Research and Researches

Several researches have proven that nuclear energy is not as dangerous as people think.

Actually there’s nothing ‘wrong’ with this. I just looks odd to a native speaker because research is nearly always uncountable:

  • Much research has proven that nuclear energy is not as dangerous as people think.

Investigate the differences between research and researches. Then try googling to see which form of the word is more common.

Having the right to rights

The principle of the social services is that people have rights to live happily and without discrimination.

I know, I know. You mention more than one right. Normally your teacher would be yelling at you to add an ‘s’. But this is a vocabulary/collocation issue.

  • The principle of the social services is that people have the right to live happily and without discrimination.

Indonesian flag You can think of it as a phrasal verb (Indonesians will be translating berhak untuk..). Sometimes it’s have the right to + V1. Sometimes have a right to + V1. 

Try googling “have the right to” and then “have rights to”. Which is more common? Which is the meaning that you want?

The tunnel passed by the sperm?!

The fallopian tube is a tunnel which will be passed by the sperm on its way to the egg.

This  might be possible if all the sperm does is pass by the entrance to the tunnel without actually entering it. But then it won’t be on its way to the egg, it will be on its way somewhere else!

If you want to say that the sperm enters the tunnel, travels along it and then meets the egg, you need to use a preposition that carries that meaning:

  • The fallopian tube is a tunnel which the sperm passes through on its way to the egg.

Compare these situations:

tunnel

  • A > B: The sperm passes through the tunnel.
  • C > D: The tunnel is passed by the sperm.
  • D > E: The tunnel is passed by the sperm.

Indonesian flag Indonesians take care when you’re translating melalui, melintasi, menyebrangi, and melewati.

Age in Task 1 Writing

People in the 14-17 group of age were most affected by the changes.

I know, this seems to make sense, and your meaning is clear, but if you want a high score for vocabulary you need to use better collocation inside your noun phrases:

  • People in the 14-17 age group were most affected by the changes.

The following are all possible. Unfortunately you just have to memorise them. Try to use them as soon as possible in your writing practice and soon they will become automatic.

  • a person who is 49 years of age
  • a person who is 49 years old
  • a person who is 49
  • a 49 year-old person
  • a 49 year-old

More often in IELTS, ‘person’ is plural (= ‘people’), and so these noun phrases are also possible:

  • 49 year-olds
  • 49 year-old people
  • people in the 50-60 age group
  • people aged between 50 and 60
  • people aged 50-60
  • people (who are) 50-60 years old

Of course we could be more specific about ‘person’ or ‘people’:

  • A 49 year-old English teacher
  • English teachers in the 49-59 age group

Such as this and that

There are many factors that can contribute to failure such as students do not manage their time well, or they are just lazy.

In this example, such as is followed by independent clauses whereas it should be followed by noun phrases:

  • There are many factors that can cause students to fail such as bad time management, or just laziness.

If you really want verb phrases, then use for example:

  • There are many factors that can contribute to failure, for example students do not manage their time well, or they are just lazy.

(Remember to put a comma before for example!)

Notice that for example is a more flexible signal as it can be used to introduce either a noun or a verb phrase. In the next example it is used to introduce nouns.

  • There are many factors that can contribute to failure, for example financial pressure and physical injury.

Affected by ‘Affect to’

These days children see far too much violence on TV and this can affect to their emotional development.

Oops!

affects Y (without ‘to’) / Y is affected by X:

  • These days children see far too much violence on TV and this can affect their emotional development.
  • These days children’s emotional development can be affected by violence on TV.

Himself, herself, theirselves(?!)

Before departing for Australia, students must prepare theirselves in order to avoid culture shock.

..selves. More than one ‘self’. OK, no complaints about that.

..theirselves. Now you’re being inconsistent with your object pronouns.
You guys have no problem producing the following:

  • He loves her.
  • She loves him.
  • Their parents love them.

