Strings and languages

A large part of the application is about strings and languages, so it is useful to explain a few things about them.

The basic idea of the application is that a (NewGRF or GameScript) project provides a set of strings in some language (usually UK English). This language is called base language of that project. The strings in the base language are the central reference point.

All other languages (the translation languages) create the same set of strings, by translating the text-part of each string into their own language. Before explaining about strings however, it is useful to explain a few things about languages first.


What a language is exactly, is probably better left to Wikipedia. In this document, only some technical properties of languages are explained, to make the discussion about strings more understandable.

A language has

  • a name. Actually, a language has several names. Eints uses a rather technical name <lang-name>_<region>, where <lang-name> are two lower case letters and <region> are two upper case letters, for example en_GB for English spoken in Great Britain.
  • a grflangid. A unique number known by the code, which serves as identification of a language in language files.
  • a pluralform. Different languages use different ways to change words in the context of counts.
  • optionally, genders. Depending on what you refer to, words may change. (For example ‘his books’ versus ‘her books’.) Which genders exist changes with each language.
  • optionally, cases. Depending on context, entire strings may be translated differently. NewGRFs allow to provide several text-parts for a string (one for each case).

Only the author of the code needs to know these things in detail. For everybody else, the above list is just to get you familiar with some concepts that will be needed when explaining strings (in a language).


A single string has a unique name which serves as the identification, and it has text which is the part that needs to be translated. For example:

STR_EINTS     :Eints is a translator program.

The first word (STR_EINTS) is the name of this string, while all text behind the colon is the text of the string (the colon itself is not part of the text). The STR_ prefix is not required, but is often added by convention to distinguish the names from other name types.

The name-part stays the same for this string in every language (it may get a case appended to it though, which will be explained later). The text-part will usually change for each different language (but not always, for example the above is a good text both in en_GB and in en_US).

String commands

If a string is just literal text like above, translating is relatively simple. Just provide a text in a translation that expresses the same things as what the string in the base language expresses.

Unfortunately, the text-parts often contain other things than just the text. They are called string commands, and serve as place holder for enhancing the layout, adding colour, and adding other pieces of text or numbers.

There are two types of commands, non-positional commands, and positional commands. Since the former type is the easiest to understand, they are explained first.

A small sample of non-positional commands is shown below. (The full list can be found at String command list.) They are usually commands to display symbols (like ©), or to change the colour of the text.

Command Effect
{} Continue at the next line
{{} Output a {
{NBSP} Display a non-breaking space
{COPYRIGHT} Display a copyright symbol
{TRAIN} Display a train symbol
{TINYFONT} Switch to a small font
{BIGFONT} Switch to a big font
{BLUE} Output following text in blue colour
{SILVER} Output following text in silver colour
{RED} Output following text in red colour
{BLACK} Output following text in black colour

A string using the above commands can be:

STR_EINTS     :{SILVER}Eints {BLACK}is a translator program.

This would display the word ‘Eints’ in a silver colour, and the other text in black.

The second set of commands inserts numbers or other text into the string. These commands are called positional commands. Below is a small sample (the full list can be found at String command list).

Command Plural Gender Effect
{COMMA} yes no Insert number into the text
{STRING} no yes Insert a string into the text
{CURRENCY} no no Insert an amount into the text
{VELOCITY} no no Insert a speed into the text

A (not so good, but they’ll get improved later) example:

STR_BEER   :{COMMA} bottles of {STRING} are required

This string has two positional commands, namely {COMMA} at position 0 (counting starts from 0), and {STRING} at position 1. These positions are important for the code that uses the STR_BEER string. To display this string, it assumes that it must supply a number as parameter 0, and a text as parameter 1. The latter is where positional comes from, it refers to the positions that the code assumes for its parameters. The non-positional is now also easy to understand. For those string commands, the code does not need to supply anything, that is, it has no parameter value for a colour switch like {GREEN}.

The effect is that non-positional can be put anywhere without worrying about parameter order (they have no parameter, so it cannot get confused about it), while the positional commands must stay linked to the correct parameter or weird things happen. The latter is done with a <postion>: prefix, as in:

STR_BEER   :{0:COMMA} bottles of {1:STRING} are required

This is the same string as before, but now, the positions are explicitly marked (with the 0: and 1: prefixes). With these prefixes, the system will not get confused when you change the order of the positional commands, like:

STR_BEER   :We need more {1:STRING}, get at least {0:COMMA} bottles!

