Writers Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for authors, editors, reviewers, professional writers, and aspiring writers. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

The question arises from this sentence in my story, which was originally written in Hebrew and later translated by me to English. In Hebrew I say:

קמתי בבוקר והלכתי למוצב. היה זה יום בהיר של תחילת האביב. כשהלכתי בדרך לעבר המוצב, יצא לי ליהנות מהירוק האביב של השדה, לפני שהקיץ נותן בו את אותותיו.‏

while in English I say:

I woke up in the morning, and went to the post. It was a bright day at the beginning of spring. When I walked down the road that leads to the post, I enjoyed the lively green of the field, before the summer manifests itself.

Now, what I mean to say is that the field is green and lively during springtime but after Summer it will turn less lively and green (or as we say in Hebrew "נתן בו את אותותיו", which roughly translated means "unleashed its signs/marks/influences on it".

What's the best way to say it in English? Furthermore, which tense should I use, given that the story is supposedly written in springtime, before summer takes place? The people on ##English on Freenode had a hard time with it. (And as someone there joked, I'd better find a good way to phrase it in English, before I miss the Israeli spring again.)

share|improve this question

migrated from english.stackexchange.com Mar 16 '13 at 11:13

This question came from our site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts.

"Best" is extremely subjective. Can you give more detail about what, exactly, you're trying to achieve in this description? When editing this, please be aware that questions asking what to write have been determined to be off-topic and would almost certainly be closed. However, I believe the translation aspect of this is probably fine and on-topic. Also, IMO, translation questions could be a breath of fresh air for Writers in general. – Neil Fein Mar 16 '13 at 18:07
up vote 3 down vote accepted

There is no "best" way to say it in English. What you are trying to say is a subtle observation by a fiction writer, namely YOU. (Even it this is actually non-fiction, it nevertheless utilizes creativity in its modes of expression).

So it's up to you to say it the way you want to say it. You have free reign to do it any way you like.

As for the tense, the most likely way to do it is probably conditional, thus: "By the time summer arrived, the grass would have lost its luster."

I may as well go ahead and craft an example:

"The field vibrated with the pale green flush of life that ran through the newborn blades of grass. Only a few months later, when summer had exerted its control on the world, the grass would darken and deepen into the green of fading promise, but now, while promise remained the word of the day, the grass spoke to him of all the love he might ever find and never lose."

Whatever you think of this meager off-the-cuff attempt, I hope it illustrates my point.

share|improve this answer
Hi John, thanks! This story is fictional (and qualifies as surrealism), but my description of the spring vs. the summer is in this case based on realism. I was looking for the proper equivalent English phrase, but perhaps I should rephrase, because it will sound awkward in English. I guess you cannot always translate stuff verbatim. – Shlomi Fish Mar 16 '13 at 5:57
You're looking specifically for an improved version of "unleashed its signs etc."? Is that the question? – John M. Landsberg Mar 16 '13 at 6:00
John: something like that. It means something like "will influence it for the worse", or "will damage it", etc. and it is idiomatic Hebrew (and ancient Hebrew at that, which was an ambiguous and colourful language). I hope there's something I can use for that in English, but I may need to rephrase. BTW, your example is extremely nice and poetic. You are a good writer, but naturally - my style - especially for the story in question is very different. – Shlomi Fish Mar 16 '13 at 6:35
Degrade. Suck the life blood out of. Diminish. Wither. Subdue. Suppress. Crush. Exert its influence. I hope these help a little. And thanks very much for the compliments! – John M. Landsberg Mar 16 '13 at 8:22
+1 (on the comment) for "exert its influence". The Hebrew ("placed its signs") has no negative tone AFAIK, as most of the suggestions in the answers and comments here do. – msh210 Mar 17 '13 at 3:28

If you are trying to find a fairly literal translation, couldn't you play around with English phrases that communicate the meaning? Essentially, since you want to suggest the "marks" of summer, think about what those marks are and mention them.

"I enjoyed the lively green of the field, not yet faded from the ravages of summer"

"...not yet dulled by the heat of summer"

"...not yet muted by the heat of summer," or something like that?

You could also find a more specific, evocative verb than "enjoyed," which might help you determine the rest of the phrase.

share|improve this answer
These suggestions convey the sense of the original text without being a full-on rewrite (though see msh210's comment on another answer about negative vs positive). Shlomi, I assume your goal is closer to translation than to rewrite, yes? – Monica Cellio Mar 17 '13 at 1:33

without a sense of the point-of-view of the narrator here, and the context surrounding this event: this walk to the post-office, I don't think I can say much.

Is your use of past tense here a deliberate choice, or dictated by the context and point-of-view ?

You've given some hints: "surreal," "archaic;" which one could "project" into a thousand contexts, but then, that wouldn't be your writing, your voice.

What do you wish the reader to experience at this point in the story, or novel ?

In terms of the "flow" of your English, the somewhat stilted linear sequence of the sentences (peppered with lots of the article "the") could very well be required by the character you are portraying: that "jagged flow" could suggest a detachment, an existential anomie, or, a distance, "in consciousness," between the narrator, and the world of his, or her, senses.

That's where we need to know your intent, as creator.

So, having said all that, let me tell you what comes to my mind :)

"Morning: I awoke, remembered I had to go the post-office. I stepped into the brilliance of an early spring day where the waxing sun had just burned-off dawn's mists, reflecting, as I walked, on the vibrant green fields along the roadway's transient lushness. I thought: such a fragile effusion of life-force: unaware, as I was all too aware, of the dragon of summer's on-rushing searing force, and its withering scourge of heat.

