Translation Techniques: Transposition

By Chiara Grassilli
In Translation Techniques
May 16th, 2016
1 Comment

Translation Techniques: Transposition

In the list of the translation techniques there is also transposition.

An experimented translator uses various techniques in order to obtain great results. There are plenty of methods that make the text sound better in the target language. One of the most important translation techniques is called transposition. The term might seem familiar, as it is used in many fields, but this article will explain the role of transposition in translation.

Transposition is the first technique or step towards oblique translation. Oblique translation is another term for free translation where the translator exercises his/her freedom to attain equivalence. It operates at the grammatical level and it consists of the replacement of a word class by another word class without changing the meaning. From a stylistic view point, the transposed expression does not have the same value, but the meaning is the same. Transposed expressions are usually more literary in character. What is the most important is to choose the form that best fits the context.

Transposition can be:

–  Free: when the transposition that we use is mainly dependent on the context and particularly on the desired effect.  For example:

The course is of interest to all of us. (The course interest all of us: back translation)


–  Compulsory: when only a transposition is acceptable, thus it is absolutely necessary in a particular context. For instance:

I will never forget that time when I saw you in the village.  ( I will never forget the time that I saw you in the village: back translation)


Types of transposition:

– Adverb-verb: I only defended myself / I did nothing but defend myself

– Adverb-noun: I called you early this week / I called you at the beginning of the week

– Adverb-adjective: He lives dangerously / He lives a dangerous life

– Adjective-noun: He found it difficult to learn for exams / He had difficulties learning for the exams

– Possessive article-definite article: Your hair is too long / You have the hair too long

– Verb or past participle-noun: I intended to give you a present / My intention was to give you a present

– Adverb-noun: I wrote to you early this year / I wrote to you at the beginning of this year


In other words, transposition is the process where parts of the speech change their sequence when they are translated (blue ball becomes boule bleue in French). It is in a sense a shift of word class. Grammatical structures are often different in different languages. He likes swimming translates as Er schwimmt gern in German. Transposition is often used between English and Spanish because of the preferred position of the verb in the sentence: English often has the verb near the beginning of a sentence; Spanish can have it closer to the end.

This requires that the translator knows that it is possible to replace a word category in the target language without altering the meaning of the source text, for example: English Hand knitted (noun + participle) becomes Spanish Tejido a mano (participle + adverbial phrase).

Sign up and receive weekly tips to get started in translation

Sign up and receive free weekly tips

No spam, we promise.

About "" Has 117 Posts

Since an early age I have been passionate about languages. I hold a Master's degree in Translation and Interpreting, and I have worked as a freelance translator for several years. I specialize in Marketing, Digital Marketing, Web and Social Media. I love blogging and I also run the blog

One Response to “Translation Techniques: Transposition”

  1. Intissar Kouaoucha says:

    Thank you so much that was really helpful ✌🏽

Leave a Reply