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It is not quite clear what people mean by saying сложно переоценить. Can anyone explain?

The literal translation would be hard to overestimate, which doesn't make sense.

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    AFAIK, something is difficult to over-estimate is valid in English. difficult/impossible to over-estimate means that something is such a valuable thing that no matter how much we think it is valuable, it is actually even more valuable. The same meaning goes for сложно/невозможно переоценить. – default locale Jul 17 '12 at 3:51
  • that's exactly what I am talking about, how can it be even possible? that is nonsense! in order for something to get overestimated it needs to get estimated first! in a sense that the estimated value needs to be compared to the real value and found to be higher than that - this is what they call an overestimate; by saying that it is hard to overestimate you're implying you know the real value of that thing, once you know that it takes just a slight nudge to overestimate it, a slight nudge isn't a hard thing to do, so the overestimation cannot be hard – Trident D'Gao Jul 17 '12 at 4:27
  • Good point. Actually over-estimate as a verb has two meanings. First to address an error in estimation of measurable/countable things and the second to express high expectations (esteem). It really doesn't make sense to use сложно переоценить/difficult to overestimate for countable matters (сложно переоценить температуру воздуха is a complete nonsense), but it's valid to use it to express the value of something (сложно переоценить его вклад в работу, сложно переоценить значение этой встречи) – default locale Jul 17 '12 at 4:32
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    I'm a bit late to the party here, but there's a song "Still Alive" from the end credits of Portal (the game), which has a line "it's hard to overstate my satisfaction." So there's that. – Unknown artist Sep 15 '13 at 17:30
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Переоценивать has two meanings in Russian:

  1. to revalue, i.e. to determine the value once again. For example, the things that were considered important in the Soviet time were not any more after Perestroyka. They were revalued, переоценены.
  2. to over-estimate, i.e. to give a too high value to something. For example, one can overestimate ones ability to ride 100 km per day by bike. This would be called переоценивать свои возможности in Russian.

Now, the phrase сложно (also трудно) переоценить relates to the second meaning above. It means that the subject has such a high value that it is difficult / hard to give a too high value for it. For example: It is hard to overestimate the contribution of this guy to the project. — Трудно переоценить вклад это парня в проект.

There is also a phrase невозможно переоценить, which basically means that the value is so high that it is really impossible to overestimate it. For example, if the project could be completed only due to participation of someone and would have failed without this person, one can say: Невозможно переоценить его участие в проекте.

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To understand сложно переоценить, one must first understand the following:

переоценить is not exactly estimate in the sense used in this word. it means literally "to give too much value"; as in if I build something, you come in and tell me how wonderful it is, I can act all modest saying "your giving too much value to it, it's not that great".

сложно переоценить plays an on-contrer on this word, saying it is so great, you can't really give too much value to it. To further explain, this expression is used mainly in literature, emphasizing the contribution, the value something gave to something.

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  • Ok I have no problem with literature, but when it comes to common sense it falls apart, provided somebody tells me 'you cannot give it too much value', which they mean one of the following things: 1. the real value is infinite, you cannot get over the infinity; 2. the real value is finite, but you still cannot get over it, because it is incredibly high for you to even imagine; 3. I don't know the real value of that thing, but i believe it's quite high – Trident D'Gao Jul 17 '12 at 4:43
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    4. you could never compliment it enough. but mainly used in written form, never heard someone say it, don't think you would too :) – mirandalol Jul 17 '12 at 4:46
  • enough to what? to the point when it matches its real value? so the one who says that must have known its real value to say that, which is impossible, because the whole idea is that the value is so high that nobody can comprehend it – Trident D'Gao Jul 17 '12 at 4:51
  • @v'-5o-1's73- I'd go for your no. 2. Of course the value is not infinite, that's why the saying goes сложно переоценить not невозможно переоценить. It is definitely not no. 3, because the idea is that the guy saying this phrase exactly knows the real value of the subject and gives it an extremely high esteem. – texnic Jul 17 '12 at 7:10
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Сложно переоценить эффективность (it is very efficient)

Ребята, вашу работу и значимость вашей роли сложно переоценить (Guys, you did an awesome job/your contribution was fantastic)

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переоценить is better translated as "overrate" rather than "overestimate". so: "it'd be hard to overrate this, it's so good!" of course we don't say this in English, but i think it makes sense.

they also say "это сильно переоценено / that's overrated"

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