I believe I may have actually said to myself, out loud: 'it may be a blessing not to remember the future.' "

In any case, good luck !

yours, Bill

"I'd like the winds of all cultures to blow around my house, but I would not want to be knocked over by any of them." Mahatma Gandhi

share|improve this answer

I'd suggest you look at how other writers have used color and other imagery to suggest the freshness of spring and youth fading inexorably into age. Here's Dylan Thomas, for one:

Now as I was young and easy under the apple boughs
About the lilting house and happy as the grass was green
And as I was green and carefree, famous among the barns
About the happy yard and singing as the farm was home
And playing, lovely and watery
And fire green as grass.
Oh as I was young and easy in the mercy of his means,
Time held me green and dying
Though I sang in my chains like the sea.

In fact, read all of Fern Hill. It's all about the very progression of youth to age that you seem to want to describe.

share|improve this answer
Hi, thanks for taking the time to respond. The problem is that I'm trying to develop my own style (which is different from story to story) rather than emulate that of other poets and authors (of which there are too many for me to read, and I'm not too fast a reader in English, and also think there is such a thing as knowing too much, and doing too little with it). – shlomif Mar 17 '13 at 7:33
My feeling about developing one's own style is that it requires no conscious effort. It will come of its own accord. And don't hesitate to try to emulate writers whose work you admire; imitation is not only the sincerest form of flattery, it's also the most effective tool for learning to write. Don't worry that you'll write like someone else, because you won't. You'll merely develop a better understanding of the myriad ways there are to express things. (Look at all the attempts that have been made intentionally to copy great writers, but who ever succeeds?) – John M. Landsberg Mar 17 '13 at 8:03
@shomif: If you are trying to develop your own style, why ask about it in some forum about writing? Sheesh. – Robusto Mar 17 '13 at 11:46
@Robusto : thanks for your message. My style has changed in the past, and I asked about one technical aspect that seemed wrong in my English version, while I knew how to say it in Hebrew. In any case, I've been emulating the style of other authors in the Enemy (primarily Kafka and the character of Joey from the Television show, Friends) and in my subsequent stories - shlomifish.org/humour/stories - which have a very different style than the one in The Enemy, as appropriate to them. I was looking to get over a technicality, not completely revamp the existing style. – shlomif Mar 20 '13 at 19:15
@JohnM.Landsberg : I agree with what you said about emulating the style of other authors etc. and I borrowed many memes, phrases and concepts from works of fiction and non-fiction that I admire. Nevertheless, what I meant to say was that the style Robusto pointed me to was inappropriate for the story in question, and was not very me. I probably didn't say it too well. Cheers, and thanks. You guys rock! ♥ ☺ – shlomif Mar 20 '13 at 19:19

I woke up in the morning, and went to the post. It was a bright day at the beginning of spring. When I walked down the road that leads to the post, I enjoyed the lively green of the field, before the summer manifests itself.

I find the mix of tenses a little jarring; for example “walked down” being past vs “leads” present; or “enjoyed” being past vs “manifests” present. Perhaps use “would manifest”. Anyhow, fixing those problems with tense leads to

When I woke in the morning, a bright morning at the front of spring, I went to the post. As I walked the road on my way, I marvelled at the lively green of the field, a green it would hold til summer came down upon it.

The following form, which I remark upon below, has been suggested in a comment.

The early spring day awakened me with sunlight so urgent and pervasive I almost felt I was breathing it. Minutes later I was walking the road to the post, admiring a field of grass so freshly green it seemed lit from within. I enjoyed its vibrancy even more when I reflected how summer would all too soon impose itself, dialing the color down to a dull, dark, nearly lifeless shade.

In my opinion, urgent and pervasive seems overblown, an unnecessary exaggeration. Minutes later adds an unnecessary and undesirable sense of hurry, but the rest of that sentence is ok. Verb enjoyed is weak and nonspecific. The idiom or metaphor dialing...down has a technical overtone that clashes with the natural setting of the rest of the passage. Phrase “dull, dark, nearly lifeless shade” again seems an unnecessary exaggeration, although I grant we don't know what tone the paragraph should end with.

share|improve this answer
Nice revision, but note we wouldn't say "the front" of a season. In poetry, you might make it work, but never in prose. Seasons have temporal length, not physical substance, and they also come and go, so you can say the beginning of spring, the onset of spring, the arrival of spring, and more, but never the front. – John M. Landsberg Mar 16 '13 at 18:45
@JohnM.Landsberg, perhaps comment further at Can we say “front of spring” or merely “beginning of spring”? – jwpat7 Mar 16 '13 at 19:12
Here's an extreme recasting, but, importantly, it eliminates the slightly disturbing redundancy of the original version ("morning," "post," and "green" used twice each within a very short span of words): "The early spring day awakened me with sunlight so urgent and pervasive I almost felt I was breathing it. Minutes later I was walking the road to the post, admiring a field of grass so freshly green it seemed lit from within. I enjoyed its vibrancy even more when I reflected how summer would all too soon impose itself, dialing the color down to a dull, dark, nearly lifeless shade." – John M. Landsberg Mar 16 '13 at 19:47
@JohnM.Landsberg, I'm sorry the repetition of morning and green disturbed you. (Post redundancy was removed a good while ago.) I've edited answer to remark about that rewrite – jwpat7 Mar 16 '13 at 20:05
My recasting of the original was merely a wild exercise to help demonstrate that there are uncountable possible translations. That having been said, however, let me address one point: A writer tries to create certain effects. If I say something is urgent because I want a particular response in the reader's mind, then my word choice might be judged more or less successful in creating the desired effect, but necessity doesn't enter into it. I wouldn't claim the word is necessary; it's merely the word I choose to create the effect I'm seeking. On what basis would one say it's unnecessary? – John M. Landsberg Mar 17 '13 at 7:54

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.