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.

As we know, fixed expressions rock!

As we know that, last year the government removed English from the elementary school curriculum.

English, even academic English, is full of ‘fixed expressions’ – phrases that are always written and spoken in exactly the same form. Fixed expressions can be quite long and may include some sophisticated grammar, but it’s best to think of them as individual vocabulary items. Record them as vocabulary items. Memorise them as vocabulary items. Don’t change the word order of a fixed expression, and don’t change any word forms inside a fixed expression, even if you think your alterations make sense:

  • You’re playing with fire!
  • You’re playing with fires! (Altered word form)
  • You’re playing with flames! (Changed word)
  • You’re playing with the fire! (Added word)
  • You’re with fire playing! (Changed word order)

Indonesian flag You will be less likely to make errors like these if you memorise fixed expressions much as you might memorise individual vocabulary items. You may also notice how the structure of a fixed expression differs from its translation. For example, Indonesians feel a strong urge to add bahwa after seperti kita ketahui. (In English there is no bahwa):

  • As we know, last year the government removed English from the elementary school curriculum.

As we know  = 1 item, 3 words (not 4!)
Notice also that in this example as we know also requires a comma (,) to separate it from last year.

Record fixed expressions in your vocabulary notebook. Review them. Memorise them. Use them in sentences. And watch how your IELTS scores for writing and speaking start to increase!

There are pigs inside your house?!

In my place there are many farm animals such as pigs, cows, and goats.

Indonesian flag Are you by any chance translating ‘di tempat saya‘?! In English in my place generally means inside my house!

Consider using the following:

  • In my hometown there are many farm animals such as pigs, cows, and goats.
  • Where I live there are many farm animals such as pigs, cows, and goats.
  • In the place where I grew up there are many farm animals such as pigs, cows, and goats.

Half-baked comparison

Some Asians have less difficulty in intercultural communication.

Indonesian flag If your reader speaks Indonesian he will understand that you’re translating kurang. Other readers, however, will begin to ask themselves:

Is he comparing Asians with some other group of people?
Which people?

Is he comparing difficulty in intercultural communication with some other kind of difficulty?
Which kind?

Is he comparing difficulty in intercultural communication with some other kind of communication?
Which kind?

What is he comparing?!

If you’re an Indonesian translating kurang then you’re probably not comparing anything. You’re simply saying:

  • Some Asians find intercultural communication easy.

As a general rule, when you use comparative adjectives, include the thing or things that you’re comparing in the same sentence. If you’re not comparing things, then don’t use a comparative adjective.

Today shit happens/is happening!

Today, with the introduction of information technology, life becomes more complex.

Here you use a time expression – today – in order to provide your reader with time context, or a time frame. Unfortunately your verb and your time expression do not match.

Today can mean literally ‘today’, so if today is Thursday then today means Thursday. But today can also mean other things. In academic papers today often refers more generally to time around now.

Time around now began at some point in the past and is likely to continue until some point in the future. Exactly how far into the past and how far into the future does time around now extend? Well that depends on the topic. Since ‘information technology’ implies quite recent innovations, then we’re probably thinking – in this example – of a roughly twenty year period with ‘now’ somewhere in the middle.

Time around now can also refer to a recently new, more permanent condition, that may not be likely to change, at least not for a long time.

Depending on which verb tense we choose, we can communicate either new, permanent condition OR continuous action.

Since information technology is changing continuously – i.e. becoming more complex all the time – then we need present continuous tense.

  • Today, with the introduction of information technology, life is becoming more complex.

Indonesian flag ‘Become’ always implies a change, unlike the Indonesian ‘menjadi’, which can communicate a permanent state: “Siti bilang bahwa rumahtangganya tidak bahagia, karena suami tak pernah memberikan nafkah batin yang menjadi haknya.”

If we want to describe a more permanent state in English, then present simple tense is used:

  • Today, with the introduction of information technology, people communicate more easily than they used to.

Remember that state verbs are never used in continuous form:

Today, with the introduction of information technology, people prefer to send emails rather than write letters.

There’s a time and a place for everything

In the last 10 years there is an increase in aquaculture.

Context is important. Context is generally about time and place. If you want to contextualise time then you need to communicate meanings such as:

  • time around now
  • time up to and including now
  • past and finished time
  • past unfinished time
  • future time related to the present
  • etc.

Time context is achieved using carefully chosen verb tenses and time expressions. In the sentence above, “in the last 10 years” is a time expression that carries the meaning time up to and including now. In this case the correct tense is present perfect:

  • In the last 10 years there has been an increase in aquaculture.

Create time context using verb tenses and time expressions. Make sure your verb tenses and time expressions match!

First the problem of no verb.

First of all, the problem of humans using too many of the world’s resources.

Me: Obviously this is no good because there’s no verb.
You: What about ‘using’? Isn’t that a verb?
Me: Sometimes yes, but here it functions as a noun modifier, not as a verb. It’s telling you something about the noun ‘humans’. It’s part of one long noun phrase: ‘the problem of humans using too many of the world’s resources. If you want to you can use this long noun phrase as a subject:

  • First of all, the problem of humans using too many of the world’s resources is a difficult problem to solve.

..or as an object:

  • The government is striving to solve the problem of humans using too many of the world’s resources.

In future make sure your sentence has at least a subject and a verb.

It’s difficult to adjust my schedule, sorry.

Sorry, I can’t join you for lunch. I will meet my writing supervisor to discuss my dissertation.

These days this kind of meeting is difficult to re-schedule. Academic staff are increasingly busy and the time allowed for consultation increasingly short. If you try to change the time you may lose the opportunity altogether. This plan is fixed. You may have written it down in a diary. if you only made a mental note then that note is burned into your subconscious. It’s an important meeting. In this case you need:

  • Sorry, I can’t join you for lunch. I’m meeting my writing supervisor to discuss my dissertation.

I know, the meeting is due to take place in the future, but when a plan is difficult to change use present continuous tense, especially when you’re excusing yourself from some other offer.

Sorry but I have to go now. I’m teaching a class in 10 minutes!

Stress caused by the word ‘stress’

The rapid pace of modern life is what causes most people to get stress.

Collocation! For a stress-free life (and for a higher IELTS score for vocabulary), use one of the following instead:

  • The rapid pace of modern life is what causes most people to experience stress.
  • The rapid pace of modern life is what causes most people to suffer stress.
  • The rapid pace of modern life is what causes most people to suffer from stress.
  • The rapid pace of modern life is what causes most people to feel stressed.
  • The rapid pace of modern life is stressful.

Take a look at some sentences using ‘stress’ and try to identify common collocations. Remember that stress can be a noun as well as a verb, and it also has different forms: stressful, stressed.

Advanced students can consult this comprehensive collocation table for stress.

Above all, try not to become too stressed out by ‘stress’.