One family

I have one wife, one child, one cat and one dog.

In the IELTS speaking test candidates often mention their families when talking about their homes. Sometimes they do this to justify only having a small home, or maybe they want to explain why they chose live in a particular area.

But in any situation when you offer information about your family, your listener will make certain assumptions, in particular about numbers, and if the number is one then this is often best communicated without using the word ‘one’. Continue reading

Not ‘easy to be found’!

News from online media is easy to be found.

With easy and difficult you need active verbs:

  • News from online media is easy to find.
  • It is more difficult to find news from traditional sources.

..and with a different verb:

  • News online still has a negative side because it is not always easy to be verified.
  • News online still has a negative side because it is not always easy to verify.

So, that was easy to fix! (NOT ‘to be fixed’!)

Giving to people for a purpose

In recent times, the obligation of developed nations to give aid for developing nations has been widely discussed.

This grammar item is handled differently by different languages. Let’s take a look at some examples:

  • Several highly independent intelligence operations were given to him.
  • Eventually they gave the house to their eldest son.
  • Don’t give it to them! They’ll waste it.
  • In these examples, give..to is followed by a person or group. (Indonesian flag kepada)

So, ‘to’ + person or people. What about ‘for’?

  • Cool, huh?! My parents gave it to me for my birthday.
  • I normally give a tip for good service, but this time I was disappointed.
  • Here give..for is followed by a purpose. (Indonesian flag untuk)

Now try this practice activity. Continue reading

Insisting on skirts!

Forward-thinking schools don’t insist their students to wear uniforms.

Ok I admit that there are some similar words that behave like this:

  • Forward-thinking schools don’t force their students to wear uniforms.
  • Forward-thinking schools don’t oblige their students to wear uniforms.
  • Forward-thinking schools don’t require their students to wear uniforms.
  • Meaning: schools want uniforms, students don’t.
    Structure: verb + someone + to + V1

Insist is unusual:

  • Forward-thinking schools don’t insist on uniforms for their students.
  • Meaning: schools want uniforms, students don’t.
    Structure: verb + on + something
  • Forward-thinking schools don’t insist that their students wear uniforms.
  • Meaning: schools want uniforms, students don’t.
    Structure: verb + that + independent clause

In the featured image for this post, boys who are not allowed to wear shorts at school are insisting that they should be allowed to wear skirts instead!

Take a look at these examples.

Interested in ‘interest’

Admittedly some people may not interests in the arts.

OK so ‘interest’ is potentially a problematic word.

Let’s say I’m one of those people who like the arts, I like attending arts events, and I like going to galleries, etc. In this case I can say any of the following:

  • I’m interested in the arts.
  • S.o. + (not) to be + interested in + s.th./s.o.
  • The arts interest me.
  • S.th./S.o. + (doesn’t) interest(s) + s.o.
  • I find the arts interesting.
  • S.o. + (doesn’t) find(s) + s.th./s.o. + interesting
  • The arts are interesting to me.
  • S.th./S.o. + (not) to be + interesting + to + s.o.

Returning to our original example, we need:

  • Admittedly some people may not be interested in the arts.
  • Admittedly some people may not find the arts interesting.
  • Admittedly the arts may not interest some people.
  • Admittedly the arts may not be interesting to some people.

Try this practice activity: Continue reading

Now listen to me!

Listening modern music, such as Jazz, for instance, might be useful to warm up the emotion part of the brain which can induce relaxation and reduce anxiety.

There is some sophisticated language here – except for the first word! Unfortunately there’s a difference in meaning between listen (without to) and listen to. Take a look at this short dialogue:

Mother (angry..) Johnny, are you listening?
Johnny What?
Mother Now listen to me. That’s very naughty. Don’t do it again!

Quite simply, if there’s an object – listen to me (‘me’, object) – then you need ‘to’:

  • Listening to modern music, such as Jazz, for instance, might be useful to warm up the emotion part of the brain which can induce relaxation and reduce anxiety.

The relativity of ‘if’

Old people believe if traditional medicines are more effective for long-standing health complaints than contemporary ones.

Indonesian flag Here an Indonesian student has used if as a relative pronoun. This is allowed in Bahasa Indonesia, at least after the verb ‘believe’, but it is not allowed in English.

Instead you need:

  • Old people believe that traditional medicines are more effective for long-standing health complaints than contemporary ones.

Cultural notes

  • The word ‘relative’ made me think of Einstein, and that’s why he appears on this post’s featured image.
  • Since there is a cultural note for ‘relative’ then I suppose we ought to include one for ‘if’. How about this inspirational poem by Rudyard Kipling?

Conservation Conversation

Zoos are good places for animals conservation.

This is an example of a noun pre-modifying another noun.

Say what?!

Well, sometimes we have to consider how nouns function within a larger noun phrase.

Come again?!

Well, animal is a noun, and conservation is a noun, but together they form a noun phrase: animal conservation.

So what’s the problem then, Pak Guru?

Well, in this example, the ‘main’ noun is conservation.

What do you mean main noun?

Well, in this example, are you saying that zoos are good for animals or good for conservation?

For.. conservation!

Right, so conservation is the main noun.

I see, so what’s wrong with animals?

OK, well in the example animals is pre-modifying conservation. ‘Pre’ means ‘before’ – the word ‘animals’ comes before the word ‘conservation’, right?

Wait. Did you say ‘modifying’? What’s that?!

Well, the word animals changes (modifies) the word conservation – it tells us exactly what kind of conservation.

OK. But I still don’t see what is wrong with the original sentence.

The problem is.. If you use a countable noun to pre-modify another noun, then that modifying noun (in this case animal) must be singular.

I see. Like ‘Computer scientist?’

Yes!

The featured image for this post is a photograph of the man who has done more than any other to conserve wildlife, the incredible David Attenborough – here conversing with orang utan.