Experiencing failure with countability

Moreover, a failure can be caused by a lack of practical experiences.

It’s annoying, I know, but while some nouns are countable and others are uncountable, yet others can be either countable or uncountable, and here are two examples in the same sentence: failure and experience.

Generally speaking, if a noun can be either countable or uncountable, and if you’re speaking generally, use the uncountable form. On the other hand if you’re talking about specific things then use the countable form – for example you may be talking about the time you failed an exam and saying what a terrible experience that was.

In the original example, I think we’re talking generally, right?

  • Moreover, failure can be caused by a lack of practical experience.

Meanwhile, using the countable versions of these words:

  • His brothers were all successful, but he was a failure. Receiving his exam results was an experience he would like to forget!

Can’t get no results satisfaction

If I am given more time in the reading test, I will answer all of the questions with satisfied results.

This is like the bored/boring distinction, right? Let’s say Bill is talking to Mary about space travel, but Mary is not interested in space travel. In this case Mary feels bored (the effect), but Bill is boring (the cause). (Indonesian flag In Indonesian there is an easy translation, where the suffix ‘kan’ behaves a bit like ‘ing’: boring > membosankan).

If we return to the original problem..

  • If I am given more time in the reading test, I will answer all of the questions with satisfying results.

‘Satisfying’ is the cause. The effect – satisfied – is something that you might feel when your results are satisfying.

You can also use a related word with a slightly different meaning:

  • If I am given more time in the reading test, I will answer all of the questions with satisfactory results.

Were you able to bargain for IELTS?

Budi tried to teach himself IELTS but made no progress. Then he discovered @guruEAP and last Saturday he could achieve band 7.0.

Ok,ok.. I made this one up. It may look like shameless self-promotion, but it’s a problem I often see in student writing.

Consider this scenario:

When @guruEAP first arrived in Indonesia he could speak only English and French. Now, after 20 years in Indonesia, he can speak Indonesian fluently. Last weekend he bought some bananas from the local market and he was able to negotiate a reasonable price.

Here there are two kinds of ability:

  1. A permanent ability that existed/exists continuously over time (“..he could speak../..he can speak..“). Note that this can be past or present.
  2. A temporary ability in the past that existed momentarily, relating to a particular event (“..he was able to negotiate..“). Note that this is always past.

So if we return to the original problem:

  • Budi tried to teach himself IELTS but made no progress. Then he discovered @GuruEAP and last Saturday he was able to achieve band 7.0.

Note that the temporary ability was required in a situation that was difficult and required effort / struggle.

Consumptive consumers?!

Advertising tends to make people more consumptive.

Once upon a time consumption meant ‘wasting away’, but in the context of tuberculosis, not shopping. Of course these days consumption is still a kind of wasting, but not as life-threatening!

Coughing, consumptive customers

The modern habit of wasting money on wants rather than needs is consumerism:

  • Advertising tends to make people more consumeristic.

Compare: consumptive and consumeristic.

The allocation of _____?

Preserving endangered languages may trigger negative sentiments about the allocation of fundings.

It’s probably best to think of this as a collocation / vocabulary problem.

First of all ‘funding’ is uncountable and so we can’t put an ‘s’ on it. Secondly, when you’re talking about money, allocation collocates with fundsfunding, and money:

  • Preserving endangered languages may trigger negative sentiments about the allocation of funds.

Making a noun phrase – allocation of funds – rather than a verb phrase, was a good strategy. You just need to be more careful with collocation inside nominal groups. Online tools can be enormously helpful in situations like this!

Earning money vs. earning dollars

Just like their male counterparts, many Australian women earn money 2,000 dollars per month.

If a ‘unit’ can correspond to more than one different noun, then you need to specify your noun:

Good morning. Can I help you?
I’d like 2kg of rice, please.

In this example, kg could apply to many other nouns: potatoes, chocolate, etc, and so it is necessary to be specific about ‘rice’.

On the other hand if the unit can only correspond to a single noun – unambiguously –  then there’s no need to mention that noun:

Good morning. Can I help you?
I’d like to withdraw 1,000 dollars, please.

In this example, ‘dollars’ clearly corresponds to ‘money’, and so it is redundant to say “1,000 dollars of money”.

If we apply this to the original problem then we get:

  • Just like their male counterparts, many Australian women earn 2,000 dollars per month.

Only 37% student?!

AAS students which have just about 37% students, submit assignments on time.

You seem to be saying that AAS students are not completely AAS students – 63% of each AAS student is not an AAS student!?

Perhaps you mean:

  • AAS students, who represent just about 37% of all students, submit assignments on time.

You are much more likely to make sense if you construct a noun phrase in which your percentage number is followed by ‘of’:

x% + of + ‘the whole’(???) + verb + etc.

Make sure you state the whole explicitly. For example if you are discussing male and female representation among students, then the ‘whole’ is students. If you want to say that 50% of students are female, do not write 50% of females are students. For a more detailed look at what I mean by the ‘whole’, take a look at my post Don’t forget the whole.

Use this structure with the first two or three numbers that apply to each new theme that you introduce and your reader will understand what the numbers refer to. You will also receive a good score in IELTS in all four assessment criteria (see public band descriptors).

Have you done your homework?

Teacher: Have you all done your homework?
Students: Already!

Indonesian flag If you are Indonesian then you’re probably trying to construct present perfect tense. For Indonesians your options are generally already and not yet. However, you should think about using more present perfect in your English, especially if you’re preparing for IELTS. Using present perfect accurately and appropriately will increase your score for grammar in IELTS speaking and writing:

Teacher: Have you all done your homework?
Students: Yes, we have!

Most teachers are no use

Most of older teachers and some younger teachers are not technology literate.

Today I’m going to give you a task!

  1. Take a look at these sentences and try to identify any words or phrases that follow most of.
  2. Then compose a rule that explains why “Most of older teachers..” is incorrect. Enter your rule as a comment below this post.
  3. Then think about why “some younger teachers” is correct. Does the rule for most / most of also apply to some / some of?

I’ve also written a song featuring this grammar problem.