Preparing (for) disaster

Is this a good way for students to prepare their new academic environments?

Compare these:

  • I’m preparing dinner.
    (You’re mixing ingredients, boiling, baking, frying, etc.)
  • I’m preparing for dinner.
    (You’re washing your hands. You’re going to eat very soon.)

preparing for dinner

A baby prepares for dinner while
his mother prepares dinner!

  • I’m preparing an exam.
    (You’re writing the questions that someone will answer when they sit the exam.)
  • I’m preparing for an exam.
    (You’re reading and thinking about questions that might be included in an exam that you are about to take.)

preparing disaster

These men prepared a disaster.
They made the first atom bomb!

preparing for dinner

Some people prepare for disaster.

Returning to our opening example, you probably need:

  • Is this a good way for students to prepare for their new academic environments?

If students are preparing their academic environments, they’re already there – possibly they’re busy arranging furniture in their accommodation, putting books on shelves, etc. If they’re preparing for their new environments, they’re not there yet because they’re not yet ready – possibly they need to study more first, pass exams, save money, etc.

When to be possessive?

Interacting with many people expands students vision and broadens their horizons.

This is a tricky one! There are many exceptions to the guidelines that follow. First of all let’s compare the following noun phrases:

  1. students vision
    plural noun + noun – is not possible. It is grammatically incorrect.
  2. students’ vision
    plural noun + possessive + noun is possible, meaning particular vision – the vision of the group of students under discussion. This structure is common when the first noun is ‘animate’.
  3. student vision
    singular noun + noun – is also possible, meaning a kind of vision – ‘student vision’ as opposed to, say, ‘teacher vision’. This structure is common when the first noun is ‘inanimate’.

Returning to our opening example, meaning 2 would appear to be the most appropriate:

  • Interacting with many people expands students’ vision and broadens their horizons.

Notice also that we now have a parallel structure with two clauses containing possessives – expands students’ vision, broadens their horizons.

When ‘their lives’ are redundant

A gap year allows participants to find passion in their life.

It’s best to avoid this phrase altogether. First of all it’s redundant, and secondly it’s easy to introduce error. I know my own students always write ‘their’ (plural) ‘life’ (singular).

The following are possible:

  • A gap year allows participants to find passion.
  • A gap year allows participants to find passion in their lives.

Once again, the first of these examples is preferable – we know that you’re talking about the participants’ lives and not the lives of cats and dogs!

During a period of time

At the same time parents spend lots of money on their children because they consider traveling costs and additional expenses during their children take their gap year.

Indonesian flag Indonesians tend to translate selama as during, but then they run into this grammatical error.

In English, during requires the following grammar:

  • ..parents spend lots of money on their children because they consider traveling costs and additional expenses during their children’s gap year.
    [signal + noun (period of time)]
Indonesian flag Indonesians might consider using while as a translation for selama, in which case they can follow up with a sentence:

  • ..parents spend lots of money on their children because they consider traveling costs and additional expenses while their children take their gap year.
    [signal + sentence]

Searching for missing nouns

Living far away from home improves their ability in money managing, since their parents may not support their financial.

First of all, congratulations to this student for use of the word ‘since’. Perhaps she read my previous post dealing with because, since and as?

Unfortunately the use of ‘financial’ here lacks coherence because the Indonesian version of ‘financial’ – finansial – is used informally as a noun, whereas in English it is always an adjective. The reader is left wondering.. financial what?

The following alternatives use different word forms and also include strong collocation:

  • ..their parents may not cover their financial commitments. (adjective affects and collocates with commitments)
  • ..their parents may not support them financially(adverb affects and collocates with support)
  • ..their parents may not cover their finances(noun collocates with cover)

The only other example I can think of in which an imported adjective is used as a noun, might be:

  • Taking drugs is not good for your mental.

..which should read:

  • Taking drugs is not good for your mental health.

If you can think of any other words that get lost in translation in the same way, please comment below this post!

