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.

Text reconstruction with ReText

This was going to be a suite of apps, with a fancy title, bundled together. But a lot of this stuff is really useless as stand-alone apps – they have to be integrated within a post to have any pedagogical value. And so they’re here, available via menus, but I don’t – at the moment – feel they deserve to be packaged and marketed in any way.

If anyone wants to use these as WordPress shortcodes, you’re welcome – please either email me or comment below this post.

The apps include:

  • Cloze your books (Converts any uploaded text into a total cloze, which you can then attempt to reconstruct online, one word at a time).
  • Sentence Repair Man (Shuffles words in sentences, which you can then attempt to reconstruct online, or print for classroom use).
  • Mind the Gap (puts gaps at every Nth word in a text, with the option to print for classroom use).
  • Linkin’ Text (Highilights 4 types of (spoken) link between words in a text).
  • AWLizer (Highlights words from the Academic Word List in a text).

Enjoy!

When easy is difficult

Animals that are used to perform are easy to get tired.

If we reduce this to its most basic grammar, we get:

  • Animals are easy.

Obviously that’s not what the writer intended. Maybe we should look at some examples!

  • My answer was pretty easy to understand.
    My answer was easy.
  • The daily instructions are very easy to follow.
    = The daily instructions are easy.
  • The game is really pretty easy to play.
    = The game is easy.

Now contrast the previous examples with the following.

  • Generally it is easier for men to handle horses.
    = Handling horses is easy (NOT men are easy!)
  • It is easy for smartphone users to use QR codes.
    = Using QR codes is easy (NOT smartphone users are easy!)
  • It is easy for people to misunderstand religious language and ritual.
    = Misunderstanding is easy (NOT people are easy!)

It is easy for us to correct our opening example if we begin “It is easy for.!”

  • It is easy for animals that are used to perform to get tired.
    [it is easy/difficult for + noun + to + v1]

This structure is shown in several previous posts – here, and in the song Lemon Squeezy. Check them out!

An alternative improvement would be to use an adverb:

  • Animals that are used to perform get tired easily.

..and for a higher IELTS score, avoid ‘get’ by using the verb form of ‘tired’:

  • Animals that are used to perform tire easily.

Animal rights

If you’re studying in Australia you should make an effort to see the amazing Circus OZ – an animal-free circus!

Mr Subject disagrees with Mr Verb

It could also be argued that removing individual animals from the wild are potentially threatening the population of wild species.

This kind of subject verb agreement problem is penalised in IELTS writing and speaking.

  • It could also be argued that removing individual animals from the wild are potentially threatening the population of wild species.

In this sentence, the subject removing individual animals from the wild does not ‘agree’ with the verb are. This disagreement happens when the subject is singular and the verb is plural, or vice versa.
Continue reading

Articles and sentient animals

New Zealand now recognises all animals as sentient beings!

Discuss with a friend.. If animals are sentient beings (they can think and feel pretty much like humans can), how does this affect our attitude to:

  • animals as food
  • scientific experimentation involving animals (vivisection)
  • animals in sport and entertainment

After your discussion, read the following text and select articles as appropriate. Continue reading

Preparing (for) disaster

Is this a good way for students to prepare their new academic environments?

Compare these:

  • I’m preparing dinner.
    (You’re mixing ingredients, boiling, baking, frying, etc.)
  • I’m preparing for dinner.
    (You’re washing your hands. You’re going to eat very soon.)

preparing for dinner

A baby prepares for dinner while
his mother prepares dinner!

  • I’m preparing an exam.
    (You’re writing the questions that someone will answer when they sit the exam.)
  • I’m preparing for an exam.
    (You’re reading and thinking about questions that might be included in an exam that you are about to take.)

preparing disaster

These men prepared a disaster.
They made the first atom bomb!

preparing for dinner

Some people prepare for disaster.

Returning to our opening example, you probably need:

  • Is this a good way for students to prepare for their new academic environments?

If students are preparing their academic environments, they’re already there – possibly they’re busy arranging furniture in their accommodation, putting books on shelves, etc. If they’re preparing for their new environments, they’re not there yet because they’re not yet ready – possibly they need to study more first, pass exams, save money, etc.