‘Compared to’ instead of ‘rather than’

Cities offer larger salaries to people rather than small towns.

Here the comparison is between ‘salaries’ and ‘small towns’. The writer is saying that cities offer people large salaries and do not offer them small towns. Hmm. I would be quite happy if someone gave me a small town!

If we want to compare the salaries offered by cities with the salaries offered by small towns, then we need:

  • Cities offer larger salaries compared to small towns.
    (= salaries in cities vs. salaries in small towns)

And if you really must use rather than, then you could also write:

  • Cities offer larger salaries rather than smaller salaries.
    (= larger salaries vs. smaller salaries)

Most of the time instead of is synonymous with rather than:

  • Cities offer larger salaries instead of smaller salaries.

However, instead of is quite often a replacement for something that came before:

  • City companies now use electronic transfer instead of cash payment for salaries.

Next time make sure you’re comparing what you mean to compare!

Commoners turn from opera to Oprah!

Common people watch television every night for six hours.

I don’t think the writer intended to be so negative, or worse – insulting! Let’s explore the meaning of common, first of all by looking inside an opera house.

Opera house
Seating inside a typical opera house

Some seats in opera houses have always been more expensive than others. The cheapest seats are in ‘The Stalls’ or in ‘The Gods’, because in these areas the view of the stage is limited. Wealthier people can afford to pay for a private ‘box’, and they get a better view. The best view, meanwhile, is from the ‘Royal Box’. Continue reading

Recounting Rainy Rugby

In this post we practice the recount genre. This is a very common generic text form in IELTS Speaking Part 2, when you are asked to recount some kind of experience.

In this example the candidate might have been asked to describe a time when they experienced very bad weather. If you’ve experienced bad weather, why not tell us about it in the comments below?

Fill in the gaps with the correct forms of the verbs in brackets. then click ‘Check your answers!’. Continue reading

Who are ‘they’?

English should be taught from an early age. English is highly valued when pursuing study abroad, getting a job, and connecting business people all over the world. They use English, furthermore, in their activities, such as education, business, politics, travel, and others.

The IELTS examiner will be wondering who they refers to. In IELTS terms, the plural they and the singular it refer to or act as substitutes for the subject of the previous sentence. Referencing and substitution is something that the IELTS examiner is evaluating in your writing, so it pays to use it correctly.

Let’s investigate what this writer is trying to say: Continue reading

Since I discovered present perfect

Since 2010, I am IT Specialist at Purwodadi Botanical Gardens.

Here we need to think about (1) meaning and (2) form.

1. Meaning

The word since means from a time in the past up to and including now.

2. Form

If you mean up to and including now then you need one of these:

How do I know I mean up to and including now?!

  1. You mean up to and including now if you use the word since followed by a time expression describing a past point in time.

Since 2010 I have been an IT specialist at Purwodadi Botanical Gardens.

  1. You mean up to and including now if you use the word ‘for’ followed by a time expression describing a period of time that began in the past and includes now.

For 8 years I have been an IT specialist at Purwodadi Botanical Gardens.

  1. You mean up to and including now if you don’t use a signal (since, for) and you don’t use a time expression, but you do imply past time up to and including now.

I have repaired many computers.

In example (3) you are using present perfect to assure us that NOW (in the present) you are an experienced computer repair person, and we can trust you! We don’t need to know exactly when you did the repairs, or exactly how many computers you repaired – we just want to make sure that you are experienced!

The cook and the cooker

All my friends agree that I’m a good cooker!

This is a good try, but you are over-using the rule that says you can change a verb into a profession by adding ‘er’:

  • drive – driver
  • teach – teacher
  • write – writer
  • etc.

As with so many rules in English, there are exceptions. If you cook then you are a cook!

Cook or chef
A cook (or ‘chef’)
A kitchen ‘cooker’

If you really are – as your friends say – a cooker, then you are a domestic appliance used in many residential homes for heating food.

Good luck with that! 🙂

At the weekend I like watching

In my leisure time I like swimming, reading, and watching.

If you are contrasting doing an activity with simply watching then you don’t need to mention the activity:

Examiner: Do you do any sport?
Candidate: I like to watch.
(= I prefer watching than playing!)

Meanwhile if someone is showing you how to do something, you don’t need to mention the thing that they’re showing you:

Instructor: OK, now watch carefully!
Student: I’m watching.

However, if the thing you’re watching is something specific, then you need to mention that thing:

  • In my leisure time I love to swim and watch movies.
  • I don’t watch much TV now that we have YouTube.

This is especially important if the thing you are watching is TV or a movie, because watch collocates very strongly with these nouns.

Indonesian flag Indonesians translating ‘nonton‘ need to remember that if you don’t tell your listener what it is that you’re watching, then as far as your listener is concerned, you could by watching almost anything, like watching paint dry or watching grass grow!