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I'm looking for a correct translation of “it's a number that symbolizes how similar objects i and j are”.

What I have:

C'est un nombre qui symbolise dans quelle mesure sont les objets i et j similaires.

I'd rather not use the word similarité, because the paragraph concerns “la matrice de dissimilarité” (the matrix of dissimilarity) and the phrase is often used, so the two would collide. I am more-or-less just trying to get a direct translation.

  • Ceci sonne un peu plus "naturel": C'est un nombre qui symbolise dans quelle mesure les objets i et j sont similaires. – P. O. May 15 '15 at 20:29
  • More context would be good, as they might be technical terms that exists already we could use. – Édouard May 16 '15 at 13:36
  • In any case, I would use “représenter” instead of “symboliser”. – Édouard May 16 '15 at 13:39
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The translation @cl-r proposes is correct and is a word-for-word transposition of your original sentence.

C'est un nombre qui symbolise la similarité des objets i et j.

I am however of the mind that word-for-word translation are often poor or heavy. Heavy in this case. Just a hint to start making things easier on the eyes:

Ce nombre symbolise la similarité des objets i et j.

Now, being short of context, it is hard to find the most relevant translation. I am going to make some assumptions here.

In French, "symbolize" somehow implies that the value is a symbol, an approximation. I might be wrong (though the first definition for "symbolize" on Wiktionary seems to support my point) but I think "symbolize" can be used in English even for precise measures. If it is the case here, I would suggest the following:

Ce nombre mesure la similarité des objets i et j.

To accurately translate, the context is often important. What is the general area (math, physics, ...)? What number are you defining? What type of objets are i and j? Do not hesitate to give additional information rather than a raw sentence when you need help translating, as it will almost always help giving you better answers.

  • I edited my original question. – blurry May 16 '15 at 5:38
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C'est un nombre qui symbolise la similarité des objets i et j.

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Have you used "similitude" already in your text? although it is the same structure therefore... similar..

c'est un nombre qui represente la similitude entre i & j

might be better:

c'est un nombre qui [expose || montre || démontre] l'affinité entre i & j.

  • 2
    I would avoid “démontrer” in a mathematical context, as it already has a precise meaning. – Édouard May 16 '15 at 13:38

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