‘Compared to’ instead of ‘rather than’

Cities offer larger salaries to people rather than small towns.

Here the comparison is between ‘salaries’ and ‘small towns’. The writer is saying that cities offer people large salaries and do not offer them small towns. Hmm. I would be quite happy if someone gave me a small town!

If we want to compare the salaries offered by cities with the salaries offered by small towns, then we need:

  • Cities offer larger salaries compared to small towns.
    (= salaries in cities vs. salaries in small towns)

And if you really must use rather than, then you could also write:

  • Cities offer larger salaries rather than smaller salaries.
    (= larger salaries vs. smaller salaries)

Most of the time instead of is synonymous with rather than:

  • Cities offer larger salaries instead of smaller salaries.

However, instead of is quite often a replacement for something that came before:

  • City companies now use electronic transfer instead of cash payment for salaries.

Next time make sure you’re comparing what you mean to compare!

Since I discovered present perfect

Since 2010, I am IT Specialist at Purwodadi Botanical Gardens.

Here we need to think about (1) meaning and (2) form.

1. Meaning

The word since means from a time in the past up to and including now.

2. Form

If you mean up to and including now then you need one of these:

How do I know I mean up to and including now?!

  1. You mean up to and including now if you use the word since followed by a time expression describing a past point in time.

Since 2010 I have been an IT specialist at Purwodadi Botanical Gardens.

  1. You mean up to and including now if you use the word ‘for’ followed by a time expression describing a period of time that began in the past and includes now.

For 8 years I have been an IT specialist at Purwodadi Botanical Gardens.

  1. You mean up to and including now if you don’t use a signal (since, for) and you don’t use a time expression, but you do imply past time up to and including now.

I have repaired many computers.

In example (3) you are using present perfect to assure us that NOW (in the present) you are an experienced computer repair person, and we can trust you! We don’t need to know exactly when you did the repairs, or exactly how many computers you repaired – we just want to make sure that you are experienced!

Wrong because of ‘because’

People in my office know me as a person who knows about computer because my background study.

In my experience students usually get this wrong because of because of!

When you use cause effect signals, you need to think about how each signal behaves with either a cause or an effect. Because ‘behaves’ as follows: Continue reading

Due to bad grammar!

This problem occurs due to people throw waste into the irrigation system.

Ok well it’s nice to use an alternative to because, but a change of cause effect signal can often mean a change of grammar.

Because

The grammar for because is familiar to most people:

Prices increased because demand increased.

In this structure, Prices increased is an independent clause (= it can stand alone as a sentence), and demand increased is also an independent clause.

We could also think of this structure as:

because + cause sentence

Due to

The grammar for due to is slightly different:

Prices increased due to an increase in demand.

In this case Prices increased is an independent clause, while an increase in demand is a noun (or noun phrase).

Again, this structure could also be thought of as:

due to + cause noun

Because of

 A common error is to treat because of in the same way as because. For example it is incorrect to say:

Prices increased because of demand increased.

Because of follows the same structure as due to:

Prices increased because of an increase in demand.

Review

So, let’s review these three cause effect signals:

  • Prices increased because demand increased. (because + cause sentence)
  • Prices increased because of an increase in demand. (because of + cause noun)
  • Prices increased due to an increase in demand. (due to + cause noun)

And if we apply these to our opening example then we get:

  • This problem occurs because people throw waste into the irrigation system.
  • This problem occurs because of the irresponsible behaviour of people who throw waste into the irrigation system.
  • This problem occurs due to the irresponsible behaviour of people who throw waste into the irrigation system.

Using a combination of these in your IELTS speaking and writing will help to increase your scores in all criteria.

Why do we hate grammar? Heading matching!

There has been much debate about how grammar should be taught and what age is the best age to study it. Before reading the text, consider these questions:

  • Did you study grammar in school, and if so, did you enjoy it?
  • How old were you when you first studied grammar?
  • Do you think that was a good age to start?
  • Is it better to study grammar separately from reading or just acquire it through listening and reading?

Now read the text and select suitable headings for each paragraph. Click ‘check your headings’ for feedback! If there are any ideas in the text that you agree or disagree with, add a comment and let’s discuss! Continue reading

Followed by medias!

I agree that famous people should be followed by medias.

This sounds like an alien race called ‘The Medias’ have arrived on earth intent on following famous people. I think this is what you meant:

  • I agree that famous people should be followed by the media.

