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:

The answer to number 10 is ‘A’.
The answer to number 10 is not ‘A’.
Is the answer to number 10 ‘A’?
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.


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

OK I understand

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.


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!

Even though.. (but..)

Even the government has tried hard to control corruption, but bribery is still commonplace.

There are two problems here.

First of all ‘even’ at the beginning of a sentence is normally joined by ‘though’: even though (2 words!).

Indonesian flag The second problem is often experienced by Indonesians trying to translate meskipun..akan tetapi. In English there is no akan tetapi, so no but:

  • Even though the government has tried hard to control corruption, bribery is still commonplace.

Notice the position of the comma in this sentence and don’t forget to include it.

Have fun using even though!

Against the misuse of ‘against’

Most Indonesian people against the removal of fuel subsidies.

In English, against is a preposition, and so this sentence does not contain a verb and is therefore not a sentence. To make it a sentence, you can do this..

  • Most Indonesian people are against the removal of fuel subsidies.
    (to be + against)

or (slightly more academic) this..

  • Most Indonesian people oppose the removal of fuel subsidies.

or (also academic) this..

  • Most Indonesian people object to the removal of fuel subsidies.

Hope that helps!