Not that sector, this one!

Agricultural sector is different from economic sector in the way research is conducted.

Indonesian flag First of all in English we tend not to label nouns as much as you do in Bahasa Indonesia. An easy example is colours. In English when we mention colours, it isn’t necessary to use the word ‘colour’:

  • Saya suka warna merah.
  • I like blue.

Therefore our opening example could easily be written:

  • Agriculture is different from economics in the way research is conducted.

However, if you must use the word ‘sector’, and if you are talking about specific sectors, then you need to communicate this one exactly:

  • The agricultural sector is different from the economic sector in the way research is conducted.

If you do not use ‘the’ when you mean this one exactly then you will receive a low score in IELTS for grammar and for coherence and cohesion. If you do not use ‘the’ when you mean this one exactly then your reader will stop reading and think “Does he mean this one exactly, or does he mean one of many, or does he mean all of them everywhere?” You must communicate one of these meanings if you want to be understood clearly.

If you want to communicate one of many then you need to use ‘a’:

  • Agriculture is a sector that requires different research approaches.
    (This implies that, in addition to agriculture, there are other sectors, like education, which also require different research approaches.)

If you want to communicate all of them everywhere then you need to use ‘s’:

  • Government sectors include health, education, agriculture and economics.

Having an impact on someone

Passive smoking brings negative impact for people who do not smoke.

Indonesian flag This is a collocation problem for Indonesians translating “..membawa dampak negatif untuk..”

In English the collocation is:

  • Passive smoking has a negative impact on people who do not smoke.

Note! s.th./s.o. has + an impact + on + s.th./s.o. 

Using the correct collocation will have a very positive impact on your IELTS score for vocabulary in both speaking and writing!

You can listen to a song featuring ‘impact’ here.

photo credit

Raise the issue

The growth of cashless payments has raised the debatable issue whether this payment method is part of the problem or part of the solution.

Raise the issue
One problem here is that the issue is the growth of cashless payments, while one aspect of the issue is whether or not it is useful. Another problem is that an issue is normally raised by someone

It would be better to begin with someone raising the issue, and then focus on a specific aspect of the issue:

  • In a recent meeting the prime minister raised the issue of the growth of cashless payments. We discussed whether this payment method is part of the problem or part of the solution.

Note this structure: raise the issue + of + [name of issue]

Alternatively you might avoid doing any raising of issues and stick to more standard cause / effect:

  • The growth of cashless payments has caused much debate about whether this payment method is part of the problem or part of the solution.

Whatever you decide, note that in English raise collocates strongly with issue. Otherwise it goes together with things like ‘your hand’, ‘the Titanic’ and other items that need to be lifted from a lower position to a higher position. If this is not the meaning of raise that you are trying to communicate then your IELTS score for writing and speaking may go down, rather like the Titanic!

(The) Government(s)

Government must work hard to tackle the problem of inflation.

There are more communicative uses of the word government:

  1. Government (without ‘the’, without ‘s’)
  2. Governments (with ‘s’)
  3. The government (with ‘the’, without ‘s’)

1. Government (without ‘the’, without ‘s’)

Here you are talking about the abstract concept of government, which means the phenomenon whereby an elected minority govern the majority:

  • Government is a potentially effective tool to tackle the problem of unemployment.

2. Governments (without ‘the’, with ‘s’)

Here you are talking about all governments, in all countries, everywhere:

  • Governments must work hard to tackle the problem of inflation if they want to be competitive in the global market.

3. The government (with ‘the’, without ‘s’)

Here you are usually talking about your government, although you may be talking about a different but specific government that you have already mentioned elsewhere in your text:

  • The government must work hard to tackle the problem of inflation in Indonesia.

Indonesian flag Note to Indonesians..
Next time you want to translate pemerintah, consider which of these three meanings you want to communicate. If you choose the right one, your meaning will be clear and you will receive a high score for vocabulary (Lexical resource – LR) and a high score for coherence and cohesion (CC),  because it will be easier to understand what you are saying or writing.

Browse the IELTS public band descriptors.

The key to ‘_ing'(?!)

Conserving a language is the key to fully grasp the identity of a culture.

Let’s look functionally at what we are trying to communicate in this sentence:

[…something A…] is the key to [..something B..].

OK. So something A is obviously a thing or a behaviour that will help us to achieve something B, which is a thing or a behaviour that is difficult to achieve without something A. If something B is a thing, then it is a noun and not a verb, so we need the noun form of grasp, which is grasping:

  • Conserving a language is the key to fully grasping the identity of a culture.

For some reason the expressions the key to and the answer to often lead to this error, so watch out for those! In this structure, ‘to’ is a preposition and not part of the infinitive ‘to + V1’.

Thank(s) God

I just heard that I achieved 7.0 overall in my recent IELTS test. Thanks God!

This is when you are grateful for something. You may be alone, or you may be together with others, but you feel a need to express your gratitude, even out loud. You may be addressing God (who is not present), or you may be addressing nobody in particular. Indonesians might want to say ‘syukur’ or ‘alhamdullilah’, or ‘puji tuhan’. In this case you would say thank god (without ‘s’).

  • I just heard that I achieved 7.0 overall in my recent IELTS test. Thank God!

You can think of this as an instruction beginning with the imperative verb ‘thank’.

You can also think of it as a reduced form of the suggestion “You/We should all thank God!”

If you are lucky enough to be face to face with God, and if God has helped you in some way, then you can look God in the eye and say: Thanks, God. (with ‘s’ on ‘thank’) However, note that this is quite informal, and may not be an appropriate way to address someone as important as God. If you want to be more polite when addressing God directly, say Thank you, God. (no ‘s’ on ‘thank’)

‘It’ or ‘this’? Theme or rheme?

The government has just removed fuel subsidies. It means that the price of basic goods will surely go up.

It’s sometimes useful to think of a sentence as having a theme (in this case ‘The government’) and a rheme (‘has just removed fuel subsidies’).

When you want to refer back to the theme, use a pronoun:

  • The government has just removed fuel subsidies. They felt that the fuel subsidies were not economically sustainable.

When you want to refer back to the rheme, use ‘this’ or ‘these’:

  • The government has just removed fuel subsidies. This means that the price of basic goods will surely go up.

Choosing the right referencing word (‘it’ or ‘this’) will make your writing more coherent (easier to understand). If you are preparing for IELTS, the right choice of referencing word will give you a higher score for coherence and cohesion (see IELTS public band descriptors).

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!