Cementing ideas with ‘it’ and ‘this’

A good way to avoid repetition in writing, and at the same time to cement (= stick) sentences together so that ideas flow smoothly, is to use what’s called referencing and substitution (many examples of referencing and substitution in previous posts).

In this post we focus again on using it and this as substitutes for themes and rhemes. If you’re not sure what is meant by theme and rheme, please read this before trying the activity below. Continue reading

In(the) first place

In the first place is over-grazing, which caused 35% of land degradation.

Not a terrible error – we know what you mean! But still, it’s important to understand the distinction between ‘in first place’ and ‘in the first place’.

In IELTS Task 1 writing we often find ourselves ranking items as follows:

  • In first place is over-grazing, which caused 35% of land degradation. Meanwhile in second place, 20% of land degradation was caused by deforestation.

But what if you’re listing rather than ranking? Let’s say, for example, that you’re listing supports for an argument. In this case you need ‘in the first place’, ‘in the second place’, etc.:

  • Mr Jones cannot be the one who stole your car. In the first place he was in a different city when the car was stolen, and secondly he is blind!

In this case ‘in the first place‘ means ‘as the first consideration‘. It’s often used to introduce reasons that should be obvious but may need to be emphasised, as in the above example. Notice that it is unusual to continue ‘in the second place‘, ‘in the third place‘, etc. Better to switch to ‘secondly‘, ‘thirdly‘, and so on.

To sum up..

  • In first place..’ is useful in Task 1 writing (for ranking)
  • In the first place..’ is useful in Task 2 writing (for emphasising reasons)

TIP! If you’re doing this in IELTS Speaking, it can sometimes help you to structure an argument if you count off items using your fingers, perhaps under the table!


PS. See also my earlier post dealing with ‘in second place’ instead of ‘second winner’ (which does NOT mean ‘in second place’!).

Paying (for) basic needs

In Australia I will need a lot of money to pay my basic needs.

Indonesian flag This is obviously a translation problem.

  • If I pay the shopkeeper, I give money to the shopkeeper.
  • If I pay for the bananas, I give money to the shopkeeper.
  • If I pay the shopkeeper for the bananas, I give money to the shopkeeper.
  • If I pay the bananas, I give money to the bananas!

Indonesian has different word forms to communicate different meanings – bayar, bayar kepada, bayari, and bayarkan. English, on the other hand, only has ‘pay’ and ‘pay for’:

  1. Pay the man. (Indonesian flag bayar kepada)
  2. Pay for the bananas. (Indonesian flag bayar)
  3. Pay for my coffee, would you? (Indonesian flag bayari)
  4. When you’re in town could you pay my electricity bill for me? Here’s the money. (Indonesian flag bayarkan)

In the first picture (below), a man is paying a woman for some vegetables:

pay for

In the next illustration, a man is paying some fruit and vegetables. He’s giving money to the fruit and vegetables: