Even though, may I add, one user can have more than one role, depending on how strictly you define things..)

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    In practice, user roles may refer to users with roles, but they are not the same thing. I can make a system with 5 user roles and only one user. The sentence in the question is talking specifically about user roles and as such, that concept is related to but separate from users. Users with roles forms a link between the two. I think a good translation hinges on a good translation of the concept of user roles independent from the concept of users. The use of role privileges is an explicit removal of the direct link between users and privileges. – oerkelens Sep 8 '14 at 13:14

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