From VOA Special English:

Germany is facing a crisis as low birth rates combine with a growing population of citizens who are living longer.

The word "combine" somehow confused me. In my view, we can use the expression "combine with" in the following forms:

<somebody> combine <something> with <something>

<something> is combined with <something>.

Of course, "low birth rates" and "a growing population of citizens" both belong to "<something>", and considering the omitted verb "is", I think maybe "combined with" is more appropriate. So, can anyone tell me why does it use "combine" instead of "combined"?

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    You may also have 'A combines with B', as in 'Oxygen combines with hydrogen to produce water'; or 'A and B combine', as in 'Oxygen and hydrogen combine to produce water'. – StoneyB on hiatus Dec 14 '13 at 12:14

Like many verbs of conjunction or concoction like mix, join, merge, blend, and so on, the subject of combine can either be the person or thing initiating the combination or one of the constituents being combined. Your second usage is perfectly acceptable in the active voice, i.e. <something> combines with <something>, as it is with the other verbs:

Chocolate and hazelnut pair well.

Chocolate pairs well with hazelnut.

Hazelnut is often paired with chocolate.

The recipe pairs chocolate cake with hazelnut ice cream.

Combine is appropriate in the VOA quote. It is the main verb of the sentence, indicating that rates are combining with population. Combined with would be ungrammatical; the dependent clause introduced by as would have no main verb because combined would be a participle.

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I feel 'combine with' is the correct form. 'Combined with' would imply (in my mind) that the two combined factors were to be addressed later in the sentence as in "Low birth rates combined with a growing population of citizens who are living longer, is contributing to blah blah blah....." Combine with is present tense, while combined with is past tense theoretically leading toward something else.

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You may want to think of rewording 'as' because I feel that it may be interpreted as the crisis not being related to the two problems, but I am not sure. It could be fine. Maybe 'due to' would be more straightforward.

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  • In the future, I'd recommend answering when you have a bit more assurance you're correct. This is a bit borderline, being almost a comment instead of an answer. – Nathan Tuggy May 5 '15 at 4:30

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