The use of "contact someone with something"


With these facts, Katia figures out that her dad would be living in a country which has a warm climate where orchids can grow, has Tamil as one of its official languages and where advanced medical treatments are available. Just as she is about to determine the country, 47 bursts through the door, shoots Smith in the chest, and knocks Katia unconscious. Elsewhere, 47's handler Diana contacts another Agent with a contract.

Plot: Hitman: Agent 47

The use of "contact someone with a contract" sounds a bit unconventional to me.

We can provide / supply / present someone with something, as is exemplified by the online dictionaries. But the dictionaries don't include the collocation of "contact someone with something".

Without any context, I think there would be an ambiguity in "A contacted B with a contract". It could mean "A had a contract and contacted B", or "A contacted B to award B a contract". Do I get it right?

In the quoted example, I think "with a contract" acts as the object complement.

Then let's generalize this use:

A visited / approached / ran to / notified / engaged B with a contract.

Do they sound natural to a native speaker's ear?

Kinzle B

Posted 2016-01-10T12:03:21.470

Reputation: 7 089

2The sentence is ambiguous, though context suggests that it probably has your last suggested meaning. ... By and large I think this sort of writing is not a good source of useful questions. Even if it is well written, it reflects "translation" from a medium and a genre in which much is deliberately left unspoken and suggestive to enhance narrative tension, and that ambiguity tends to slop over into the translation. – StoneyB on hiatus – 2016-01-10T12:29:17.747

1@StoneyB +1 Quite correct, but as a non-native speaker he may not realise that... – Peter – 2016-01-10T12:31:41.263

1Yes, I agree. Without watching the movie even a native speaker might fail to understand the over-condensed plot summary. After reading both of your comments I think I can make my question more specific. @StoneyB, Peter – Kinzle B – 2016-01-10T12:39:56.687

@Peter ... Indeed! But KinzleB has a sharper eye for slovenly writing than 99% of native speakers. – StoneyB on hiatus – 2016-01-10T12:40:29.133

You have to read the sentence as "Diana contacts another Agent who is with a contract" or "Diana contacts another Agent who has a contract". – None – 2016-01-10T12:42:22.817

@StoneyB Being <1% of a general population is usually considered a gift :) – Peter – 2016-01-10T12:45:42.200

No, I don't think so. The Agent hasn't gotten the contract until Diana contacts him. Your interpretation would let one think he has already been contracted! ! @Rathony – Kinzle B – 2016-01-10T12:49:14.443

@Peter ... Yes; and I consider KinzleB a gifted reader and questioner. – StoneyB on hiatus – 2016-01-10T12:53:10.963

The verb contact doesn't carry any prepositional or object complement. The context seems to be "Diana has a contract with another killer (agent) to kill 47. After 47 accomplishes his/her mission, Diana needs to get rid of 47. Then, Dinana contacts another killer to kill 47. – None – 2016-01-10T12:54:32.523



There is ambiguity in your isolated phrase

A contacted B with a contract

the possibilities are

Is A merely contacting B and one of them has a contract?
Does A have the contract?
Does B have the contract?
Does A have the contract with the intent of giving it to B after contacting B?

By the Law of Proximity(1)

A contacted B with a contract (B has the contract)
With a contract, A contacted B (A has the contract)

Because of context from your passage

A (has a contract and has) contacted B with (said) contract (to give to B)

since A is B's handler and handlers do not phone-in for updates, they wait to be notified (minimal communication)

In your example question

A visited / approached / ran to / notified / engaged B with a contract.

Let's try this

John visited Jane with flowers
John visited Jane with Sally

I think most people would interpret it as the flowers and Sally were with John

John approached Jane with Sally
John ran to Jane with Sally
John notified Jane with Sally

would also be interpreted as Sally being with John

change with to and and any ambiguity disappears

John approached Jane and Sally
John ran to Jane and Sally
John notified Jane and Sally


John saw Jane with Sally

would usually be interpreted as Jane and Sally were together.

