With or without ‘with’

It could be argued that a patient who doubts with modern medicines will take longer to heal.

Indonesian flag Bahasa Indonesia often features with after certain verbs where it would not be used in English. In English the opening example would simply read:

  • It could be argued that a patient who doubts modern medicines will take longer to heal.

Other examples of the redundant with include:

  • In addition, patients do not fully believe with the capability of the doctor.
  • I like with dangdut music.
  • Please promise with your mother that you will meet her after work.

So that’s four verbs – doubt, believe, like, promise – that are not followed by with in English, but are followed by with in at least one other language. I’ll add more examples when I think of them. Meanwhile, if you can think of any other examples, please add comments below.

I will tag this post with the Indonesian word dengan – please come back another time and see if the list has grown!

Collocation recovery

Most patients think hard about the best way to recover their health and to accelerate the healing process.

This verb noun collocation – recover health – is very weak. Let’s take a look at the two words separately.

Recover + noun

The strongest collocation for recover + noun seems to be associated with money:

  • Apple invested heavily in the iPhone but soon recovered their research and development costs.
  • Fraud victims find it difficult to recover their money.
  • The state’s Consumer Protection Assistance Fund (CPAF) can help victims, who have filed complaints with our office, recover their losses.

Verb + health

Meanwhile, verb + health gives us:

  • Most people make an effort to improve their health.
  • regular exercise and a balanced diet can help to maintain good health.
  • I’m quite concerned about my uncle’s health.

Recover (no object)

In the context of health, recover is usually intransitive:

  • I hope your uncle recovers quickly.
  • If you take this medicine you will recover in a few days.
  • You had a bad fall. You need some time to recover.


Returning to our opening example, either of the following are possible:

  • Most patients think hard about the best way to recover and to accelerate the healing process.
  • Most patients think hard about the best way to improve their health and to accelerate the healing process.

When easy is difficult

Animals that are used to perform are easy to get tired.

If we reduce this to its most basic grammar, we get:

  • Animals are easy.

Obviously that’s not what the writer intended. Maybe we should look at some examples!

  • My answer was pretty easy to understand.
    My answer was easy.
  • The daily instructions are very easy to follow.
    = The daily instructions are easy.
  • The game is really pretty easy to play.
    = The game is easy.

Now contrast the previous examples with the following.

  • Generally it is easier for men to handle horses.
    = Handling horses is easy (NOT men are easy!)
  • It is easy for smartphone users to use QR codes.
    = Using QR codes is easy (NOT smartphone users are easy!)
  • It is easy for people to misunderstand religious language and ritual.
    = Misunderstanding is easy (NOT people are easy!)

It is easy for us to correct our opening example if we begin “It is easy for.!”

  • It is easy for animals that are used to perform to get tired.
    [it is easy/difficult for + noun + to + v1]

This structure is shown in several previous posts – here, and in the song Lemon Squeezy. Check them out!

An alternative improvement would be to use an adverb:

  • Animals that are used to perform get tired easily.

..and for a higher IELTS score, avoid ‘get’ by using the verb form of ‘tired’:

  • Animals that are used to perform tire easily.

Animal rights

If you’re studying in Australia you should make an effort to see the amazing Circus OZ – an animal-free circus!

At the weekend I like watching

In my leisure time I like swimming, reading, and watching.

If you are contrasting doing an activity with simply watching then you don’t need to mention the activity:

Examiner: Do you do any sport?
Candidate: I like to watch.
(= I prefer watching than playing!)

Meanwhile if someone is showing you how to do something, you don’t need to mention the thing that they’re showing you:

Instructor: OK, now watch carefully!
Student: I’m watching.

However, if the thing you’re watching is something specific, then you need to mention that thing:

  • In my leisure time I love to swim and watch movies.
  • I don’t watch much TV now that we have YouTube.

This is especially important if the thing you are watching is TV or a movie, because watch collocates very strongly with these nouns.

Indonesian flag Indonesians translating ‘nonton‘ need to remember that if you don’t tell your listener what it is that you’re watching, then as far as your listener is concerned, you could by watching almost anything, like watching paint dry or watching grass grow!

What is collocation?

In my last post I set a challenge that required you to understand the concept collocation, but later it occurred to me that you might not understand what it is.

  • We say “Merry Christmas.”
  • We say “Happy birthday.”
  • We never say “Merry birthday.”

There is no grammatical reason why we cannot say Merry birthday. In fact the only explanation is that, well, that’s just the way it is! Welcome to the frustrating world of collocation.

How to define ‘collocation’?

Continue reading

Collocation hunt #1

The solution to this challenge can be found in the following post, although you will first of all need to read a little about collocation. If you’re serious about IELTS, read on!

I hope that in the future I will be able to give a contribution as an Indonesian expert in mosquito-borne disease.

Indonesian flag This Indonesian writer has tied the verb give to the noun contribution. Unfortunately, although these words may be collocates in the writer’s first language, they do not go together in English. Actually the meaning is already clear and so this won’t damage his IELTS score too badly. However, for a higher score for vocabulary in writing and speaking you will need stronger collocation, or even something completely different. For example, a native speaker is just as likely to use a verb without a noun:

  • I hope that in the future I will be able to contribute as an Indonesian expert in mosquito-borne disease.

24hr Collocation hunt challenge!

In English there is a verb that collocates strongly with contribute, but rather than give it to you on a plate, I’m going to give you 24 hours to find it by yourself. However, because I am such a nice Pak Guru, I’m going to take you directly to the treasure. All you have to do is search carefully through the box and you will find the verb that collocates strongly with contribute. So what are you waiting for? Go ahead. Click on the box and see what you can find!treasure chest

If you think you have found the mystery verb, write a sentence using the verb (+ contribution) in the comments box below. This time tomorrow I will give the answer if nobody has already found it. Happy hunting!

Alone, on my own, by myself

Sometimes I am a lonely person and I struggle by my own.

This is an understandable error since there are other, similar phrases, and it’s likely that the writer has got them muddled up. The following phrases are possible:

  • I live alone in a one-room apartment.
  • I live on my own now that my cat has died.
  • I live by myself in a hut on the beach.

The good news is that all three phrases can be used more or less interchangeably, without having to worry to much about context or collocation.

Best of luck with your lonely struggling!

Hours of rush hour!

Many vehicles produce smoke in the street, especially in rush hours.

It’s true that in many cities, Indonesian flag including Indonesian cities, traffic is heavy early in the morning and late in the afternoon.

Admittedly rush hour can last for more than one hour at a time – in Jakarta it can take 3 hours to get to work and another 3 to get home! However, rush hour is always singular, even if it lasts for 3 hours. Rush hour also begins and ends at predictable times, and so if you say rush hour people know you’re talking about a certain period of time in the morning and a certain period of time in the afternoon:

Many vehicles produce smoke in the street, especially at rush hour. (Maybe 7-9am and 4-6pm, depending on the city!)

There is also some collocation you might want to think about:

  • At rush hour, everybody is on the road!
  • Rush hour traffic is very heavy!
  • It’s best to stay off the road during rush hour!

And if you do find yourself stuck in rush hour traffic, open up @guruEAP and turn rush hour into study hour!