I have a controversy of my project's leader about the meaning of "sub-project". When we need to translate sub-project from English to our native language (Vietnamese), I think that we should understand it as child project, as subsets in mathematics, because without the mother project, that sub-project has no significant role in our program. However, in her opinion, it should be translate literally to support project, since without it, the main project's result become less significant. In other words, I define the word by its role to the whole program, she defines it by its role to the main project.

There is no definition for this word in famous dictionaries like Oxford or Merriam-Webster, except Collins dictionary:

a project that is part of a larger project

This doesn't help. Which meaning is better for sub-project, "support project" or "child project"?

  • On the basis of the information you've supplied, there are good arguments for both expressions. In such cases, sensible people who aren't trying to have the last word will agree to disagree. – Erik Kowal Jan 8 '15 at 1:04
  • This is a question about Vietnamese usage. The English usage is not in question. Seems off-topic. – Potatoswatter Jan 8 '15 at 2:17
  • @Potatoswatter if I remove the translation detail and focus on the meaning of the word, it will appear to be on topic again. – Ooker Jan 8 '15 at 2:21
  • @Ooker There's no English ambiguity. The dilemma, if any, involves how things are organized in your work, and we have no idea about that. (I'd guess, though, that your boss isn't amused by taking time from your workday to quibble over her terminology.) – Potatoswatter Jan 8 '15 at 2:35
  • Are there really no other subprojects ever done in Viet Nam, that the language doesn't already have a word or phrase for it? – Jon Hanna Jan 9 '15 at 1:12

If I had to create a new word for sub-project in English that for some reason couldn't use sub- I would favour something using the component, element, elementary, part etc. The sub-project is after all a part of the project.

(I'd probably end up going for "child project" but that's because it's child is a short word in English and the metaphor is common enough, and I'd favour those over the more direct meaning of elementary etc.; I have no idea if either of those are true in Vietnamese, or if elementary is long).

I'd also definitely look to see what other people were using first, and go with what was popular as long as it wasn't totally ridiculous and perhaps even if it was, because using the same terms as everyone else is the best way to be understood.

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  • I think sub-project is a good choice in this situation. Component and other terms which you mentioned cannot stands alone and work independent. In contrast, sub-project can. It's just that it has no significant role if it stands alone. – Ooker Jan 9 '15 at 4:06

In common usage as I know it, a "sub-project" is neither a child project nor a support project. A sub-project is ancillary to the main project- that is, it is related, but it is not subsequent (e.g. following) to the primary project. At the same time, it does not support the main project.

To take your question and use it as an example, a main project would be you seeking an answer to clarify what a "sub-project" is on Stack Exchange. A sub-project would be figuring out the appropriate translation or translations into Vietnamese of the English prefix "sub-" on its own- it is neither immediately supporting or reinforcing the main project, nor is it dependent upon the outcome of the main project, but it is related to and occurring at the same time as the main project. A "child project" would be dependent upon and subsequent to the main project- a child project in this example might be the composition of ten English example sentences that correctly use the phrase "sub-project." Likewise, a "Support project" would be something that is necessary for the completion of the project; for example, a "Support project" to this might be to figure out the definition of the word "project" and a suitable translation into Vietnamese.

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  • Neithe "child" nor "support" project convey the meaning "sub-project". A sub-project is a project that is a part of another project. I do not know how you would express that in Vietnamese. – Brian Hitchcock Jan 8 '15 at 4:07
  • @BrianHitchcock do people understand sub-project as they understand subset in math? – Ooker Jan 8 '15 at 19:13
  • @MiguelArbusto will you suggest that sub-project equivalent to related project? – Ooker Jan 8 '15 at 19:14

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