(While this example is a little constructed, you can imagine that a translation in a different language might need such swapping of positional commands to get a good translation.)

Plural form

As most of you have already seen, the example uses bottles, that is, it assumes that the program will never use the value 1 at position 0. If it does, you’ll get:

1 bottles of wine are required

To fix this, the s needs to be optional in some way. This is where the plural form comes in. Basically, a plural form of a language looks at an numeric parameter, and depending on the value and the language, it picks one of several texts to display.

For example, English has a plural form with two texts, the first one in case the number has the value 1, and the second one for all other values. For example:

STR_BEER   :{COMMA} {P "bottle" "bottles"} of {STRING} are required

The P means that a plural form must be selected. As expected it has two texts, namely bottle (used for the value 1) and bottles (used for all other numbers). The quotes " are not part of the text. In case of a single (non-empty) word, the quotes can be omitted. The example can thus also be written as {P bottle bottles}.

The P command looks at the positional command just in front of it (ie the {COMMA} command). Like the positional commands you can also explicitly state what parameter it should examine, by adding the position just behind the P, as in {P 0 bottle bottles}. Last but not least, by convention the common part of both texts is normally moved to before the command, as in bottle{P "" s}. The bottle part is now always displayed, and depending on the number either an empty word or the ‘word’ s gets added.


Gender works in much the same way as plurals, but they look at the gender given with other strings. For example, in the English language:

STR_MARY      :{G=f}Mary
STR_JOHN      :{G=m}John

STR_READ_BOOK :{STRING} reads his book

The first two strings STR_MARY and STR_JOHN define two persons. We derive their gender from our general knowledge, but computers need to be explicitly told the gender of a string. That’s what the {G=f} and {G=m} is for. It says that the text Mary of STR_MARY is f in gender, and the STR_JOHN text John is m in gender. The gender definition itself is not part of the text.

The STR_READ_BOOK string has a string positional command {STRING}. For simplicity, let’s assume that the code uses the STR_MARY or STR_JOHN strings at that position. So, the resulting strings are John reads his book and Mary reads his book. Obviously the latter one is incorrect, it should be her book.

The gender selection command G can fix this. In English, there are three genders, namely f, m, and n (female, male, and neutral). The gender selection command G thus has three texts to select from, as in:

STR_READ_BOOK :{STRING} reads {G 0 her his its} book

The G command looks for a string behind it by default. The 0 in the above example forces it to use the parameter at position 0 (that is, the {STRING} positional command).


The English language does not have cases in the linguistic sense, which makes explaining a little artificial. However, we can construct something similar.

Assume there are a bunch of locations:

STR_ROOF             :on the roof
STR_HOUSE            :in the house
STR_SCHOOL           :at school

Using these locations one can express the location of a person:

STR_LOCATION         :Peter is {STRING}
STR_TRAVEL           :Peter goes {STRING}

Using these strings, the location of Peter can be expressed nicely, and also where he is travelling to:

Peter is on the roof
Peter is in the house
Peter is at school

Peter goes on the roof
Peter goes in the house
Peter goes at school

Uh, oh... while the first three sentences are fine, the latter three are wrong. The preposition does not only depend on the type of the location, but also whether Peter is already there, or still travelling.

To fix this, we introduce a case target:

STR_ROOF             :on the roof      :onto the roof
STR_HOUSE            :in the house     :into the house
STR_SCHOOL           :at school    :to school

STR_LOCATION         :Peter is {STRING}
STR_TRAVEL           :Peter goes {}

The {} in this text states it prefers to have the target translation for the first string parameter. If the code uses STR_ROOF at that position, the onto-variant will be used instead of on. If a string does not have the desired case, the default case is used instead.

Now, STR_LOCATION can be used to state the location of Peter, and STR_TRAVEL can be used to express him travelling to a new location. The location can in both cases be expressed with a single string id. The usage of cases makes sure that the right preposition is used in all cases.

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