Complete with ‘with’

Mobile phones are completed by advanced features.

Completed by

OK let’s look at some examples of ‘completed by’:

  • The questionnaires are completed by women aged 15–49.
  • A complete site overhaul was completed by our editorial staff.
  • The detailed project report has been completed by the consultants.

In all three examples we have to be + completed by + agent (the person doing the completing). In our opening example that would make ‘advanced features’ the agent, which is of course impossible. Continue reading

Have you tried present perfect recently?

Social media are the most common media to be used to share information recently.

This looks like as though it might function as the opening sentence of an IELTS Task 2 essay. Let’s first of all remind ourselves about some ideal features for the IELTS Task 2 opening sentence:

  1. We’re introducing the topic as stated on the IELTS question paper.
  2. We’re thinking about our reader and what might be interesting to him / her. (Our reader is an educated non-specialist, someone quite educated who reads a lot and knows what’s happening in the world.)
  3. We’re relating the topic to a current situation or event, because current situations or events are automatically interesting.
  4. We’re relating the topic to a local context, because that’s also interesting to our reader, and because we know more about local than about distant contexts.

Hmm, even without seeing the question paper we can see that our writer has generally ticked these boxes. Now let’s focus on the word recently. That’s a good word to use as it helps to tick box number 3 – it helps us to focus on a current feature of the topic. It’s important to understand, however, that current is communicated in various ways and we have to choose time expressions and matching tenses carefully.

Current = now

  • Social media are the most common media to be used to share information.
  • Social media are today the most common media to be used to share information.
  • These days social media are the most common media to be used to share information.

All present simple tense.
Notice that present simple tense can mean ‘now’, and so you don’t have to use a time expression.

Current = around now

  • Social media are becoming the most common media to be used to share information.
  • Social media are today becoming the most common media to be used to share information.
  • These days social media are becoming the most common media to be used to share information.

All present continuous tense.
Notice that present continuous tense can mean ‘around now’, and so you don’t have to use a time expression.
Notice also that ‘to be ‘ cannot be continuous. In this case it is easy to use ‘become’ in the continuous, but only if you feel the situation is changing over time.

Current = up to and including now

  • Social media have become the most common media to be used to share information.
  • Social media have become the most common media to be used to share information recently.
  • Social media have recently become the most common media to be used to share information.

All present perfect tense.
Notice that present perfect tense means ‘up to and including now’, and so you don’t have to use a time expression.
‘Recently’ is a strong ‘present perfect’ time expression and if you don’t believe me, browse over and check out countless other examples at forbetterenglish.com.

Conclusion

Returning to our opening example, clearly our writer wants to communicate either ‘now’ or ‘around now’, and so ‘recently’ is not the best time expression! My advice would be to use present simple + ‘today’:

  • Social media are today the most common media to be used to share information.

Fall down over

When demand is low, prices usually fall down.

This is a common error when describing trends in graphs in IELTS task 1 writing. It makes sense, intuitively – if something ‘falls’ then it falls down and not up! However, ‘fall’ and ‘fall down’ can have quite different meanings depending on the context.

Take a look at these examples.

Fall

  • Real incomes actually fell in many places.
  • The deer fell immediately and never moved again.
  • The squad fired and both men fell.
  • Just about anything or anyone can fall, either accidentally or predictably. This is a good word to use when describing trends in IELTS Task 1 Writing! In fact, this is what we need with our opening example:
  • When demand is low, prices usually fall.

Fall down

  • He fell down from his horse and died immediately.
  • It’s better to wear a belt so that your trousers don’t fall down.
  • Both of these examples highlight ‘accidents’ in which someone or something falls down from a higher position to a lower position.

fall down

fall down

Fall over

  • Houses rocked and cracked; furniture fell over.
  • I actually fell over the bed when entering the room.
  • These are also ‘accidents’, but this time a person or thing falls over from its normal standing position into an abnormal position on the floor or on the ground.

fall over

fall over

Throw food (away)

Since there are many starving people in the world, it is better not to throw food.

