‘Compared to’ instead of ‘rather than’

Cities offer larger salaries to people rather than small towns.

Here the comparison is between ‘salaries’ and ‘small towns’. The writer is saying that cities offer people large salaries and do not offer them small towns. Hmm. I would be quite happy if someone gave me a small town!

If we want to compare the salaries offered by cities with the salaries offered by small towns, then we need:

  • Cities offer larger salaries compared to small towns.
    (= salaries in cities vs. salaries in small towns)

And if you really must use rather than, then you could also write:

  • Cities offer larger salaries rather than smaller salaries.
    (= larger salaries vs. smaller salaries)

Most of the time instead of is synonymous with rather than:

  • Cities offer larger salaries instead of smaller salaries.

However, instead of is quite often a replacement for something that came before:

  • City companies now use electronic transfer instead of cash payment for salaries.

Next time make sure you’re comparing what you mean to compare!

As much uncountable as possible!

These days gadgets do not consume power as much as they used to.

This should read:

  • These days gadgets do not consume as much power as they used to.

Actually there are three grammar issues we need to consider here:

  1. as..as with verbs
  2. as..as with uncountable and plural count nouns
  3. as..as with singular count nouns

Before we examine these separately, here is a text to illustrate all three:

Life is so unfair. My friend can eat and drink as much as he likes and not get fat. He eats as many Big Macs as I eat. He drinks as much beer as I drink. However, he does not have as large a stomach as I have!

1. as..as with verbs

You have seen phrases like as much as, as far as, as long as, as fast as, etc. These phrases are used when far, long, fast behave as adverbs:

  • He can eat and drink as much as he likes. (‘much’ affects the meaning of the verbs ‘eat’ and ‘drink’)
  • I drinks as much as he likes. (‘much’ affects the meaning of the verb ‘drink’)
  • etc.

2. as..as with uncountable and plural count nouns

When far, long, fast, etc. behave as adjectives, then you need to change the word order:

  • He eats as many Big Macs as I eat. (‘many’ affects the meaning of the noun ‘Big Macs’)
  • He drinks as much beer as I drink. (‘much’ affects the meaning of the noun ‘beer’)
  • etc.

Notice that when you’re focusing on nouns, your only options are much (for uncountable nouns) and many (for plural countable nouns)!

flag-of-indonesia Indonesians need to be careful here because in Bahasa Indonesia the uncountable noun is positioned before ‘as much as’, for example “Kalau anjing anda keracunan, kasih dia air kelapa sebanyak mungkin!”

3. as..as with singular count nouns

This can be difficult to translate into English if your first language does not have countable and uncountable nouns.

  • He does not have as large a stomach as I have. 
  • I have joined a fitness centre and soon I will have as small a stomach as he has.

Notice the singular countable noun always has the article ‘a‘! Notice also that you are no longer restricted to many and much. Any adjective can be used!

flag-of-indonesia Again, Indonesians need to be careful because in Bahasa Indonesia the singular count noun is positioned before ‘as much as‘, for example “Nanti kalau saya punya uang saya mau bikin rumah sebesar mungkin!”

Despite ‘spite’

Despite of its lucrative potential, tourism causes many new social problems.

This error is easy to understand. Students see examples of in spite of, which contains spite, and they generalise the same structure to make despite of, perhaps because it also contains spite, has the same number of syllables, and even has the same syllable stress. However, as we all know, English is not always so predictable!

The two closest corrections are:

  • In spite of its lucrative potential, tourism causes many new social problems.
    – In spite of + noun + comma + independent clause
  • Despite its lucrative potential, tourism causes many new social problems.
    – Despite (without of!) + noun + comma + independent clause

We could therefore write:

  • Despite containing ‘spite’, ‘despite’ is not followed by ‘of’!

The same with as

I experience the same problems with you.

flag-of-indonesia 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!

Half-baked comparison

Some Asians have less difficulty in intercultural communication.

flag-of-indonesia If your reader speaks Indonesian he will understand that you’re translating kurang. Other readers, however, will begin to ask themselves:

Is he comparing Asians with some other group of people?
Which people?

Is he comparing difficulty in intercultural communication with some other kind of difficulty?
Which kind?

Is he comparing difficulty in intercultural communication with some other kind of communication?
Which kind?

What is he comparing?!

If you’re an Indonesian translating kurang then you’re probably not comparing anything. You’re simply saying:

  • Some Asians find intercultural communication easy.

As a general rule, when you use comparative adjectives, include the thing or things that you’re comparing in the same sentence. If you’re not comparing things, then don’t use a comparative adjective.

@guruEAP

The same blah

Research has shown that men have the same kind of emotional problems with women.

A collocation issue: same…as (not same…with):

  • Research has shown that men have the same kind of emotional problems as women.

(Notice the uncountable use of research). 

Occasionally you will see same and with used together, for example “Women’s emotional problems are to some extent influenced by hormones, and it’s the same with men.” But this is a more sophisticated form of comparison requiring a particular structure for it to work properly:

  • A is like this, and it is the same with B.

flag-of-indonesia For Indonesians translating sama dengan, start thinking same…as!

@guruEAP

Comparing ‘like with like’

population

The population of Japan is lower than Thailand.

Here is an example of not ‘comparing like with like’.

In the noun phrase ‘the population of Japan’, ‘population’ is the main noun. ‘Population’, which is a mass of people, is said to be lower than ‘Thailand’, a land mass. This leaves the reader with an image of Thailand hovering up in the air, with the Japanese population some physical distance below it!

A mass of people is not like a land mass. In order to make sure that you’re ‘comparing like with like’, use a parallel structure:

  • The population of Japan is lower than the population of Thailand.

This may result in some repetition – ‘the population of’ is used twice. But don’t worry about repetition. At least you’re ‘comparing like with like’.

Repetition can be avoided in this kind of comparative structure by substituting ‘that’ for part of the phrase that you’re trying not to repeat:

  • The population of Japan is lower than that of Thailand.

In this example, that replaces the population, but it can be used to replace any noun or noun phrase.

Even though.. (but..)

Even the government has tried hard to control corruption, but bribery is still commonplace.

There are two problems here.

First of all ‘even’ at the beginning of a sentence is normally joined by ‘though’: even though (2 words!).

Indonesian flag The second problem is often experienced by Indonesians trying to translate meskipun..akan tetapi. In English there is no akan tetapi, so no but:

  • Even though the government has tried hard to control corruption, bribery is still commonplace.

Notice the position of the comma in this sentence and don’t forget to include it.

Have fun using even though!