Why these and not those?

These days a lot of people like to use smartphones and tablets. Those are popular because they can connect to the Internet.

OK so our writer is using those as a substitute for smartphones and tablets. However, it would have been better to use these: Continue reading

Referring to sources using substitution

It has been argued that expenditure needed for applying a circular economy tends to be high (Kirchher et al., 2017). However, their claim is easy to counter given the many economic benefits offered by a circular economy.

This writer has used their as a substitute for a source – Kircher et al. However, since the source is in brackets and has not yet appeared in the body of the text, we have to assume that the reader has not yet seen it! Only use a pronoun as a substitute if the noun you are substituting has already been mentioned in the body of the text: Continue reading

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)

Practice

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

OK I understand

Me describing the information in my IELTS test..

In detail, sleeping was of hobbies preferred by Indonesians. said that they enjoy sleeping. was other hobbies, which were liked by about half of respondents, and reading only caught the interest of around 5% of those surveyed.

Me chatting to my friend later about the information..

I’m not at all surprised about the lack of interest in reading. books are expensive in Indonesia, and reading is a solitary activity and as we know, Indonesians prefer doing things together with other people. And the result for sleeping doesn’t surprise me either! it’s very hot and humid in Indonesia and this can make you very sleepy. And Indonesians need to concentrate hard on the road – to avoid death – and this, too, can be exhausting!

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!

firstsecondthird


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

Stating subjects in IELTS Task 1

Americans rose steadily, while Indonesians fell dramatically.

Well, maybe. Something like this?

USD_IDR

With a sentence like the one above you are unlikely to communicate anything meaningful about a graph, table or chart. If there was a rise or a fall, then you need to state precisely what it was that rose and what it was that fell – What is the subject?

For example:

divorce rate

  • The divorce rate in America rose steadily, while the divorce rate in Indonesia fell dramatically.

Here there are 2 subjects:

  1. the divorce rate in America
  2. the divorce rate in Indonesia

Some of you will complain about the repetition in this sentence (‘the divorce rate‘). However, it’s better to repeat words and phrases and communicate something meaningful than to avoid repetition and communicate nothing.

Actually in this example repetition can be avoided:

  • The divorce rate in America rose steadily, while that in Indonesia fell dramatically.

* Many thanks to Diro, Nando and Ari for the ‘falling Indonesians’ photo – You guys rock! 🙂