Not everything is ‘convenient’

Physical shops are more convenient than online stores. Firstly, in physical shops customers are able to touch goods and try on clothes. Secondly, shopping in physical shops can be a social activity.

There is a category of physical store aptly named ‘convenience stores‘. Many countries have 7 Elevens. In Indonesia we have Indomaret, Alfamart and Circle K.

flag-of-indonesia Indonesians might call a shop that sells everything at a low price ‘convenient‘. However, the prices in convenience stores like Circle K can be quite a lot higher than average. These shops inflate prices precisely so that they can offer ‘conveniences‘:

  • they are numerous, especially in cities
  • they have ample parking if they are situated on a road
  • they can even be found inside large shopping centres
  • they stock items that most people need on a daily basis
  • they provide fast and efficient service

These are all features that native English speakers would consider ‘convenient‘. In English something is ‘convenient‘ when it saves you time and effort. Being able to touch goods is not a matter of ‘convenience‘. It may be practical, but it is not what most people would call ‘convenient‘, and neither is meeting your friends when you go to physical stores.

For your convenience, here are some definitions of ‘convenience’, as well as some pictures of convenient things.

‘Other’ in IELTS Task 1

Bakso was chosen by 60% of students, Martabak by 20%, Siomay by 15%, and only 5% chose Other.

studentsandfastfood.jpg

OK the problem here is that ‘other‘ is rarely used as a noun. Generally it is used as a noun modifier: “other people“, “other things“, etc. In the above example, what is the noun that is being modified by ‘other’? Well, all of the items in the chart belong to a class, or group, and the name of that group is usually given as a label on the chart. In any case we know that Bakso, Martabak, and Siomay are all different kinds of Asian fast food, so we can write:

  • Bakso was chosen by 60% of students, Martabak by 20%, Siomay by 15%, and only 5% chose other kinds of Asian fast food.

Other‘ is used as a noun in sociology, psychology and anthropology to identify and possibly explain ‘something different from us‘, either as individuals or as a society. In these contexts there is a related concept: ‘otherness‘.

@guruEAP

Involve(d) in

Giving a challenge for human workers to involve in controlling machines is a good idea.

Involve as adjective

You got the preposition right, but the wrong form of ‘involve’. This is nearly always constructed as an ‘ed’ adjective phrase:

  • Giving a challenge for human workers to be involved in controlling machines is a good idea.

‘Get’ also collocates strongly with ‘involved in’, as does the more formal ‘become’:

  • Giving a challenge for human workers to get/become involved in controlling machines is a good idea.

It’s not always necessary to mention the activity that someone is involved in:

  • I’m involved.

flag-of-indonesia For Indonesians there are easy translations for involved as adjective:

  • involved – terlibat
  • (to be) involved in – terlibat dalam

Involve as a verb

If you want to use involve as a verb, usually there is an indirect object:

  • I rarely involve myself in politics.

flag-of-indonesia Again, for Indonesians there is an easy translation.

  • to involve + someone + in + something – melibatkan … dalam …

@guruEAP

No ‘second’ winner!

In the 100m running the winner was Usain Bolt. The second winner was Justin Gatlin.

The Olympics in Rio produced many winners, but…

In the 100m running the winner was Usain Bolt. Justin Gatlin came second.

We can also say:

  • Justin Gatlin was second.
  • Justin Gatlin finished second.

However, we cannot say:

  • Justin Gatlin was second winner. (flag-of-indonesia ‘Juara dua’!)

Unfortunately in a particular competition there can only be one winner. In this particular case the winner was Bolt.

@guruEAP

You are NOT a staff!

I am a staff at the Ministry of Religious Affairs.

Although you will occasionally find an example of staff as a countable noun, it is extremely rare.

Used as an uncountable noun, staff refers to people who work for a particular organisation:

  • Staff at the Ministry of Religious Affairs receive a competitive salary.

