Confusing terms in contract translation

In contract translation, inaccuracy or ambiguous expression may occur resulting from the confusing terms that make us pick up the wrong words for translation. Therefore, making aware of and mastering the distinctions of confusing terms are of highly importance. Here, I will show you some examples for your reference.

(1)     on/upon and after

“on/upon” means “immediately after”, in Chinese, we say “……到后,就……”, while “after” refers to the undefined time.

Eg:The balance shall be settled upon the arrival of the goods at the port of destination.


If we translate this sentence into “货到目的港后付清余款”, it will cause a dispute that the buyer may delay his payment, because “货到目的港后付清余款” means that the balance can be settled at any time after the goods arrives. The payment term is very important in a contract, so we should pay much attention to it.

(2)     mortgagor/mortgagee

“Mortgagor” is a person who borrows money from a bank or other organization in order to buy property, while “mortgagee” is a person or organization that lends money to people to buy property. In Chinese, we call them “抵押人” and “抵押权人” respectively. Some translators may reverse their meanings.

(3)     abide by/comply with

“abide by” and “comply with” both have the meaning of “to do what you have to do or are asked to do”, especially referring to the laws and regulations and contract terms. In doing the Chinese to English translation, when the subject is a person, you should use “abide by”, otherwise, “comply with” should be used.


Both parties Shall abide by the contractual terms.


All the activities of both parties shall comply with the contractual terms.


During translation, you may encounter many confusing words, pay attention to them and make clear of the distinctions and usages of these words which will help improve the accuracy of your translation.


Words translated by CCJK


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