The featured image for this post shows a man retrieving a pizza from a roof. This is how it got there:

Throwing pizza

Obviously the man doesn’t want to eat the pizza. However, most people in that situation would either give it someone else or throw it away:

Pizza in bin

So that’s two different ways to get rid of a pizza in English, each using a slightly different verb:

  1. If I throw food I send it flying through the air, often without too much thought for where it’s going to land.
  2. A straightforward verb – throw (Indonesian flag lempar).
  1. If I throw food away, I dispose of it in a place designed for waste collection – a dustbin, for example.
  2. A phrasal verb that includes a preposition – throw away (Indonesian flag buang). As with many phrasal verbs, the preposition can move, and so I can throw away food, or I can throw food away

If you’re talking about people starving in the world, it’s more normal to use the second of these meanings!

  • Since there are many starving people in the world, it is better not to throw away food.

The art of which?

The arts perhaps bring balance and harmony which the arts are not just what you see but what you make others see.

This is potentially sophisticated. You need:

  • The arts perhaps bring balance and harmony in which the arts are not just what you see but what you make others see.

OK, so what’s happening here? Well we have..

independent clause in which independent clause
The arts perhaps bring balance and harmony in which the arts are not just what you see but what you make others see.

But notice that the second independent clause describes the thing mentioned in the rheme of the first independent clause (balance and harmony).

Actually you can also use according to which:

  • The arts perhaps bring balance and harmony according to which the arts are not just what you see but what you make others see.

Hmm OK so let me see if I can create my own example following the same 3 elements. (Just let me roll up my sleeves. Ahem.) OK here goes..

  • Language acquisition is a gradual process in which students struggle to master the grammatical and phonological rules of a new language.
  • Language acquisition is a gradual process according to which students struggle to master the grammatical and phonological rules of a new language.

OK. Now your turn! Comments below this post, please!

Abstract and concrete spending

Helping developing nations can spend much money.

If I want to spend money, I basically have two options:

  1. Give someone some cash in return for goods or services.
  2. Transfer some money electronically in return for goods and services.

I can do either of these things because I can use my hands to handle cash or to operate electronic gadgets.

The problem with our opening example is that the thing doing the spending – helping developed nations – does not have hands, and therefore cannot ‘spend’ anything.

What our writer means is:

  • Helping developing nations can be expensive.
  • Helping developing nations can cost a lot of money.
  • = Someone has to spend a lot of money.

Indonesian flag In Bahasa Indonesia, the same verb is used for people getting rid of many and for things getting rid of money – menghabiskan uang. Sorry guys, in English only people can spend money!

Giving to people for a purpose

In recent times, the obligation of developed nations to give aid for developing nations has been widely discussed.

This grammar item is handled differently by different languages. Let’s take a look at some examples:

  • Several highly independent intelligence operations were given to him.
  • Eventually they gave the house to their eldest son.
  • Don’t give it to them! They’ll waste it.
  • In these examples, give..to is followed by a person or group. (Indonesian flag kepada)

So, ‘to’ + person or people. What about ‘for’?

  • Cool, huh?! My parents gave it to me for my birthday.
  • I normally give a tip for good service, but this time I was disappointed.
  • Here give..for is followed by a purpose. (Indonesian flag untuk)

Now try this practice activity. Continue reading

Insisting on skirts!

Forward-thinking schools don’t insist their students to wear uniforms.

Ok I admit that there are some similar words that behave like this:

  • Forward-thinking schools don’t force their students to wear uniforms.
  • Forward-thinking schools don’t oblige their students to wear uniforms.
  • Forward-thinking schools don’t require their students to wear uniforms.
  • Meaning: schools want uniforms, students don’t.
    Structure: verb + someone + to + V1

Insist is unusual:

  • Forward-thinking schools don’t insist on uniforms for their students.
  • Meaning: schools want uniforms, students don’t.
    Structure: verb + on + something
  • Forward-thinking schools don’t insist that their students wear uniforms.
  • Meaning: schools want uniforms, students don’t.
    Structure: verb + that + independent clause

In the featured image for this post, boys who are not allowed to wear shorts at school are insisting that they should be allowed to wear skirts instead!

Take a look at these examples.