Used as a countable noun, a staff is a kind of stick with certain features and functions:

  • often very long – longer than its user is tall
  • usually made of wood
  • usually quite ornate, possibly hand-crafted
  • used by someone with special powers, for example a wizard
  • often used in specialised fighting, like kung fu
  • otherwise used to assist in walking (elderly people, etc)

For example:

  • He used his staff to scare away evil spirits and then used it to turn my horse into a brand new Ferrari. I noticed the staff also helped him to walk!

In the context of your writing one of these meanings, staff countable / staff uncountable, will probably be more obvious than the other. However, if you want a high score in IELTS for vocabulary, I suggest you choose the most appropriate meaning!

If you really must use a countable noun, you can do this:

  • I am a member of staff at the Ministry of Religious Affairs.

@guruEAP

‘That’ and ‘V3’ in noun phrases

The table shows the percentage of money that allocated by people in different countries for different reasons in 2002.

flag-of-indonesia Here an Indonesian student has made a noun phrase based on ‘yang di alokasikan‘. A grammar error has affected her IELTS score, but this could have been avoided using more sophisticated – and easy-to-learn – vocabulary.

Improved grammar

  • The table shows the percentage of money that was allocated by people in different countries for different reasons in 2002.

Here I added ‘to be‘ before the V3 to produce a correct passive. However, a native speaker would probably choose more sophisticated vocabulary:

Improved vocabulary

  • The table shows the percentage of money allocated by people in different countries for different reasons in 2002.

Here, instead of the ugly passive structure, which Indonesians always get wrong, I made a nominal group that contains the following elements all joined together:

  • the percentage..
  • of money (preposition phrase)
  • allocated by people (V3 phrase)
  • in different countries (preposition phrase)
  • for different reasons (preposition phrase)
  • in 2012 (preposition phrase)

Other elements are possible in nominal groups, but these are common. I will come back to nominal groups in future posts (for example here) as problems experienced by my current class arise.

Note that there is no ‘that’ in the V3 phrase (Indonesian ‘yang’). And BTW ‘V3 phrase’ is not its official name, but it’s much easier to remember than the official name (which I will keep secret for now..).

@guruEAP

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.

@guruEAP

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

Nothing ‘needs’ high cost

Studying abroad needs high cost!

flag-of-indonesia This one does not translate directly from Indonesian. In fact the meaning changes dramatically!

In English if you say something ‘needs high cost‘ then you are saying:

  • It is better if this thing is expensive!
  • If it is not expensive I’m not interested!
  • flag-of-indonesia I am ‘gengsi’!

This is like the king who is building a palace that is bigger and better than all of the other palaces owned by all of the other kings.

High cost‘ is used in English as part of a longer noun phrase:

  • the high cost of living
  • high cost housing
  • cheap clothing’s high cost

The preposition phrase (‘of blah blah’) is probably the most common:

  • the high cost of studying abroad

If you are writing about the cost of studying abroad then you might say:

  • The high cost of studying abroad needs to be taken into consideration. Studying abroad is expensive.

@guruEAP

The price is expensive

The price of natural pearls is more expensive than the price of man made pearls.

flag-of-indonesia This is an Indonesian student translating ‘harganya mahal‘!

We see what you mean. But in IELTS if you want a better score for vocabulary (LR)1, and if you want to be more accurate with meaning (FC, TA, TR, CC)1, then you need better collocation (LR)1.

First of all ‘price‘ can be ‘high‘ or ‘low‘:

  • The price of natural pearls is higher than the price of man made pearls.

Products and services, meanwhile, can be ‘cheap’ or ‘expensive’:

  • Natural pearls are more expensive than man made pearls.

We can use the same collocation to talk about this bottle of wine:

price

  • Penfolds Grange Hermitage 1951 is very expensive. Only a rich person can afford to pay such a high price for wine!

If you say the price is expensive, strictly speaking you are saying that a sequence of numbers (in this case $38,420) is expensive! The wine is expensive, not the numbers!

@guruEAP


See public band descriptors for IELTS Speaking, Task 1 Writing and Task 2 Writing.

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