(1) this may not be a real law, but is usually understood


Posted 2016-01-10T12:03:21.470

Reputation: 63 575

I didn't ask about the semantics of the quoted example. Perhaps I didn't make myself understood. :( – Kinzle B – 2016-01-10T12:27:04.630

@KinzleB Sorry, What is it you want to know? Please give an additional example if you can. Was your question about the ambiguity you perceive? Who has what? – Peter – 2016-01-10T12:30:11.097

@KinzleB I have reedited my answer, it that closer to what you're asking? – Peter – 2016-01-10T13:00:25.950

2@Peter I can't resist comparing "John visited Jane with flowers" to "YHWH visited Pharaoh with plagues." – StoneyB on hiatus – 2016-01-10T13:08:11.673

@StoneyB I think Peter nailed it. +1) Law of Proximity should be applied here. Otherwise, the writer should not use that construction. The sentence seems to be ambiguous but it is not difficult to write "Diana contacts another agent to reward (give) a (new) contract...". – None – 2016-01-10T13:17:58.447

@StoneyB +1 An excellent example of usage of visited and with. That is beyond native, it is an example of being well-spoken (written). ELL readers take note – Peter – 2016-01-10T13:23:42.910

@Peter Wouldn't it be better to use the preposition for instead of with if the Diana's intention was to give a contract by contacting the agent? With flower and with plagues sound natural because the subjects represent the obvious. If we contrast "I contacted the department for information", with "I contacted the dept. with information", the distinction seems to be clearer. – None – 2016-01-10T13:46:10.833

@Ranthony I contacted the dept. for info the dept has info that you want. I contacted the dept with info you have info to give the dept. "I contacted the guy with all the answers" might mean you need an answer, but the guy with all the answers would need to be established in previous context. Diana would never contact the agent for the contract, since she is the agent's handler, hit contracts (like other things) flow one-way. "Diana contacted the agent for a phone num" the agent has the phone num that Diana wants, yes that is unambiguous. – Peter – 2016-01-10T14:04:34.133

@Rathony "Diana was contacted by another agent with a contract" is also unambiguous, the agent has the contract – Peter – 2016-01-10T14:05:33.400

BTW, does "A visited / approached / ran to / called B with a contract" sound natural? – Kinzle B – 2016-03-19T04:40:54.200

@KinzleB They are all possible, just more context is needed. "A visited B with a contract at their offices." though "A paid a visit to B with a contract" would sound better. "A approached B with a contract for next season." "A ran to B with a contract before the transfer window closed." "A called B with a contract." – Peter – 2016-03-19T06:36:23.393


I take the probable meaning of with a contract to be "in order to award/assign him a contract"; but although B is presumably going to end up "with the contract", object complement seems to me to be stretching the sense of that term here. With a contract does not describe B, or even A; it describes the intention behind the action contact.

I would characterize with a contract as a clausal adjunct—in traditional terms, an "adverbial of purpose".

StoneyB on hiatus

Posted 2016-01-10T12:03:21.470

Reputation: 176 469

I have a little difficulty pinpointing my bewilderment. Perhaps my intention was to compare "provide sb with sth" with "contact sb with sth". I thought they had different syntactic structures... – Kinzle B – 2016-01-10T12:57:30.757

@KinzleB as in "contact sb with sth to provide the sth to the contactee"? He contacted me with information. He provided me with information. In order to provide one must make contact, but not vice versa – Peter – 2016-01-10T13:10:57.227

@KinzleB There is no difference in the syntax. The difference lies in the lexical relationships: provide/supply/furnish/present "select" with X for a specific sense, but other verbs don't have this pre-programmed sense. If you have CGEL, this is treated at Ch 4, 6.1.1 on page 275, 'specified and unspecified prepositions'. – StoneyB on hiatus – 2016-01-10T13:11:30.317

I looked up 'clausal adjunct' in CGEL and Bas Aarts; Both returned nothing. I would have thought that a clause would have at least a verb in it. Why would you call a PP 'with a contract' a clausal adjunct? Does it mean 'an adjunct which is a clause' or 'an adjunct modifying a clause'? – Kinzle B – 2016-08-07T13:26:27.537

1@KinzleB I mean an adjunct modifying a clause. You're quite right, this is just the sort of confusing terminology I need to find a better way of expressing -- perhaps 'adclausal (adjunct)', like 'adverbal' or 'adnominal'. – StoneyB on hiatus – 2016-08-07T14:05:20.150