In-laws and regulations or legal documents, we often find that two or more synonyms are used in just one sentence which caused confusion while doing the translation. This is one of the important characteristics of legal translation. Sometimes synonyms are used for showing distinctions, while just for expressing the same meaning for emphasis on another occasion. Let’s see the first type of usage of synonyms – synonyms showing the same meaning for emphasis. For examples,

a) Null and void.

These two words both describe a provision or contract that is no longer valid or enforceable. This term is stronger than the separate words and has become a popular phrase in legal situations. It’s OK to translate only one of them.

The contract was declared null and void.


b) Custom duties and tariffs.

These two words both have the meaning of “a government tax on imports or exports”. So you may translate only one of them with the most appropriate translation.

The seller shall pay all the customs duties and tariffs for the export of the Equipment.


c) By and between/ by and among.

These two phrases express the same meaning which emphasizes that the document is signed and performed only by the signing parties.

This Non-Disclosure Agreement (“Agreement”) is made this ** day of ** by and between A and B.

本保密协议(简称“协议”)于**年**月**日 A 和 B 签订。

d) Jointly and severally.

“Jointly” means that both parties have joint liability. In this case, for example, if one party breaches a contract, the full amount of the obligation falls to the other party. As such, one or both of the parties can be sued for the full obligation. In contrast, “severally” means that the parties are only responsible for their share of the obligation.

When an agreement states “jointly and severally”, a claim may be made to any party in the agreement, similar to joint liability. It is up to the parties to sort out their share of the liability. Please see the following sentence:

A warranty, representations, undertaking, indemnity, covenant or agreement on the part of two or more persons binds them jointly and severally.


The major purpose of using this kind of synonyms is to show their meanings in common for better clarification of the sentence. For good translation, not only should the target language correspond to the source language, but also make the target audience understood the source language. Therefore, when we translate these kinds of synonyms, the first thing we should do is to deeply understand those words, and then pick up the most accurate and concise words for translation based on the source language and purposes of the documents.

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