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? – Matt E. Эллен Jan 9 '12 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 '12 at 14:44
  • 7
    SHould be pat on the shoulder – z7sg Ѫ Jan 9 '12 at 14:45
  • 2
    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 '12 at 15:13
  • 11
    @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. – FrustratedWithFormsDesigner Jan 9 '12 at 15:17

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.

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