Definite about puppies and sectors

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

In the noun phrases agricultural sector and economic sector, you mention specific sectors – agricultural and economic. It is obvious that you are not talking about the bananas sector and the pornography sector.

If you mention a noun and both you and your reader know exactly which noun you’re talking about, then you must use the definite article – ‘the’.

In the photo that accompanies this post, there are two puppies. If you say you want the light-coloured puppy, you use ‘the’, because it is clear both to you and to your listener exactly which puppy you want!

It’s the same when you’re talking about sectors:

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

Admittedly, identifying the main noun in a noun phrase becomes challenging with longer phrases. For example, can you identify the main noun in the following highlighted phrase? Answers in the comments section below! 🙂

  • I sometimes experience difficulties with the less obvious and more subtly nuanced aspects of article use in unnecessarily complicated academic writing.

Incidentally, an English native speaker would probably use the name of the sector without labelling it ‘sector’:

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

This ‘labelling’ of nouns is discussed further in a previous post.

Budget

In Australia I will need a lot of budget because I have to buy many things.

First of all budget is countable, and since you’ve written ‘a lot of’, then there should be an ‘s’ on budget. But there’s another problem. Budget has 2 meanings that are potentially useful in this situation:

1. Budget as a sum of money that has been set aside for a particular purpose:

In Australia I will need a large budget because I have to buy many things.

2. Budget as a document containing a list of items:

In Australia there will be many items on my budget, and so I will need a lot of money.

In both of these examples..

  • budget is a singular countable noun
  • ‘large’ collocates with budget
  • ‘item(s)’ collocates with budget (don’t forget the preposition ‘on’)
  • as a singular countable noun, budget requires some kind of determiner (article, possessive, etc.)

Often students who are preparing for IELTS feel they have to do everything to avoid repetition, and so they use budget instead of ‘money’. However, budget is not synonymous with ‘money’. When you’re talking about money and comparing how much things cost, it’s safer to use words like ‘money’, ‘cheap’, ‘expensive’, etc.

Add a comment below and tell us about some of the items on your budget for study in Australia! 🙂

image source

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.

Indonesian flag 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)

Indonesian flag 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)

Trump, Twitter, Trends, Task 1

IELTS Task 1 trends practice activity

  1. Study the chart below (source here).
  2. On a piece of paper, write a short paragraph describing the main trends. Don’t look at PG’s text just yet!
  3. Read PG’s sample text (below). Click highlighted text for explanations.

20160305_woc571_0

Sample text by @guruEAP. Click highlighted text for explanations.

In general, Donald Trump and Hilary Clinton attract by far the highest numbers of Twitter followers, but all candidates enjoyed significant increases in follower numbers during the period. In terms of average retweets per tweet, Bernie Sanders joins Trump and Clinton in the top three. Trump’s Twitter account saw almost twice as many retweets as Sanders’, and more than three times as many as Clinton’s. However, Sanders trumps trump when it comes to retweets per tweet per 1,000 followers.

Notes

In general – This is the most concise way to introduce an overview, and remember that an overview is important if you want a good score for Task Achievement. See public band descriptors for Task 1. (back)

attract – This is more sophisticated vocabulary than simply saying ‘have’. (back)

by far – This is a good way to intensify a superlative adjective. (back)

numbers – ‘number’ (without ‘s’) is also possible. However, each candidate has a number of followers, so technically there is more than one ‘number’. (back)

but – In this part of the essay it is often possible, and therefore a good idea, to show comparison and/or contrast. Remember to signal this contrast (here I use ‘but’.). (back)

enjoyed – Again, this is more sophisticated than simply saying ‘had’. (back)

significant – This is a more sophisticated alternative to ‘big’, ‘large’, ‘huge’, etc. (back)

in – The correct preposition after ‘increase(s)’. (back)

during the period – If you have already mentioned the period – July 1 2015-Feb 29 2016 – in your opening statement, then you can use this phrase to refer back to it. (back)

in terms of – This is an extremely useful phrase in Task 1 writing. With this phrase you make clear to the examiner exactly what it is you are talking about. (back)

in the top three – Ranking items is usually possible, and often desirable, in the overview. (back)

saw – More sophisticated than ‘had’. (back)

twice as many – Always look for multiples! (back)

trump – Be careful when you use idioms, but they increase your score for lexical resource (=vocabulary). Take a look in a dictionary at the idiomatic uses of ‘trump’. (back)

when it comes to – An alternative to ‘in terms of’ to make clear exactly what you are talking about. (back)

Useful resources

IELTS Writing Task 1 public band descriptors

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?

Indonesian flag 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.

Avoiding condoms

Everybody knows that condoms can avoid pregnancy.

Why is the IELTS examiner confused by this? Because it creates in the mind of the examiner a kind of impossible cartoon image showing two condoms having sex in such a way that the female condom will not become pregnant.

Indonesian flag Indonesians need to consider the difference between avoid (menghindar) and prevent (mencegah):

  • Everybody knows that condoms can prevent pregnancy.

Think of the condom as the agent that does the preventing. Humans can avoid pregnancy through the use of condoms, where the condom is the agent of prevention. So..

  • Condoms can prevent pregnancy.
  • Women can avoid pregnancy.

even / bahkan

Motorcyclists in Bali don’t seem to care about their own safety or other people’s. They weave in and out of traffic without leaving room to manoevre. They cut in front of cars and then brake hard. They ride on the pavement and on the wrong side of the road. Even they don’t wear helmets.

Indonesian flag As in the example above, bahkan is often translated as even. However, whereas in Indonesian bahkan is positioned at the beginning of the sentence, in English even (meaning bahkan) is positioned in front of the verb:

  • They don’t even wear helmets.

If you put even (meaning bahkan) at the beginning of the sentence, the IELTS examiner will understand you but you will get a low score for grammar. Many people might also be confused, because even is used in English at the beginning of a sentence together with though:

  • Even though it is illegal not to wear a helmet, Balinese motorcyclists take their helmets off whenever they can.

In this example, even is a part of even though, and no longer carries the meaning of bahkan.

I am easy / difficult

Easy and difficult are sometimes difficult to use for Indonesian native speakers.

I am difficult to understand grammar.
Using a dictionary makes me easy to understand English.

If you say these in an IELTS interview, the examiner will understand you but you will get a low score for grammar. For a higher score, use the following:

  • I find it easy/difficult to understand grammar.
  • Using a dictionary makes it easy for me to understand English.
  • Smoke from my neighbour’s garden makes it difficult for me to breathe.

These last two examples will increase your IELTS scores for vocabulary as well as grammar. They include strong collocation as well as structural sophistication. At the same time, if you speak and write like this then the examiner will find it easier to understand you.

Indonesian flag You need to be very careful with the following:

I am difficult to understand.

This means that other people find it difficult to understand you, perhaps because you are talking and at the same time eating rendang yang kurang empuk (under-cooked beef), or because your neighbour is playing loud dangdut music and nobody can hear you.

I am difficult.

This means that you are an ‘orang susah’.

I’m easy.

This can mean that you are kind of ‘polos’, for example if you are in a restaurant, and perhaps in a hurry, and your friend asks you what you want to eat, you might say “I’m easy,” meaning “Apa saja!” (“Whatever..”)