And you would never write:

  • Their parents love their.
  • Look at their!
  • They say they love each other and I believe their.

So why the sudden switch to possessive ‘their’?! Please use the object pronoun (him, her, them) + ‘self/selves’:

  • Before departing for Australia, students must prepare themselves in order to avoid culture shock.

And you might think about some collocation (prepare + s.o./s.th. + for + s.th.):

  • Before departing for Australia, students must prepare themselves for culture shock.

Finally, we can assume that the students must prepare themselves and not other people, so strictly speaking themselves is redundant:

  • Before departing for Australia, students must prepare for culture shock.

There is a kind of exception to the above rule. Does anybody know what it is? Comments below please!

Why is..?

Excuse me, why the answer to number 10 is ‘A’?

Excuse me, why is this grammatically incorrect? Here are some correct sentences:

Positive
The answer to number 10 is ‘A’.
Negative
The answer to number 10 is not ‘A’.
Yes/No
Is the answer to number 10 ‘A’?
Why
Why is the answer to number 10 ‘A’?
Why (neg)
Why isn’t the answer to number 10 ‘B’?

How about I show you study the correct sentences and then explain the rule in your own words in the comments below?

Million or millions?

According to a recent census, there are 265 millions people living in Indonesia.

Yes, I know it seems right. But it isn’t. Only put an ‘s’ on million when million is the main noun in a noun phrase. Very often million is the main noun in a noun phrase when it is at the beginning of a sentence..

  • Millions of people live in Indonesia, a huge archipelago in south-east Asia.

..but not always. It might appear somewhere inside a sentence:

  • Indonesia spends millions of dollars every year subsidising fuel.

In the noun phrase millions of peoplemillions is the main noun, modified by of people. We know exactly which millions you’re talking about – not millions of bananas, for example! The same goes for millions of dollars (not millions of rupiah!).

When million is not the main noun, for example when it is modifying another noun, don’t add an ‘s’:

According to a recent census, there are 265 million people living in Indonesia.

In the noun phrase 265 million people living in Indonesia, the main noun is ‘people’. All of the other words in the phrase give us information about ‘people’ – how many, and where they live.

The same rule applies to hundred(s)thousand(s), etc.

Practice

Instructions

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

Last year of people around the world spent 2 dollars or more buying consumer goods. Of these goods, smartphones have become a dollar industry with of manufacturers in more than 3 countries. In the future this is likely to grow to many .

Task 1 Past Perfect

Past perfect tense needs to be handled with care. It is most useful in the narrative genre and is seldom needed in Task 2 writing. However, Task 1 essays occasionally present an opportunity to use past perfect.

Let’s try an exercise! Follow my instructions carefully and attempt the tasks before reading my sample texts.

  1. Look at the following graph and attempt to describe it in two short paragraphs. The first paragraph will focus on general trends and will begin:

In general..

The second paragraph will describe details and will begin:

In detail..

When you’re happy with your writing, you can read my sample text.

  1. Finished writing? OK now take a look at my sample text and analysis.

 

 

 

 

 

Sample text

In general, Facebook had by far the highest number of active users per month, and this number increased by more than 50% during the period. Despite having far fewer users per month, Twitter experienced a similar increase in numbers, but was overtaken half way through the period by Instagram.

In detail, Facebook already had a billion active users in 2012, but by 2015 this figure had increased to more than 1.5 billion. Twitter was in second place until 2014 when the monthly number of active Instagram users began to exceed that of Twitter users, and by 2015 Instagram had taken a 0.1 billion user lead over Twitter, forcing Twitter into third position. Similarly, by 2015 Snapchat had attracted only half as many active users per month as Instagram.

Analysis

Notice the structural use of past perfect in the detail section. I admit that I went a bit mad with it, but I strongly recommend this structure:

By + past time expression + subject + V3

Final task

  1. Take another look at your own text. Did you use my past perfect structure? If not, can you edit your text so as to include it in at least one sentence? Please share your writing in the comments section!