Relations and relationships

Dutch uses the same word for both (relatie), but the meanings in English are distinctly different.

In the vast majority of cases, relatie should be translated as relationship.

  • mathematical and logical functions are relationships
  • artistic and other comparisons and juxtapositions are relationships
  • the way individuals or companies are associated or positioned with respect to each other are also relationships:
    parent-child relationship

    a landlord-tenant relationship
    the relationship between buyer and seller
  • having a boyfriend, girlfriend, partner, whatever is a relationship. And they are not your relations, because…
  • …your relations are your family ties. Not so much the nuclear family as all the aunts, uncles, cousins and so forth.
  • the more physical social and business interactions and similar are relations:
    e.g. BZK = Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relations
    e.g. Bill Clinton stating he “did not have sexual relations with that woman”

    (You could have relations without a relationship, and vice versa!)
  • in the business world, a “relatie” is a contact or business contact, not a “relation”.

And don’t be misled in that last one by the fact that it’s the R in CRM: what you’re managing in CRM are the relations with the customers (the penultimate bullet above).

Prevalence: very high. Turns up a great deal in business texts in particular, but in fact can be found in pretty much any type of document.
Frequency: endemic. Dutch authors rarely use the word relationship, although it’s more often the correct choice.
Native: rarely. A typical non-native error. But by no means exclusively so.

Published by Mike Wilkinson

Twenty years of translating and editing Dutch into English, as well as writing and publishing in English.

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