Media‘ is one of those words that always has ‘the‘ when it is used as a noun meaning TV, Radio, newspapers, etc. – combined!

On the other hand if you’re talking about the materials used to make a work of art, then that’s a different ‘media‘!

  • This latest exhibition features work using mixed media.

‘Media’ can be countable or uncountable. In its singular form it is ‘medium‘, and in its plural form ‘media‘. We never write or say medias.

As much uncountable as possible!

These days gadgets do not consume power as much as they used to.

This should read:

  • These days gadgets do not consume as much power as they used to.

Actually there are three grammar issues we need to consider here:

  1. as..as with verbs
  2. as..as with uncountable and plural count nouns
  3. as..as with singular count nouns

Before we examine these separately, here is a text to illustrate all three:

Life is so unfair. My friend can eat and drink as much as he likes and not get fat. He eats as many Big Macs as I eat. He drinks as much beer as I drink. However, he does not have as large a stomach as I have!

1. as..as with verbs

You have seen phrases like as much as, as far as, as long as, as fast as, etc. These phrases are used when far, long, fast behave as adverbs:

  • He can eat and drink as much as he likes. (‘much’ affects the meaning of the verbs ‘eat’ and ‘drink’)
  • I drinks as much as he likes. (‘much’ affects the meaning of the verb ‘drink’)
  • etc.

2. as..as with uncountable and plural count nouns

When far, long, fast, etc. behave as adjectives, then you need to change the word order:

  • He eats as many Big Macs as I eat. (‘many’ affects the meaning of the noun ‘Big Macs’)
  • He drinks as much beer as I drink. (‘much’ affects the meaning of the noun ‘beer’)
  • etc.

Notice that when you’re focusing on nouns, your only options are much (for uncountable nouns) and many (for plural countable nouns)!

flag-of-indonesia Indonesians need to be careful here because in Bahasa Indonesia the uncountable noun is positioned before ‘as much as’, for example “Kalau anjing anda keracunan, kasih dia air kelapa sebanyak mungkin!”

3. as..as with singular count nouns

This can be difficult to translate into English if your first language does not have countable and uncountable nouns.

  • He does not have as large a stomach as I have. 
  • I have joined a fitness centre and soon I will have as small a stomach as he has.

Notice the singular countable noun always has the article ‘a‘! Notice also that you are no longer restricted to many and much. Any adjective can be used!

flag-of-indonesia Again, Indonesians need to be careful because in Bahasa Indonesia the singular count noun is positioned before ‘as much as‘, for example “Nanti kalau saya punya uang saya mau bikin rumah sebesar mungkin!”

Babies, trends, and past perfect

This story from the BBC features some useful language for IELTS candidates. Click on the highlighted words for separate analysis. Alternatively, jump straight to the summary analyisis at the bottom!


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.

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.”

The data showed that the number of women having children in their teenage years, after peaking in the mid-20th Century, now matches figures for women born in the 1920s.

Imogen Stephens of Marie Stopes UK said it “shows that young people are taking better control of their fertility”.

“It is a big financial commitment to start a family and it is completely understandable that more women are choosing to complete their education, develop their careers and get on the housing ladder before having children.

“What is vital is that we support women’s choices to have children at the age that is right for them.”


Analysis

v/n collocation

  • (to) have children
  • (to) have offspring
  • ..continue (a) (upward/downward) trend
  • ..continues the downward trend of the past few years.
  • ..again continuing a long-term downward trend.

Noun form as sentence theme

  • The decline is in part due to..

Noun form of used rather than verb form

  • There has also been a fall in the number of teenage pregnancies.

Describing a trend without using the word trend

  • More and more women are having fewer babies.
  • Women are also having babies later.
  • ..more women are going into higher education and are also delaying finding a partner.
  • ..people are choosing not to have children.
  • ..more women are choosing to complete their education, develop their careers and get on the housing ladder before having children.

By + time expression

  • By their 30th birthdays, women today are likely to have had one child. Their mothers were likely to have had 1.8.

By their 30th birthdays is a future time expression for ‘women today’ (= future perfect), and a past time expression for ‘their mothers’ (= past perfect).

For more information about past perfect click the past perfect tag.

Postmodified nouns

Statistics noun postmodified with a preposition phrase, __ing, and another preposition phrase:

  • ..the number of women having children in their teenage years

Noun post-modified with V3 – without the Indonesian ‘yang’ (the English ‘that’!).

  • ..women born in the 1920s.

For more information about the Indonesian ‘yang’, see this post.