Legal translations: the art of untangling “chattels and fixtures” and “payment of emoluments”.

The addressed office shall hereby cease to pay emoluments as of 10 May”.
Dear friends of STUDIO TRE, put your hand up if you had to read this sentence at least twice to understand what it means.

Let’s try again.

As of 10 May, our office will suspend payments”.
This is certainly clearer.

At the moment, decrees and self-certification forms are the order of the day and the language of Public Administration is often difficult to understand. A few minutes ago, you had a taste of the challenges faced by those who translate legal texts every day.

We all know how difficult it is to understand officialese: if you are curious to learn the secrets of translating “officialese”, this article reveals all.
Legal texts: what are their characteristics?

If you have ever read a contract, articles of association or organisation or a patent, you will have realised that these are usually texts with long and complex sentences inserted within a very rigid and formal structure.

Legal documents are characterised by the use of:

  • Impersonal constructions, the passive and complex nominal phrases
  • Nouns used in the place of verbs to express actions (execution, implementation)
  • Impersonal forms (it is hereby asked, it is hereby notified)
  • Complex and archaic prepositions and conjunctions (with the aim of, likewise, in view of the fact that, therein, to the purpose)
  • Phrasal verbs (set forth, draw up)
  • Archaisms (hypothecation, cadastral, subpoena)
  • Foreignisms, especially Latinisms (de facto, habeas corpus)
  • Abbreviations and acronyms


Legal translations: what skills do you need?

A translator specialised in legal texts has a double responsibility: as well as perfectly comprehending the text, they must also be aware of the legal effects produced by the deed.

This is why legal translators must know the basic laws and legislative structures of the source language country as well as the target language country. In fact, each legal system is the child of a specific culture which sets it apart from other systems, and for some concepts, there is not always an equivalent in the target language.

From the point of view of translation, the translated text must be the same as the original, avoiding mistakes, ambiguous terms and misinterpretations which could invalidate the document, especially in the case of translations that have to be certified in Court.

Thanks to its expert collaborators in the translation of legal documents, STUDIOTRE is the language consultant of companies and legal practices for the translation of articles of association, company extracts, unified tax compliance certificates, notary deeds, contracts, documents for bids for tenders, patents, expert evidence, certificates, standards and guidelines.

If you would like to know how we translate officialese, call us on (+39) 0522 323434 or write to us at


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