Comparing ‘like with like’

population

The population of Japan is lower than Thailand.

Here is an example of not ‘comparing like with like’.

In the noun phrase ‘the population of Japan’, ‘population’ is the main noun. ‘Population’, which is a mass of people, is said to be lower than ‘Thailand’, a land mass. This leaves the reader with an image of Thailand hovering up in the air, with the Japanese population some physical distance below it!

A mass of people is not like a land mass. In order to make sure that you’re ‘comparing like with like’, use a parallel structure:

  • The population of Japan is lower than the population of Thailand.

This may result in some repetition – ‘the population of’ is used twice. But don’t worry about repetition. At least you’re ‘comparing like with like’.

Repetition can be avoided in this kind of comparative structure by substituting ‘that’ for part of the phrase that you’re trying not to repeat:

  • The population of Japan is lower than that of Thailand.

In this example, that replaces the population, but it can be used to replace any noun or noun phrase.

Affected by ‘Affect to’

These days children see far too much violence on TV and this can affect to their emotional development.

Oops!

affects Y (without ‘to’) / Y is affected by X:

  • These days children see far too much violence on TV and this can affect their emotional development.
  • These days children’s emotional development can be affected by violence on TV.

Himself, herself, theirselves(?!)

Before departing for Australia, students must prepare theirselves in order to avoid culture shock.

..selves. More than one ‘self’. OK, no complaints about that.

..theirselves. Now you’re being inconsistent with your object pronouns.
You guys have no problem producing the following:

  • He loves her.
  • She loves him.
  • Their parents love them.

And you would never write:

  • Their parents love their.
  • Look at their!
  • They say they love each other and I believe their.

So why the sudden switch to possessive ‘their’?! Please use the object pronoun (him, her, them) + ‘self/selves’:

  • Before departing for Australia, students must prepare themselves in order to avoid culture shock.

And you might think about some collocation (prepare + s.o./s.th. + for + s.th.):

  • Before departing for Australia, students must prepare themselves for culture shock.

Finally, we can assume that the students must prepare themselves and not other people, so strictly speaking themselves is redundant:

  • Before departing for Australia, students must prepare for culture shock.

There is a kind of exception to the above rule. Does anybody know what it is? Comments below please!

Cannot ‘also can’!

In addition to smoking, excessive drinking also can cause illness.

Actually the meaning is clear, it’s just not good collocation. Don’t write also can, write can also instead:

  • In addition to smoking, excessive drinking can also cause illness.

 Indonesians.. Are you translating directly again?! ;)

Concerned about ‘concern’

The government does not concern about the crime rate in cities.

Here concern is used in the form of a verb, but the grammar is not right. It would have been better to use to be along with the adjective form of concern: concerned.

On the one hand you can be concerned about nothing in particular:

  • The government is not concerned.

And on the other hand you can (not) to be concerned about a particular thing:

  • The government is not concerned about the crime rate in cities.

If something is the object of concern, then remember to use the preposition: concerned about (something).

It’s also possible to say the same thing using concern as a noun, where concern often collocates with another word (in this case, ’cause’):

  • The government does not consider the crime rate in cities to be a cause for concern.

And it’s also possible to use the verb form (notice the auxiliary verb ‘to do’ in the construction of the negative!):

  • The crime rate in cities does not concern the government.

So which one to use? Adjective? Noun? Verb? Well if you can remember to put __ed onto concern and add about, it’s probably best to use the adjective form!

Tell us about some of the things you’re concerned about. Use the comments box below this post.

Humansss

There will be many disadvantages for human if animal testing is stopped.

If we check in a dictionary, we see that human can be an adjective and it can be a noun. In this example human is used as a noun.

If we check again in the dictionary, we see that human is a countable noun. In grammar, we know that if we’re talking about all examples of a thing, everywhere, and the thing is countable, then we must add an ‘s’ to the noun:

  • There will be many disadvantages for humans if animal testing is stopped.

Mistakes are often made when human is used as a noun modifier, in which case the ‘s’ might be added to the main noun:

  • There will be many disadvantages for human beings if animal testing is stopped.

Can you identify examples of human used as a noun, and human used as a noun modifier? Add them to the comments below :).

Against the misuse of ‘against’

Most Indonesian people against the removal of fuel subsidies.

In English, against is a preposition, and so this sentence does not contain a verb and is therefore not a sentence. To make it a sentence, you can do this..

  • Most Indonesian people are against the removal of fuel subsidies.
    (to be + against)

or (slightly more academic) this..

  • Most Indonesian people oppose the removal of fuel subsidies.

or (also academic) this..

  • Most Indonesian people object to the removal of fuel subsidies.

Hope that helps!

there is/are (ada)

In Australia there are many women receive the same salary as men.

flag-of-indonesia A common mistake made by Indonesians is to include the ‘introductory subject’ (there is/there are) as well as another subject, before the verb in a sentence.This might be possible in Bahasa Indonesia, but in English you must choose either this:

  • In Australia many women receive the same salary as men.
    (subject: many women)

..or this:

  • In Australia there are many women who receive the same salary as men.
    (subject: there are)

flag-of-indonesia Next time your head is telling you ‘ada..‘, stop and ask yourself whether you really need to use there is/there are. If you already have a subject, don’t use there is/there are!

(the) society

Unemployment is one of the most serious problems for the society today.

The problem here is that the society (with ‘the’) has quite a different meaning to society (without ‘the’).

If you’re talking about all of humanity as a collective, then you’re probably talking about society. In this case you’re probably thinking about the whole of the human race at a particular time, usually around now. If problems are faced by society (without ‘the’), then they are likely to be problems that all people face, either across an entire country, or possibly all over the world, and so in this case you need:

  • Unemployment is one of the most serious problems for society today.

On the other hand if you’re talking about a specific group of people who have some kind of shared set of specific interests then you need the society. For example in this list of academic ‘societies’, group members relate to each other because they share the same academic interests. Similarly, universities often have societies devoted to particular hobbies or interests. In this case you might be writing something like:

  • In our university the most popular society is the photographic society. The society has 600 members.

Notice that in this example, not only do we use ‘the’ to show that we are talking about a specific group, but we also use words to modify the word society so that our reader understands exactly which group we’re talking about (‘most popular’, ‘photographic’).

So, be careful next time you use society! And if you’re still not happy with this explanation, and you’re not afraid of distractions, you can check out society in a dictionary. Better still look at some sentences featuring society.

(cover photo: source)

Using shoes and clothes

I always use special shoes when I’m working in the laboratory.

Candidate: Ya ya ya Mr IELTS Examiner. I should say wear special shoes!  But the context is perfectly clear and you understand what I mean, right? I mean, you can easily picture the shoes I’m talking about, right?

image Examiner: Yes, I understand. But you’re using weak verb/noun collocation, and so I have to give you a low score for vocabulary. Next time you want to translate ‘pake baju’, or ‘pake sepatu’, please ‘pake’ wear. OK?

Candidate: OK!

  • I always wear special shoes when I’m working in the laboratory.