Contribution, cause, effect

The experience I got from this job has strong contributions in changing my character from employee to leader.

This is a word that has been borrowed from English and is now used in Indonesian as the noun kontribusi. However, it’s difficult to find a verb that collocates with the noun contribution in English. Certainly you would not use ‘have‘ + ‘contributions‘. In English, contribution usually appears before the verb, as the subject of a sentence. In addition, contribution (subject) often refers either to money or to the efforts of a person or people. In the example above, however, experience and changing are both abstract nouns where one is the cause and the other is the effect.

If you want to communicate cause effect then you need the verb form contribute. There are still collocation issues, but heck – that gives you something to show off in your IELTS writing, right?

  • The experience I got from this job has contributed greatly to changing my character from employee to leader.


Remember that when both nouns are abstract, contribute to behaves as a cause effect signal. This is a relatively low-frequency signal and is therefore a good signal to use in IELTS writing as an alternative to the more common verb cause.

Contribute to is also weaker than cause and is therefore useful when you want to express less than 100% certainty:

  • Greenhouse gases cause global warming. (Strong – implies no other causes)
  • Greenhouse gases contribute to global warming. (Weaker – implies there may be other causes)

Using weak verbs is one of several strategies for weakening debatable claims. I deal with other strategies in other posts. You can find two more strategies here.

It is called as ‘bad grammar’

People call this as the ‘big data era’.

Indonesian flag In Bahasa Indonesia disebut (called) collocates strongly with sebagai (as). Not so in English. Indeed, sebagai is often redundant in English, except when it collocates with certain verbs.

The correct options here are:

  1. People call this the ‘big data era’. (active call without as)
  2. This era is called the ‘big data era’. (passive call without as)
  3. This era is known as the ‘big data era’. (passive know with as)

Most native speakers would probably use number 1, except when the term being introduced is somehow scientific:

  • Liquids tend to travel quickly along very narrow spaces. This phenomenon is known as capillary attraction.

Be careful. If you want to use known as then you need to begin with some of the defining characteristics of the ‘known’ phenomenon:

  • Recently data has become so complex that traditional data processing application software is inadequate to deal with it. This data is now known as ‘big data’.
Indonesian flag Indonesians.. Once again, be careful with sebagai! It collocates differently in English.

Ask the menu!

I’ll ask the menu!

menu couple

Non-native speakers having dinner!

Indonesian flag This is a common mistake made by Indonesians translating ‘tanya‘ instead of ‘minta‘.

The options in English are (take a deep breath!):

  1. I’ll ask the waiter. (ask someone)
  2. I’ll ask the waiter to bring us the menu. (ask someone to do something)
  3. I’ll ask the waiter about the menu. (ask someone about something/someone)
  4. I’ll ask the waiter for the menu. (ask someone for something)
  5. I’ll ask for the menu. (ask for something/someone)

Most native speakers would probably use Number 5.

Notice that ask something is not in this list. The picture below shows what might happen if you ask the menu!

talking menu

Most menus cannot answer questions!

Indonesian flag Possibly there are different ways to translate the correct forms into Indonesian. I know that I’m never confident when using tanya and minta in Indonesian. If you have any suggestions, please share in the comments box below!

Spend Spend Spend!

Governments have spent quite a lot for space exploration using public money.

Indonesian flag Indonesian collocation? (Let me know if I’m wrong in the comments below..)

Spend money (on someone/something)

The preposition you need in English is spend on:

  • Governments have spent quite a lot on space exploration using public money.

(examples here)

Spend money (doing something)

Another way to express this is using __ing:

  • Governments have spent quite a lot of public money exploring space.

Spend money (somewhere)

You can also spend money in a particular place:

  • Governments have spent quite a lot of public money in developing countries.

In this case, of course other prepositions of place will be possible (around, at, etc.)

Spend time

The language used to talk about spending money also applies to spending time, except that we don’t often spend time ‘on‘ someone, rather we spend time ‘with‘ them:

  • Last weekend I spent some time with my girlfriend. We spent Saturday evening at the cinema and after that we spent some time walking along the beach. She noticed that I had gained weight and urged me to spend more time on physical exercise.

Spending time is also discussed in a previous post.

The same with as

I experience the same problems with you.

Indonesian flag This is direct translation from Bahasa Indonesia (sama dengan). It’s not incorrect but I’m fairly certain it’s not what you mean!

Same as

In English when you want to say that things are the same, the collocation is usually same as:

  • I experience the same problems as you.

In this case you experience problem X, problem Y and problem Z, and I also experience problems X, Y and Z. We both experience the same problems, and we are sharing our problems with each other, as friends.

Same with

Same with communicates quite a different meaning:

  • I experience the same problems with you.

In this case I experience problems with somebody else – for example someone lies to me and never helps me – and I experience the same problems with you – you also lie to me and never help me!

Very often this is expressed using ‘it‘:

  • That person always lies to me and never helps me, and it’s the same with you.

Here are some examples.

Most of the time you mean same as, so think carefully next time you write same with!

Getting an accident

I drove to town this morning and got an accident.

In English you don’t ‘get‘ an accident, you ‘have‘ one. If you say you drove to town and got an accident, it sounds as though you bought an accident, perhaps from a shop that sells accidents? Depending on the type of accident, you might need a very large shopping bag!

Admittedly the context of your sentence makes meaning clear, but if you want a high score for vocabulary in IELTS writing, try to use stronger collocation:

  • I drove to town this morning and had an accident.

Searching (for) something

Now I am searching ways to make the Lombok community aware of mental health.

Ok so there’s a big difference between search and search for.

Take a look at the following photographs. In the first photo police are searching the city. They’re searching for a suspect (= they haven’t found him yet!). In the second photo they have found the suspect and a police officer is searching him. Possibly the police officer is searching the man for weapons or drugs.

Traffic Stop - Pat Down

Police searching for suspect

Traffic Stop - Pat Down

Police searching suspect

If you’re searching someone, you’ve already found him and so you don’t need to search for him any more!

Look at these examples and notice the difference between search and search for.

Showing support(s)

They have somehow shown their supports and encouraged me to pursue postgraduate study.

Right collocation (v. show, n. support), wrong form (at least in this context).

Support‘ is one of those annoying words that can be countable and can be uncountable. In its countable form it refers to a physical support (or supports), for example the supports used to stop a building from falling down:

showing supports Bob

In its uncountable form, ‘support‘ refers to a more abstract support that may be physical but can also be emotional. I think it was this second meaning that you were aiming to communicate:

  • They have somehow shown their support and encouraged me to pursue postgraduate study.

Again, the collocation is good: v. show, n. support!

Lemon Squeezy

Another song from @GuruEAP – this time to practice the words ‘easy‘ and ‘difficult‘. See also this earlier post for further practice of these not-so-easy items!

A free handout with lyrics and tasks for students accompanies the song. The video features Indonesian EAP students preparing to study abroad. Enjoy!