Hours of rush hour!

Many vehicles produce smoke in the street, especially in rush hours.

It’s true that in many cities, Indonesian flag including Indonesian cities, traffic is heavy early in the morning and late in the afternoon.

Admittedly rush hour can last for more than one hour at a time – in Jakarta it can take 3 hours to get to work and another 3 to get home! However, rush hour is always singular, even if it lasts for 3 hours. Rush hour also begins and ends at predictable times, and so if you say rush hour people know you’re talking about a certain period of time in the morning and a certain period of time in the afternoon:

Many vehicles produce smoke in the street, especially at rush hour. (Maybe 7-9am and 4-6pm, depending on the city!)

There is also some collocation you might want to think about:

  • At rush hour, everybody is on the road!
  • Rush hour traffic is very heavy!
  • It’s best to stay off the road during rush hour!

And if you do find yourself stuck in rush hour traffic, open up @guruEAP and turn rush hour into study hour!

Reconstructing work through automation

  1. Think about – or better still, chat to a friend – about the nature of work.
  2. What is work? Why do we work?
  3. If humans are replaced by machines in the workplace, what are we going to do with all our free time?
  4. Watch and listen to the video. Then attempt to reconstruct the text using the app below.

Continue reading

Men and women and work

This article from the Economist includes some nice vocabulary and structures for IELTS Task 1 writing. Click linked words and phrases for more information or head directly to the analysis below.

Women in England and Wales are having 1.9 children on average, fewer than their mothers who had 2.2 offspring, according to the Office for National Statistics. That’s a small decrease but the lowest level on record and continues the downward trend of the past few years. The decline is in part due to a growing number of women not having children, with one-fifth now childless. There has also been a fall in the number of teenage pregnancies. About 6% of women have a baby before their 20th birthday, again continuing a long-term downward trend. But “it’s not just childlessness,” said Emily Knipe of the Office for National Statistics. More and more women are having fewer babies. The data showed about one in 10 mothers today having four or more children, compared with one in eight of their mothers’ generation.
role reversal
Women are also having babies later. By their 30th birthdays, women today are likely to have had one child. Their mothers were likely to have had 1.8. The ONS suggested this is because more women are going into higher education and are also delaying finding a partner. Ms Knipe said: “It’s not just a biological factor of people leaving it too late. There is a growing body of evidence that suggests people are choosing not to have children.”



Indonesian flag The word ‘trend‘ is only used once, and even then it is used together with ‘downward‘! See this post for further discussion of ‘trend‘.

Although is used to contrast two trends at the same time. This is a good thing to do, if you can, in your IELTS Task 1 overview.

Indonesian flag Indonesians notice the contrasted items are separated with a comma without ‘but’ (akan tetapi).

  • Although female-dominated industries have suffered fewer job losses from globalisation and technological change, they also pay less.

Referencing and substitution

One way to avoid repetition in your writing is to refer to nouns using referencing words as substitutes (it, they, this, those, etc). using these will improve your score for coherence and cohesion (CC). Examples here include:
  • This form of segregation.. (= men and women pursue different lines of work)
  • ..those that have long employed women.. (those = ‘the fastest growing industries in America)
  • This does not mean.. (This = slow growth of sectors dominated by men)
  • ..they also pay less. (they = slow growth of sectors dominated by men)
  • ..the figure (= % of American doctors and lawyers who are women)
  • ..this process takes time (= changing male and female roles in the workplace)
  • At this rate.. (= the rate at which full gender equality is to be achieved)
Indonesian flag Notice that the pronoun ‘it’ is not used at all as a substitute! Read this post to find out why.

Vocabulary (Lexical Resource)

In IELTS terms there is some high-band vocabulary and interesting collocation:
  • pursue (v) + lines of work (n)
  • segregation (n) – in this case male / female
  • better off (adj) – comparative form of well-off (wealthy)
  • capture (v) + jobs (n)
  • mere (adj) – to emphasise a low figure
  • gender (adj) + parity (n) – sophisticated synonym for gender equality
  • the field – the work field (Make sure you establish a context before reducing a phrase like this!)


Present simple is used for situations that are true all the time:
  • Men and women often pursue different lines of work.
  • etc.
Present perfect is used to talk about trends that began in the past and are still happening now:
  • ..many sectors…have grown much more slowly..
  • etc.
Will is used for prediction:
  • ..the field will not achieve gender parity for another 200 years.


When a percentage is mentioned for the first time it is always followed by of + the whole. If you’re not sure what is meant by the whole, I suggest you read this.
  • In the 1960s, less than 10% of American doctors and lawyers were women.
  • Today over 60% of chefs and cooks are men.
  • ..a mere 10% of all nursing jobs.
If you’re preparing for IELTS Task 1, I strongly recommend that you read my other posts that deal with percentages.


The writer uses a participle clause to add information about a trend. In IELTS Task 1 this structure – comma + __ing – is often used to present the result(s) of a trend. For more information, see this post.
  • Today, women graduate from university at higher rates than men, putting them in a stronger position for many well-paid professional jobs that were once male-dominated.

