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The Power of Doing Google Search Right, for Linguists

Not everyone working as a translator realises that in order to be a good translator, you also need to be a good (or perhaps even an excellent) researcher. In the ‘old days’, linguists may have relied heavily on paper dictionaries, but these days, when we think about research, Google is probably one of the top tools to use.

Despite the many debates surrounding the use of machine translation tools like Google Translate (to which we are planning to dedicate a separate blog post), Google Search is a crucial tool for all modern internet users – and this applies to modern linguists, too.

Multiple times a day, we find ourselves frantically typing keywords in the search bar and hoping that our desired results will magically appear. As the volume of data is exponentially increasing (suffice to say that Google covers 91.9% of the search engine market), we need to be able to search for the most reliable information, and fast.

For all linguists who might be reluctant to embrace this technology: Google is not evil – use it to your advantage! We’ve put together some of the most useful Google Search tips for you to implement straight away. It may take you a while to get the hang of them, but they’re guaranteed to speed up your daily searches significantly!

Quickly look for definitions:

By typing the keyword “define:”, followed by the English term you’d like to look up, you’ll get a quick definition. This is mainly useful when doing a quick, generic search, or to make sure that you are using a word correctly.

Find out how commonly a word or phrase is used:

Let’s say that you want to translate a text into English and need to know which collocation is most commonly used: Although there are always other factors that you need to take into account (such as, clearly, the relevant field of translation), the number of results displayed in Google can give you immediate guidance and help you make a decision.

Not sure whether you should use “to do homework” or “to carry out homework”? Compare the number of results – sometimes this will be enough to guide you in the right direction:

Complete the collocation:

Staying with collocations: Sometimes, we may be unsure about the correct verb to use. Is it “to do a call” or “to make a call”? Google treats the asterisk as a placeholder for one (or more) word(s) – add it in place of the missing word and look up the results!

Search for specific terms within a website:

If you’d like to know if (and how) a term is used within a specific website, you can quickly carry out a search using the keyword “site:”, followed by the chosen website address and then your search term in inverted commas. This might be useful to see if the term is actually used on the website in question, and the context in which it is used.

For example: Want to know if the Italian term “agriturismo” has ever been used on a popular English online travel website? There you go!

Convert times and units (quickly!):

Translators, for obvious reasons, often have to deal with different units (e.g. miles <> km) and time zones. When it comes to converting times and units, it’s as easy as using two keywords: “in” or “to”!

For example: If you want to know what the time will be in sunny Los Angeles when it’s 9 a.m. in Rome, simply type “9am Rome in Los Angeles” in the search box – and there you have it!

Go crazy with those Google Search operators:

And that’s not all – check out the list of Google Search operators below and have fun familiarising yourself with them and improving your search skills. But don’t forget: These tips are meant to help you speed up your generic searches; you should never blindly rely on them for quality of results!

Search operator




Placeholder for unknown, missing or wildcat terms

to * a call

Excludes a site or a category from your results


“ ”

Returns results with the exact search term (word or phrase)

“tips for translators”


Returns results from a specific website (you can combine this with additional keywords)

site: “cryptocurrency”


Finds sites containing one of the search terms entered. Note that OR is written in caps.

cars OR motorbikes


Finds sites containing both search terms entered. Note that AND is written in caps.

cables AND instructions


Provides information about a given website, including the cached version, related sites and backlinks



Accesses a cached version of a website (i.e. how it looked the last time Google crawled it)



Provides a definition of the search term

define: ableism


Returns results containing only a specified file format

filetype: pdf copywriting course


Restricts results to websites containing search terms in their page titles

allintitle: resources for translators


Restricts results to websites containing search terms in their body copy

allintext: advanced marketing tips

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