In Scandinavian languages, ‘ansvarig’ is an adjective which means ‘responsible’, but is also often used as a noun to denote a role. E.g., every university course has a ‘kursansvarig’. People typically translate this as ‘the course responsible’ in the English versions, which always bugs me, as it sounds wrong and I can find no support for this use in English dictionaries. (And universities should not promote careless translation!) The official translation of ‘kursansvarig’ is sometimes given as ‘course administrator’, but nobody says that, in particular since a course also has a dedicated ‘administratör’ in the administrative staff, who is responsibe for keeping track of which students are registered etc., while the ‘kursansvarig’ is in the teaching staff and normally (but not always) the main teacher on the course.

Am I correct in my repugnance to the nominalized ‘responsible’ and can you see any alternative form that I could use, and try to get others to use?

EDIT: Thanks for the answers and comments. They haven't made me much wiser, but confirmed that it's a difficult subject. Many gave suggestions for alternative translations. A few of them would be quite possible, but there's no clear “solution” among them. (Most suggestions sound more like other roles.)

  • 1
    Yes, it does sound odd in English. Perhaps 'course leader'? Feb 13, 2017 at 9:46
  • @Kate It's hard to say since the OP doesn't really define what this person actually does, except to say they're normally but not always the main course teacher. What are their duties in this role?
    – Charl E
    Feb 13, 2017 at 10:06
  • Course leader does sound as a possible alternative. It's the person responsible for what content goes in the course, scheduling, etc.
    – njlarsson
    Feb 13, 2017 at 10:14
  • Perhaps the lecturer or (AmE) professor for that course?
    – Lawrence
    Feb 13, 2017 at 10:35
  • Instructor? Teaching Assistant? Lead Teacher? Lead Professor? Or why not, just call the person the "Kursansvarig"? Many Scandivanian words have entered the English language already anyway.... Feb 13, 2017 at 11:02

3 Answers 3


I am a native English speaker, and I find "course responsible" flat-out ungrammatical. In general, English doesn't allow the use of adjectives as singular nouns denoting people (except for some adjectives having to do with geography, ethnicity, and such) to the extent that other Germanic languages do.

I've seen "course head" used in American universities, and I think it conveys the correct meaning.

  • One case where singular substantives might be permissible is in constructions like "There are two women in the house: one responsible and one irresponsible." And I think even this is better analyzed as an elliptical construction for "one [is] responsible and one [is] irresponsible" or "one responsible [woman] and one irresponsible [woman]", where the adjectives still have a function as adjectives. I can't justify this analysis logically, sorry, but I can just say that it fits with my intuition. Feb 17, 2017 at 15:30

Your school should be responsible for any translation of that school's terminology.
Given that you dislike the official translation, you can only attempt to change it.
Compound words in Germanic Languages can be a pain to translate, and sometimes impossible to properly translate by translating the separate parts and joining them.'
Here are some possibilities:

"Chief of Instruction", "Head of Instruction", "Instruction Chair",

None of these terms use the particles "responsible" or "course" , but I think convey the intent of "kursansvarig", which might best be translated as "person answerable for the course", but that would be more a job description than a tittle.
I would prefer "Instruction Chair", "Chair" being short for "Chairman".


As any language with more users, English is more atomized. Often we should use several words instead of one. Normally, to make a noun from the adjective that cannot be a noun itself, we should simply add some general noun to it.

responsible person

, for example.

On the other hand, if some concept is frequently used by some special category of people, in any language it frequently obtains slangish, and most often, incorrect and linguistically illogical label. Surely we all know lots of such ugly terms.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.