Despite ‘spite’

Despite of its lucrative potential, tourism causes many new social problems.

This error is easy to understand. Students see examples of in spite of, which contains spite, and they generalise the same structure to make despite of, perhaps because it also contains spite, has the same number of syllables, and even has the same syllable stress. However, as we all know, English is not always so predictable!

The two closest corrections are:

  • In spite of its lucrative potential, tourism causes many new social problems.
    – In spite of + noun + comma + independent clause
  • Despite its lucrative potential, tourism causes many new social problems.
    – Despite (without of!) + noun + comma + independent clause

We could therefore write:

  • Despite containing ‘spite’, ‘despite’ is not followed by ‘of’!

Some alternatives to ‘some’

Unemployment has increased in recent years for some reasons.

Indonesian flag In this post, Indonesian students of English will discover more appropriate ways to say ‘beberapa’ or berbagai’ in IELTS and in general academic writing.

First of all ‘for some reasons’ appears odd because there is a very similar lexical phrasefor some reason (reason without ‘s’) – meaning that there may be a reason but it is presently unknown. Clearly this is not what the writer intended in the opening example!

Secondly, there is a slightly different lexical phrase that is often used in this situation – for several reasons – meaning ‘there are several possible reasons’. Surely this is what the writer meant to communicate? Reasons are known and the writer is going to share them with us.

What better way to illustrate the alternatives than to see them in a text?

The workforce at DJ Computers has become smaller in recent years for several reasons. First of all the company has been forced to make staff redundant following financial recession. Certain staff will not lose their jobs because their work is essential to the company. Various other staff, however, are less essential, and management will consider a number of different criteria when deciding who will stay and who will go.

So there you have it:

  • several (collocates strongly with ‘reasons’, extremely common inside the lexical phrase ‘for several reasons‘ – examples)
  • certain (for people or things that are somehow ‘unique’ – examples)
  • various (collocates strongly with ‘other’ + plural count noun – examples)
  • a number of (plus plural count noun – examples)

Use these alternatives flexibly in your IELTS writing and you will improve your score for LR (Lexical Resource) and possibly also for TA/TR (Task Achievement/Task Response). If you’re not sure what is meant by LR, TA and TR, take a look at the IELTS public band descriptors for Speaking and Writing. Links to these can be found here.

By the way you might also notice that ‘staff’ is used here as an uncountable noun, which it is, most of the time. I talk about ‘staff’ in more detail in a previous post.

A lexical phrase is a phrase in which words always appear in the same form and the same sequence. They include words that collocate strongly with each other, and are therefore good to use in IELTS speaking and writing. Lexical phrases are also often idiomatic.

return to text

Some of us

For your entertainment! A song featuring the amazing Moya (L) and Dita (R). For those of us who are still not sure about some / some of, most / most of, etc!

Some of us work
Most of us play
All of us pray for success one day

None of us read
Some of us write
Some of us dance ’til the morning light

Some students like to stay out all night
Most teachers tell them that isn’t right
All study time their eyes are shut tight
How will they ever succeed?

Some of us smoke
Some of us drink
Few of us know how to write with ink

Some of us seek
Some of us find
None of us want to be left behind

Some students like to stay out all night
Most teachers tell them that isn’t right
All study time their eyes are shut tight
How will they ever succeed?

Reading’s boring; We end up snoring;
So many pages; But zero drawings
We only study; When there’s a test to take; Big mistake!

Some students like to stay out all night
Most teachers tell them that isn’t right
All study time their eyes are shut tight
So ineffectual; Unintellectual;
How will they ever succeed?


Success failure effort belief – Part 2

Spoiler alert! If you want to test your ability to use these words, try the gap fill challenge first!

In my previous post I challenged you to complete a text using the words success, failure, effort, and belief. In this post I give the completed text plus some advice about common collocations used in the text.

1. If you tried the challenge, read the text and check your answers.

Bill is a successful olympic runner. He has won several gold medals and has achieved success in many other competitions. Ever since he was a child, he has always been a success. Last year he successfully broke several world records. What does he think are the factors influencing his success? Clean living, plenty of training, and of course the desire to succeed!

Budi is unsuccessful as a runner. He fails every time he enters a race. Ever since he began running he has been a failure. As a child he failed. As a teenager he failed, and now as a middle age man he continues to fail. He believes his constant failure to win may be related to his fondness for nightclubs and the fact that he eats nothing but bakso.

It seems that in order to succeed, a runner needs to make an effort to maintain the correct lifestyle and to maintain a belief in winning. It is only when we believe we will win that we can avoid failure and achieve success.

2. Notice the underlined collocations!

  • achieve success (without ‘a’)
  • be a success (with ‘a’)
  • be a failure (with ‘a’)
  • make an effort to + V1
  • failure to win (failure uncountable)
  • a belief in + n

I searched in my favourite online collocation dictionary OZDIC and found some other collocations for success, failure, effort, and belief. Try searching for other forms of these words and look at different collocates.