College or Colleges

Taking a gap year gives certain advantages to young people before attending colleges.

Yet another of those dreaded words that have slightly different meanings in their countable and uncountable forms.

1. College, countable

If you attend colleges, then..

  • you attend more than one college in more than one location, either sequentially or at the same time.
  • possibly you keep changing your mind about what you want to study?
  • possibly you are never satisfied with the college you happen to be attending?
  • possibly you are super human!

2. College, uncountable

If you attend college, then..

  • you are enrolled on a course of study.
  • your course lasts for a fixed period of time.
  • you probably study on the same campus every day.
  • when you finish your course, you hope to receive some kind of qualification.

Perhaps it’s best to think of attend college, or go to college as phrasal verbs that carry all of these meanings. All of the above also applies to the word ‘university’.

Since A is true, B is true

Since young people want to be considered independent humans. They try to prove their ability for themselves and other people as well.

This student is experimenting with alternatives for because but has found herself in hot water. There are two possible improvements:

  • Since young people want to be considered independent humans, they try to prove their ability for themselves and other people as well.
    [since + cause sentence + comma + effect sentence]
  • Young people try to prove their ability for themselves and other people as well, since they want to be considered independent humans.
    [effect sentence + comma + since + cause sentence]

In both of these examples, since is indeed an exact synonym for because, and so is as. However, as and since are more likely to appear at the beginning of a sentence, whereas because is more common after a comma:

because since as
after comma beginning of sentence beginning of sentence

Returning to our opening example, we could also get rid of the word humans since it is clear we’re not talking about aliens or rocks:

  • Since young people want to be considered independent, they try to prove their ability for themselves and other people as well.

Indonesian flag The over-use of the word human may be cultural. See here, here and here.

Opinion in IELTS Task 2 Introductions

Some people argue that taking a year break causes hesitation to continue study permanently. However, many people claim that taking a gap year between finishing high school and starting university studies is beneficial.

If you want a good score for Task Response in IELTS writing (IELTS Writing Task 2 band descriptors) then you need to make sure your opinion is clear in every paragraph – including your introduction.

Most of the time in academic writing we try to make our own opinions look strong and other people’s appear weak. We can achieve this in 3 ways:

1. Positioning

Position other people’s ideas before your own and add a contrasting signal to show that your own idea is coming next.

In our opening example, our writer uses effective positioning, beginning with someone else’s idea before giving us her own, and she uses a contrasting signal – however – to confirm that it’s her idea next.

2. Evaluative language

Use negative evaluative language to talk about other people’s ideas and positive evaluative language to talk about yours.

Our writer does not use particularly negative language to describe opposite opinion, but that’s OK – she has already put opposite opinion in ‘weak’ position. She then strengthens her own idea with an extremely positive evaluative adjective – beneficial.

3. Problematising

When introducing other people’s ideas, use problematising phrases to show that there might be something wrong with their ideas.

Our writer uses a problematising phrase – some people argue that – to introduce opposite opinion and make it appear weak. Great! But then..

sinking ship
..she uses another problematising phrase – many people claim that – to introduce her own idea!? This is supposed to be your opinion, not many people’s!

Summary

If we take out that second – confusing – problematising phrase, then we’re left with a nice introduction to this argument about gap years. The writer’s opinion is now obvious, and the reader can look forward to some supporting arguments in the following body paragraphs.

  • Some people argue that taking a year break causes hesitation to continue study permanently. However, taking a gap year between finishing high school and starting university studies is beneficial.

Global warming cause effect

Climate change is a depressing topic, but it provides us with a rich source of cause effect language that we can borrow and use in our IELTS speaking and writing.

Some world leaders continue to deny that human activity is to blame for global warming, but the following text argues that humans are in fact largely responsible.

The text features some quite sophisticated cause effect signals. Try the gapfill and be sure to review alternative answers mentioned in the answer key (available after submitting answers). Continue reading