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I'd like to know whether "contribute to" and "lead to" are synonymous expressions in the following:

a. Hard work alone does not necessarily contribute to / lead to success.

Does any contradiction arise in the following?

b. Hard work contributes to success, but hard work alone does not necessarily lead to success.
c. Hard work contributes to success, but hard work alone does not necessarily contribute to success.

I know the repetition of the phrase "contribute to success" in sentence c is somewhat unusual, but I'm concerned only about whether the statement presents a contradiction.

I'd appreciate your help.

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Contribute inherently means other factors as well. Because of that, the modifier alone makes the sentence clumsy.

Hard work does not necessarily contribute to success.

Hard work alone does not necessarily lead to success.

Both of those sentences are written correctly, and both mean very similar things.

In the first sentence, you are saying that just because someone works hard does not mean they will be successful (which is obviously true).

In the second sentence, you are saying that JUST working hard, by itself, does not necessarily lead to success - that there are other factors (which is obviously also true).

Your sentence b above is good. Sentence c above implies that success is guaranteed, but hard work may or may not have been a part of it.

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    I don't think you've explicitly mentioned it, but OP's final sentence is nonsensical. It's effectively saying Hard work is part of what you need [to succeed], but hard work alone is not part of what you need, which is inherently self-contradictory. – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica Oct 24 '18 at 16:23
  • True, reading it through again, I agree that your interpretation is better than the one I noted. – Jesse Williams Oct 24 '18 at 16:47
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In your context, "contribute to" and "lead to" are only partial synonyms.

If hard work "leads to" success, that hard work has very strong influence and there are no (many) obstacles to prevent success.

If hard work "contributes to" success, that hard work has only limited influence and there can be (several) obstacles to prevent success.

So in the case of "hard work" and "success", the better verb is "contributes to", because we already have the experience - many times, only hard work is not enough. Experience, motivation, support, even luck, are also key ingredients to success.

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a. Hard work alone does not necessarily contribute to / lead to success.

Hard work alone does not necessarily lead to success. - Means there may be other factors that are necessary for success.

Hard work alone does not necessarily contribute to success. - alone doesn't make sense here

Hard work does not necessarily contribute to success. - This means that there is no definitive causal (partial or otherwise) connection between hard work and success. I could be the sole factor, it could be one of several factors, it may also be completely irrelevant - usually this is unlikely. (Though success by inheritance may be one example -conceptually, your hard work or lack thereof had no impact on the inheritance)

b. Hard work contributes to success, but hard work alone does not necessarily lead to success.

This is a perfectly good sentence. It explicitly declares hard work is a factor, but not a sufficient condition, of success. (This still leaves a little room that X other conditions lead to success before hard work and its collaborative factors, but infers that Hard work is predominate, or most likely/important, factor.)

c. Hard work contributes to success, but hard work alone does not necessarily contribute to success.

Direct contradiction. A does B, but maybe A does not do B.

Now to say:

Hard work is required for success, but hard work alone does not lead to success. -This means that Hard work is a necessary, but not sufficient, condition of success. This statement would mean you cannot achieve success without hard work regardless of other conditions.

Of these the most true to life, for most people is the second one (b.).

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