3. Talk about it! (IELTS Speaking Part 2)

With a friend, share successful and less successful experiences. Talk about how much effort you made in order to achieve a goal.  Are you ‘a success’? How do you know?

4. Write about it! (IELTS Writing Task 2)

  • What are the factors that cause success or failure?
  • Does failure mean that the desire to succeed wasn’t strong enough?
  • What are some different ways to measure success and failure? What is the best way? Why?

Post your writing in the comments box below and I will give feedback.

Writing ‘rights’ right!

Indonesia has rights to withdraw from ASEAN if trade agreements are not adhered to.

When rights are the simple object of a sentence I rarely see any error in student writing.

  • Women have rights.
  • Workers’ union members have rights.
  • etc.

My own students write sentences like this without error. However, when adding information about these rights in a more complex sentence, they soon run into problems.

I think it’s best to look at this as a lexical issue, rather than a grammatical one.

The word rights (with ‘s’) is often used as part of a lexical phrase, like ‘human rights’, or ‘animal rights’, or ‘rights for women’. Each of these phrases refers to a set of rights (more than one) that belong to a particular group.

On the other hand if you’re only talking about a single right, as in the opening example – withdrawing from ASEAN – then the following structures are common.

  1. (to have) + the + right + to + V1
    • Sony had the right to distribute the recordings in 1985.
    • The president has the right to overturn the new law.
    • The right to vote is under attack across the country.
  2. (to have) + the + right + to + n
    • Every citizen has the right to free medical care.
    • The right to privacy is often ignored by the authorities.
  3. to have + a + right + to + V1
    • I have a right to park here. I live here!

Notice that the right in example 1 is one that is seldom exercised (= used), while the right (‘a right’) in example 3 is probably exercised regularly. The structure in example 3, which is not as common in academic writing, very often begins with either a proper noun or personal pronoun (in this case ‘I’).

So to return to our opening example, we need one of these:

  • Indonesia has the right to withdraw from ASEAN if trade agreements are not adhered to.
  • The right to withdraw from ASEAN if trade agreements are broken, is held by all ASEAN members.

Withdrawing from ASEAN is not a right that is exercised regularly, and so the right is more appropriate than a right.

Notice also in an earlier comment I used strong verb-noun collocation: exercise + right. For other words that collocate with right, see here, and for more examples of the structures demonstrated in this post, see here.

Prevent Avoid Protect

Indonesia should prevent its resources from the threat of bio-piracy.

Meaning can become distorted or even lost when you translate directly. In this case we have a direct translation of the Indonesian mencegah, which – in many situations – does indeed translate as prevent.

As usual, I strongly advise Indonesian scholars to forget about the grammar here and to think in terms of vocabulary, or lexis. The following lexical options are NOT possible in English:

  1. prevent + n + from + n (not  __ing)
  2. avoid + n + from + n

Next we have the  ‘good‘ structures. If you like you can click on prevent, protect, and avoid to see examples of these structures.

  1. prevent + n
  2. prevent + n + from + __ing
  3. protect + n
  4. protect + n + from + n
  5. avoid + n

So which structure is best for the bio-piracy example? Well, all are possible!

  1. Indonesia should prevent bio-piracy.
  2. Indonesia should prevent bio-piracy from occurring.
  3. Indonesia should protect its bio-diversity.
  4. Indonesia should protect itself from bio-piracy.
  5. Indonesia should avoid bio-piracy.

See also this post for further analysis of avoid.

Bring take carry

You can also use Gojek if you don’t bring much luggage.

Indonesian flag This is another common Indonesian translation that results in ugly collocation.

As a general rule, when you use take and bring then you’re usually also talking about places. But you also need to think about where you are at the time of speaking, and where the thing is that is being taken or brought.

If you say “I took my lunchbox to work and brought it home again,” then at the time of speaking:

  • You are at home.
  • Your lunchbox is at home.
  • You took it from here to there. (not bring from here to there)
  • Brought it (back) from there to here. (not take from there to here)

Let’s look again at the opening example:

  • You can also use Gojek if you don’t bring much luggage.

Here the writer uses bring but does not mention any place, and it’s difficult to imagine a specific space. The Gojek ride can begin anywhere and end anywhere.

If you use bring or take then you need to mention either a start or a finish location, or both!

  • If you have a lot of luggage then you cannot bring it home by Gojek.
    • you are at home
    • bring from there to here (home = finish location)
  • If you have a lot of luggage then you cannot take it to the airport by Gojek.
    • you are at home
    • take from here to there (home = start location)
  • If you have a lot of luggage then you cannot take it from home to the airport by Gojek.
    • you are at home
    • take from here to there (home = start location)
  • etc.

If you don’t mention start or finish locations and it is difficult to imagine one, you probably need  carry:

You can also use Gojek if you don’t carry much luggage.