November 18, 2012

Thanks, but No Thanks

Dropping another Polish-English post, as this is something I’ve come across many times. It’s easy to understand and easy to solve, so let’s get to it:

Thanks to improvements in the sales process, we increased profit margins by 10%.

While this utterance is technically correct, it might sound a bit strange to native English speakers. It looks weird on paper, and doesn’t feel quite right when said aloud.

This is because “Thanks to…” is not a popular construction in typical English when not actually thanking someone. Polish, however, uses a direct equivalent of “Thanks to…” Dzięki with a positive meaning, and the opposite, negative meaning, which English doesn’t have at all, Przez.

Take the following examples in Polish:

Positive Results (Giving Credit)

Dzięki usprawnieniu procesu sprzedaży zwiększyliśmy zyski o 10%.

Thanks to improving the sales process, we increased profits by 10%

Negative Results (Blaming Something)

Przez zmiany w procesie sprzedaży zyski spadły o 10%.

Because of [negative] changes in the sales process, profits fell by 10%.

The examples above illustrate how Polish characterizes resulting actions as either positive or negative with Dzięki and Przez, respectively.

Now let’s look at English:

Neutral Results (Cause)

Due to improvements in the sales process, we are giving you a raise.

Due to damages of mental health, we are suing you for 10 million USD.

As a result of increased capacity, we were able to service more customers.

As a result of declining profits, the firm had to lay off employees.

Because of the good weather, we were able to go sailing.

Because of the pain in his neck, he was unable to go sailing.

English tends to use more neutral phrasing to give credit to actions, but follows it up with a positive or negative term (see the italicized words above).

TL;DR:

Don’t use “Thanks to…” in English, and start using more neutral phrases “Due to…”, or “As a result of…” followed by a negative or positive phrase to get your meaning across naturally.

Caveat: English does use “Thanks to” frequently when directly thanking something or someone.

For example:

Thanks to everyone who came to the event.

... and thanks to everyone for reading this post!

P.S. As a UC Berkeley grad, I was really impressed by the President of Poland mentioning my alma matter...

Our government has established the USD 250 million National Capital Fund-of-funds (KFK) to attract capital into new venture capital funds as well as the TOP500 Innovators program thanks to which 500 of our best young scientists will be able to serve their internships in the world’s top research institutions like Stanford University and UC Berkeley.

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