Can I say this: "To spank my shoulder when needed" or "to spank on my shoulder when I'm down in life"? Is there a way instead not using spank? Is there any other way to express the same feeling?

  • 2
    Please explain: what is the feeling? Jan 9, 2012 at 14:39
  • What I mean is ...when you are disappointed in life, you need some one to spank on your shoulder( in the way of encouraging by giving moral support)
    – raj
    Jan 9, 2012 at 14:44
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    SHould be pat on the shoulder
    – z7sg Ѫ
    Jan 9, 2012 at 14:45
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    The connotations for 'spanking' are really only for the rear end and for mild corporal punishment for children. And pretty much nothing else.
    – Mitch
    Jan 9, 2012 at 15:13
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    @Mitch: There's a whole slew of NSFW (Not Safe For Work) things you could find online related to spanking and have nothing to do with corporal punishment for children. Jan 9, 2012 at 15:17

3 Answers 3


There is some confusion here between several idioms. First, never spank anyone on anything as spanking is a mild form of corporal punishment and I'm sure you don't mean that.

a pat on the back is giving someone praise

a pat on the shoulder is a consolatory gesture (I think this is the one you are thinking of)

a tap on the shoulder is either simply getting someone's attention, or calling someone up for promotion or some other more important duty

There isn't really a physical difference between a pat on the back or a pat on the shoulder, it's all about context, but in English we use two phrases to differentiate between the two intentions.


You would not say "Spank your shoulder".

I think you are thinking of "Pat your back" or "Pat you on the back".

"A word or gesture of praise or approval: received a pat on the back for doing a good job."


If the motion is light, I'd go for a "pat on the shoulder". For example, the kind of thing you'd give a friend to console them after their loss. If it's more percussive, I think I'd go for a "clap on the shoulder", such as you might give someone right before they head out onto the field for a game. As noted above, "spank" contains much different associations which I doubt are what you're aiming for.

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