In the first place is over-grazing, which caused 35% of land degradation.
Not a terrible error – we know what you mean! But still, it’s important to understand the distinction between ‘in first place’ and ‘in the first place’.
In IELTS Task 1 writing we often find ourselves ranking items as follows:
In first place is over-grazing, which caused 35% of land degradation. Meanwhile in second place, 20% of land degradation was caused by deforestation.
But what if you’re listing rather than ranking? Let’s say, for example, that you’re listing supports for an argument. In this case you need ‘in the first place’, ‘in the second place’, etc.:
Mr Jones cannot be the one who stole your car. In the first place he was in a different city when the car was stolen, and secondly he is blind!
In this case ‘in the first place‘ means ‘as the first consideration‘. It’s often used to introduce reasons that should be obvious but may need to be emphasised, as in the above example. Notice that it is unusual to continue ‘in the second place‘, ‘in the third place‘, etc. Better to switch to ‘secondly‘, ‘thirdly‘, and so on.
To sum up..
‘In first place..’ is useful in Task 1 writing (for ranking)
‘In the first place..’ is useful in Task 2 writing (for emphasising reasons)
TIP! If you’re doing this in IELTS Speaking, it can sometimes help you to structure an argument if you count off items using your fingers, perhaps under the table!
The widespread of this crime can be reduced by imposing stricter penalties.
‘Widespread’ is an adjective, not a noun. Nouns used in this context might include ‘incidence’, or indeed ‘spread’. These we might classify as ‘statistics nouns’, which are particularly useful in IELTS Task 1 writing.
Full-day school becomes an important issue because it concerns a wide range of people, especially parents.
This is the influence of Bahasa Indonesia. In English become is used to describe a change, rather than a constant:
People become sleepy when they drink a lot of beer.
Most knives become dull after a while and need to be sharpened.
When there’s a problem, Clark Kent becomes Superman.
In each of these three cases, a change is implied, from alert to sleepy, from sharp to dull, and from newspaper journalist to superhero. They are all familiar, recurring situations, and so we use present simple tense to describe them.
If we say “Full-day school becomes an important issue,” a change is indeed implied (from non full-day school to full-day school), but since this is a unique, rather than a recurring situation, then we need a time frame.
If the change happened in the past, but we’re not sure exactly when, then we use present perfect tense:
Full-day school has become an important issue.
If the change is happening right now – continuously – then we can use present continuous tense:
Full-day school is becoming an important issue.
However, if we are analysing a situation that is true now, constant and without change, as though we are looking at it under a microscope, then we use present simple tense:
Full-day school is an important issue.
Choose appropriate words from the drop-down menus to complete the text.
It is difficult to control how children use the Internet. This a problem for parents who want to protect their children from negative influences. Although software developers have built parental controls into their apps, children better able to hack apps in order to access all of their features. Indeed as time goes by it increasingly impossible to safeguard children from violent and pornographic content online. Whenever we aware of the dangers of a technology, we should urge our governments to exercise suitable controls for the sake of harmony in society.
For useful tips, click on highlighted words and phrases in the text below. Click again to close.
It is difficult to control how children use the Internet. This is a problem for parents who want to protect their children from negative influences. Although software developers have built parental controls into their apps, children have become better able to hack apps in order to access all of their features. Indeed as time goes by it is becoming increasingly impossible to safeguard children from violent and pornographic content online. Whenever we become aware of the dangers of a technology, we should urge our governments to exercise suitable controls for the sake of harmony in society.
is - The difficulty is now constant and unchanging.
become (present perfect)
have become - ’have built’ implies time up to and including now, while ‘parental controls’ are a recent development (change).
become (present continuous)
is becoming - ’as time goes by’ implies continuous change around now
become - ’Whenever’ implies a regular phenomenon, and there is an implied change from ‘unaware’ to ‘aware’.
In my opinion, artificial intelligence should be kept away from humans’ civilisation.
OK, here are two specimens – a human (Bill), and an alien (Zarka). If I talk about the human, I’m talking about the gentleman on the left. If I talk about the alien, I’m talking about the lady on the right.
Bill and Zarka
We can say that the human’s nose is longer than the alien’s nose, and the human’s neck is thicker than the alien’s. Also, since the alien has no body hair, we can assume that the alien is interested in human hair.
Let’s look at the grammar.
I use the possessive when I’m talking about a particular human (Bill) or a particular alien (Zarka). I could also be talking about a specific group of humans or aliens.
On the other hand I don’t use a possessive when I’m talking about all humans (their hair). The alien is interested in the phenomenon of hair as it grows on all humans, everywhere.
When you’re using ‘human‘ as a noun modifier, stop and think! Are you referring to an individual human or a specific group of humans? Or are you talking about all humans? Only add the possessive if your reader knows exactly which human (or specific group of humans) you are referring to.
Indonesians for some reason like to use the possessive here. But there are problems with this. If you include the possessive then it sounds as though you lost something that you own.
Of course it is possible to own a ‘weight’ (countable thing – definition 1, items 2a and 2b), but not many people are owners of a single ‘weight’, and it’s unlikely anybody would worry about losing one!
If you’ve been living in a desert then it’s possible that you have experienced weight loss (weight uncountable – definition 2), and so if you’re talking about body weight, you need:
Bakso was chosen by 60% of students, Martabak by 20%, Siomay by 15%, and only 5% chose Other.
OK the problem here is that ‘other‘ is rarely used as a noun. Generally it is used as a noun modifier: “other people“, “other things“, etc. In the above example, what is the noun that is being modified by ‘other’? Well, all of the items in the chart belong to a class, or group, and the name of that group is usually given as a label on the chart. In any case we know that Bakso, Martabak, and Siomay are all different kinds of Asian fast food, so we can write:
Bakso was chosen by 60% of students, Martabak by 20%, Siomay by 15%, and only 5% chose other kinds of Asian fast food.
‘Other‘ is used as a noun in sociology, psychology and anthropology to identify and possibly explain ‘something different from us‘, either as individuals or as a society. In these contexts there is a related concept: ‘otherness‘.
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