A common type of question we have is asking how to translate idiomatic phrases from English to Spanish. This was brought up recently in meta here, as it relates to a specific question, but I would like to form a more complete site policy on these types of questions.

A few examples:

These questions usually have at least two of the following problems in common, sometimes all of them:

  • They don't attempt to translate the phrase before asking for help, which is expressly off topic.
  • The phrase often has multiple correct translations, often with regional preferences
  • The phrase often has multiple correct English versions as well
  • The question attracts countless "Here's how I say it in X country" answers from newbies. These answers are often technically correct, but don't add value to the site.

In my opinion, the only reason these questions shouldn't all be closed immediately is explained in this meta post:

If the question is asking about some subtlety, or ambiguity that a dictionary cannot easily answer, then I think it is on topic.

In other words, in these cases, normal translation tools (vocabulary dictionaries) won't help someone. These questions really do require the art and science of a translator.

How do we want to address these?

  • Would this question fall in that category? Because if I take the translation part, it seems like a genuine question, and still it seems it would be prone to lots of regional-specific answers. I mean, could we have that problem with other questions that do not ask for explicit translation?
    – Diego
    Commented Oct 16, 2014 at 20:17
  • @Diego: Yes, probably so. It's perhaps one of the more broad versions of such a question.
    – Flimzy
    Commented Oct 17, 2014 at 0:08
  • WE also need to realize that many of this late answers are done by people who don't know the site and don't have comment privileges yet. Many of those "Here's how I say it in X country" answers would make great comments, but the users don't know and can't do the best practices.
    – Diego
    Commented Oct 19, 2014 at 19:51

2 Answers 2



Considero que, el idioma español, al tener tantas interpretaciones y usos de ciertas palabras y frases (en diferentes países y situaciones), es difícil dar una sola solución para este tipo de preguntas; yo sugiero que si la pregunta:

  1. Está bien formulada y no es duplicada, sigue siendo válida para el sitio.
  2. Atrae varias visitas, así como respuestas "con sus respectivos votos", sigue siendo de "interés" para el sitio.


I believe that the Spanish language, having so many interpretations and uses of certain words and phrases (in different countries and situations), it is difficult to provide a single solution for these questions; I suggest that if the question:

  1. Is well formulated and does not duplicate remains valid for SL website.
  2. Attracts several visits and answers "with their votes," remains "interest" for SL website.

SL = Spanish Language "for abbrevaite".

I had to use Google traslator


Most of the time, people who employ idiomatic expressions in their home language are unaware that they are doing so. The idiom is just one of those things that people say.

My expectation is that a lot of the requests for translation of an idiomatic expression from English into Spanish are innocent blunders, and not a blameworthy omission of an attempt to answer the question by looking it up elsewhere.

That doesn't change the question of whether or not such questions add value to the site. But if we are too quick to close questions merely because they ask for translation of an idiomatic expression, we may be reducing the value of the site, not defending it.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .