I can deal with some easy that/who which clauses. At least I think so. For example:



But I am totally lost, when it becomes even slightly more complicated.

The man whose bag I found.

The businessman for whom I translated the text.

Can anyone translate these? I have a strong feeling all my attempts are totally wrong. Like:

x 我所給他翻譯原文的男人 x

1 Answer 1


You found a very interesting point. I thought about this for a few minutes, and I concluded that there may not be a straight-forward translation for this kind of sentences.

As you may have already known, in Chinese the adjective words/phrases/clauses are usually placed before the nouns they modify, therefore, if in your English sentence the relationship between your clause (A) and your antecedent (e.g. the man, B) cannot be translated into A 的 B, the thing becomes tricky.

If you want your translation to express exactly the same meaning, you can do things like:


It doesn't sound very elegant but the meaning is still clear to Chinese speaker, I believe. We say this kind of sentences have a strong 翻译腔, because normally (at least long time ago), Chinese people don't construct sentences this way. It sounds like something translated from English.

If you want your translation sounds natural, you will have to rephrase your sentence, depending on the context.

我找到的包的主人 (The owner of the bag I found. Avoiding "whose".)

让我给他翻译原文的商人 (The businessman who let me translate the text for him. Avoiding "whom".) or 需要我给他翻译原文的商人 (The businessman who needed me to translate the text for him.)

I don't major in Chinese or linguistics, so I just answered from a native speaker perspective. Maybe there are some better way to keep both structural consistency and elegancy - I don't know that though.

In my opinion, if you learn some language, you not only need to speak it, but also need to think in it. If you always think in English first and try to translate your thought into Chinese, you fall into this kind of situations. That's exactly what happened to me, sometimes when I speak English.

  • 1
    I agree. Chinese prefer short sentence to long one, expecially in colloquial speech. Take "I saw a man who looked like your brother" as an example. Rather than "我见到一个长得像你兄弟的男人", they are more likely to say "我见到一个男人,长得像你兄弟" [ I saw a man, (he) looked like you brother. ]
    – ltux
    Commented Jul 7, 2016 at 17:15
  • @ltux You are right. At the same time, some English speakers say they also prefer shorter sentences to long, complex clauses... I think there might be some places in both languages where beginners cannot handle/balance very well.
    – bfrguci
    Commented Jul 7, 2016 at 17:29
  • Actually, that is similar to what I have been trying to do. But today I was teaching German and I wanted to translate as precisely as possible. It seemed to me there was no way, but I couldn't believe it!
    – Ludi
    Commented Jul 7, 2016 at 17:59
  • @Ludi Well, in terms of stating the fact, the second set of translations are also accurate. The objective of languages, after all, is to describe, to state, and to express.
    – bfrguci
    Commented Jul 7, 2016 at 19:25
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    web search using "英语的关系从句怎么翻译" yields bbs.tianya.cn/post-english-170691-1.shtml which makes the same point and supplies more examples
    – user6065
    Commented Jul 8, 2016 at 7:35

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