As you ought to realise

Realising mostly means comprehending rather than creating something: getting the picture, not painting it.

The English verb to realise generally means coming to understand something or getting an insight. The alternative of creating or achieving something (i.e. making it real) is perfectly correct but very much secondary: not front of mind, and it therefore makes you read the sentence twice. Other options for realiseren (as opposed to zich realiseren) are generally preferable.

  • for an abstract target, for example, you could try accomplish or achieve
  • for a project or actvity, you could use carry out or complete
  • for a physical structure, it might be built or put up or created
  • and many others

I’ve dropped my usual practice of -ize spelling here, I notice (or indeed “realise”). In the penny-dropping kind of sense, it’s such an ordinary word that I hardly think of it as a case of-ize and -ization; Americans will of course stick to that spelling.

Prevalence: endemic. It’s not incorrect, of course, so Dutch authors make the mental translation automatically and won’t get picked up on it. But it’s the kind of thing that undeniably makes their English less easy to understand.
Frequency: high. Will regularly turn up multiple times in the same document.
Native: sometimes. But only when we’re trying to sound businesslike and a bit full of jargon. Not when trying to be clear and simple.

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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