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.


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 :).

When ‘usually’ is unusual!

In my spare time I usually go out with my friends.

This is grammatically correct. However, if you’re talking about something you do regularly or habitually then present simple tense is all you need:

  • In my spare time I go out with my friends.

Indonesian flag Indonesians will feel a need to translate ‘biasanya’, but in English present simple tense already carries the meaning of usually, and so usually is redundant in a sentence like this.

Only use usually when you want to make a contrast between something you do habitually, and something that you do, or have to do, because of exceptional or unforeseen circumstances:

  • In my spare time I usually go out with my friends, but today I have my IELTS interview.


Since the abolition of fuel subsidies, prices have been fluctuative.

Nice try! The IELTS examiner will understand that you are trying to make an adjective from the verb ‘fluctuate’ using ‘ive’. Normally this would be a good strategy, but there is no such word as ‘fluctuative’ and so this time you will receive a low score for vocabulary.

The safest approach is to use the verb form:

  • ..prices have fluctuated.

Alternatively, you can make an adjective phrase using the noun form and featuring some collocation:

  • ..prices have been subject to fluctuation.

Finally you might try some more fancy academic collocation:

  • ..prices have tended to fluctuate.

Now go ahead and remove fluctuative from your list of ‘ive’ adjectives!

For the sake of future generations

It is important to consider the negative effects for the sake of our young generation.

We like ‘for the sake of’, but not ‘our young generation’. It’s grammatically correct but doesn’t feel right. Therefore we probably have a collocation problem.

How about this:

  • It is important to consider the negative effects for the sake of future generations.

When you think about it, future generations all start out young, and we would hope that there will be more than one future generation. In academic writing it is also better to avoid personal pronouns, even possessives (‘our’). We therefore recommend the phrase for the sake of future generations.

Spend time _ing

At the weekend I like to spend my time to cook.

There are two problems here. First of all you are unlikely to spend anybody else’s time other than your own, so ‘my’ is redundant. Secondly, ‘spend time’ is much more commonly followed by _ing (gerund):

  • At the weekend I like to spend time cooking.

You can also use a preposition phrase to show where you spend time:

  • At the weekend I like to spend time in the kitchen.

And you can even combine these two examples:

  • At the weekend I like to spend time in the kitchen cooking.

Now spend some time practicing ‘spend time’!

DishwasherS, vacuum cleanerS, etc.

Domestic work is made easier with the use of dishwasher, vacuum cleaner, and washing machine.

It doesn’t matter which dishwasher, which vacuum cleaner, or which washing machine, they all make domestic work easier, or at least so this claim seems to suggest.

  • Domestic work is made easier with the use of dishwashers, vacuum cleaners, and washing machines.

If your claim applies to all of them everywhere, add an ‘s’ to your noun!

Wrong because of ‘because of’

These problems have become more serious because of the government have failed to end corruption.

Ok, so there’s a problem here because of ‘because of’!

It should read:

  • These problems have become more serious because the government have failed to end corruption.

Just follow this rule:

  • because + cause sentence
  • because of + cause noun

If you really want to use because of then you might write:

  • These problems have become more serious because of the government’s failure to end corruption.

Million or millions?

According to a recent census, there are 265 millions people living in Indonesia.

Yes, I know it seems right. But it isn’t. Only put an ‘s’ on million when million is the main noun in a noun phrase. Very often million is the main noun in a noun phrase when it is at the beginning of a sentence..

  • Millions of people live in Indonesia, a huge archipelago in south-east Asia.

..but not always. It might appear somewhere inside a sentence:

  • Indonesia spends millions of dollars every year subsidising fuel.

In the noun phrase millions of peoplemillions is the main noun, modified by of people. We know exactly which millions you’re talking about – not millions of bananas, for example! The same goes for millions of dollars (not millions of rupiah!).

When million is not the main noun, for example when it is modifying another noun, don’t add an ‘s’:

According to a recent census, there are 265 million people living in Indonesia.

In the noun phrase 265 million people living in Indonesia, the main noun is ‘people’. All of the other words in the phrase give us information about ‘people’ – how many, and where they live.

The same rule applies to hundred(s)thousand(s), etc.



Select words from the drop-down menus to complete the text. When you have finished, click 'Check your answers!' for feedback.

Last year of people around the world spent 2 dollars or more buying consumer goods. Of these goods, smartphones have become a dollar industry with of manufacturers in more than 3 countries. In the future this is likely to grow to many .

Task 1 Past Perfect

Past perfect tense needs to be handled with care. It is most useful in the narrative genre and is seldom needed in Task 2 writing. However, Task 1 essays occasionally present an opportunity to use past perfect.

Let’s try an exercise! Follow my instructions carefully and attempt the tasks before reading my sample texts.

  1. Look at the following graph and attempt to describe it in two short paragraphs. The first paragraph will focus on general trends and will begin:

In general..

The second paragraph will describe details and will begin:

In detail..

When you’re happy with your writing, you can read my sample text.

  1. Finished writing? OK now take a look at my sample text and analysis.






Sample text

In general, Facebook had by far the highest number of active users per month, and this number increased by more than 50% during the period. Despite having far fewer users per month, Twitter experienced a similar increase in numbers, but was overtaken half way through the period by Instagram.

In detail, Facebook already had a billion active users in 2012, but by 2015 this figure had increased to more than 1.5 billion. Twitter was in second place until 2014 when the monthly number of active Instagram users began to exceed that of Twitter users, and by 2015 Instagram had taken a 0.1 billion user lead over Twitter, forcing Twitter into third position. Similarly, by 2015 Snapchat had attracted only half as many active users per month as Instagram.


Notice the structural use of past perfect in the detail section. I admit that I went a bit mad with it, but I strongly recommend this structure:

By + past time expression + subject + V3

Final task

  1. Take another look at your own text. Did you use my past perfect structure? If not, can you edit your text so as to include it in at least one sentence? Please share your writing in the comments section!