Cementing ideas with ‘it’ and ‘this’

A good way to avoid repetition in writing, and at the same time to cement (= stick) sentences together so that ideas flow smoothly, is to use what’s called referencing and substitution (many examples of referencing and substitution in previous posts).

In this post we focus again on using it and this as substitutes for themes and rhemes. If you’re not sure what is meant by theme and rheme, please read this before trying the activity below. Continue reading

Articles and/or ‘s’

WARNING to lazy students! This post includes tricky grammar rules and there’s a challenging practice activity for you to try at the end!

Articles and nouns

For every noun you speak or write, you need to use grammar to communicate one of the meanings in the ‘meaning’ column in the table below. Continue reading

Not everything is ‘convenient’

Physical shops are more convenient than online stores. Firstly, in physical shops customers are able to touch goods and try on clothes. Secondly, shopping in physical shops can be a social activity.

There is a category of physical store aptly named ‘convenience stores‘. Many countries have 7 Elevens. In Indonesia we have Indomaret, Alfamart and Circle K.

flag-of-indonesia Indonesians might call a shop that sells everything at a low price ‘convenient‘. However, the prices in convenience stores like Circle K can be quite a lot higher than average. These shops inflate prices precisely so that they can offer ‘conveniences‘:

  • they are numerous, especially in cities
  • they have ample parking if they are situated on a road
  • they can even be found inside large shopping centres
  • they stock items that most people need on a daily basis
  • they provide fast and efficient service

These are all features that native English speakers would consider ‘convenient‘. In English something is ‘convenient‘ when it saves you time and effort. Being able to touch goods is not a matter of ‘convenience‘. It may be practical, but it is not what most people would call ‘convenient‘, and neither is meeting your friends when you go to physical stores.

For your convenience, here are some definitions of ‘convenience’, as well as some pictures of convenient things.

When ‘enough’ is too much

Owners of LCGC cars spend additional money on car tax which is expensive enough for middle income families.

‘Enough’, ‘not enough’, and ‘too’ are problematic for Indonesians since their equivalents in Bahasa Indonesia (cukup, tidak cukup, terlalu) are not quite equivalent!

In English these words are used to evaluate situations that have either positive or negative outcomes.

Let’s look first at a negative outcome:

If you are female and wish to work as a flight attendant with Garuda, then you are required to be at least 163cm tall. If you are less than 163cm tall, then you are not tall enough for the job. What a pity – you are too short!

And now a positive outcome:

You are female, 164cm tall. You are  tall enough to be a flight attendant with Garuda. You attend interview and they offer you the job, hoorah!

Now let’s review the positives:

  • ‘enough’ – positive
  • ‘not enough’ – negative
  • ‘too’ – negative


If I say that “car tax is expensive enough for middle income families” then I’m making a positive evaluation about a situation that is clearly negative!

The problem is that in Indonesian, ‘enough’ can behave rather like ‘very’ to intensify an adjective. In our example, ‘very’ would create a more negative evaluation of the situation, and I’m sure this is what the writer is trying to achieve:

🙂 Owners of LCGC cars spend additional money on car tax which is very expensive for middle income families.

When an Indonesian woman remarks that you are ‘handsome enough’ (cukup ganteng), they believe they are paying you a compliment. If you speak Bahasa Indonesia, then you will take this as a compliment. However, a man who does not speak Indonesian will appear confused, because ‘handsome enough’ literally means that he meets some minimum requirement for handsomeness. It’s not a negative evaluation, but it’s not particularly flattering either!

Indonesian readers

Indonesians sometimes use ‘too’ (terlalu) for positive evaluation. If you can think of a sentence using ‘terlalu’, please add it in a comment below.


Many thanks to Desy and Ratih for agreeing to be photographed and for filling me in on the ‘rules’!

Trends can make you ill

Australians who disagreed or remained neutral had an upward trend during the period.

I mentioned in a previous post that ‘trend’ is a dangerous word and perhaps best avoided because:

  1. it is usually redundant
  2. it carries with it unusual collocation that does not translate easily from other languages

The wrong collocation can cause meaning to change. In the example above, ‘upward trend‘ sounds like some kind of illness, which is something that we ‘have’, for example “I had a cold last week.” We might imagine the following conversation:

You: Sorry I missed our appointment yesterday. I had an upward trend.
Your friend: Sorry to hear that. I hope you’re feeling better!

trend

Once again, it’s possible, and usually preferable to describe a trend without using the word ‘trend‘. Avoid it!

@guruEAP

A many-headed doctor?!

I am a doctor. My first sister is a doctor. My second sister is a doctor. And my third sister is a doctor. My father wanted us to become a doctor.

For a second, this is what your reader imagines:

doctor

You need:

  • I am a doctor. My first sister is a doctor. My second sister is a doctor. And my third sister is a doctor. My father wanted us to become doctors.

doctorsfemale

@guruEAP

In(the) first place

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!

firstsecondthird

@guruEAP

PS. See also my earlier post dealing with ‘in second place’ instead of ‘second winner’ (which does NOT mean ‘in second place’!).

Paying (for) basic needs

In Australia I will need a lot of money to pay my basic needs.

flag-of-indonesia This is obviously a translation problem.

  • If I pay the shopkeeper, I give money to the shopkeeper.
  • If I pay for the bananas, I give money to the shopkeeper.
  • If I pay the shopkeeper for the bananas, I give money to the shopkeeper.
  • If I pay the bananas, I give money to the bananas!

Indonesian has different word forms to communicate different meanings – bayar, bayar kepada, bayari, and bayarkan. English, on the other hand, only has ‘pay’ and ‘pay for’:

  1. Pay the man. (flag-of-indonesia bayar kepada)
  2. Pay for the bananas. (flag-of-indonesia bayar)
  3. Pay for my coffee, would you? (flag-of-indonesia bayari)
  4. When you’re in town could you pay my electricity bill for me? Here’s the money. (flag-of-indonesia bayarkan)

In the first picture (below), a man is paying a woman for some vegetables:

pay_for

In the next illustration, a man is paying some fruit and vegetables. He’s giving money to the fruit and vegetables:

pay

 

@guruEAP

Goodbye to ‘By’

By paying more attention to corruption can improve the welfare of a country.

Yet another Indonesian structure that doesn’t translate directly into English!

If you really must begin with ‘by‘ then you need…

  • By paying more attention to corruption, a government can improve the welfare of a country.
    By + [name of solution] + subject + verb (+ etc):

However, native speakers would probably just say “Goodbye to ‘By’” and go straight to the solution as the theme in the sentence:

  • Paying more attention to corruption can improve the welfare of a country.

@guruEAP

When ‘become’ is not becoming

Full-day school becomes an important issue because it concerns a wide range of people, especially parents.

flag-of-indonesia 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.

@guruEAP