Most teachers are no use

Most of older teachers and some younger teachers are not technology literate.

Today I’m going to give you a task!

  1. Take a look at these sentences and try to identify any words or phrases that follow most of.
  2. Then compose a rule that explains why “Most of older teachers..” is incorrect. Enter your rule as a comment below this post.
  3. Then think about why “some younger teachers” is correct. Does the rule for most / most of also apply to some / some of?

I’ve also written a song featuring this grammar problem.

Half-baked comparison

Some Asians have less difficulty in intercultural communication.

Indonesian flag If your reader speaks Indonesian he will understand that you’re translating kurang. Other readers, however, will begin to ask themselves:

Is he comparing Asians with some other group of people?
Which people?

Is he comparing difficulty in intercultural communication with some other kind of difficulty?
Which kind?

Is he comparing difficulty in intercultural communication with some other kind of communication?
Which kind?

What is he comparing?!

If you’re an Indonesian translating kurang then you’re probably not comparing anything. You’re simply saying:

  • Some Asians find intercultural communication easy.

As a general rule, when you use comparative adjectives, include the thing or things that you’re comparing in the same sentence. If you’re not comparing things, then don’t use a comparative adjective.

Today shit happens/is happening!

Today, with the introduction of information technology, life becomes more complex.

Here you use a time expression – today – in order to provide your reader with time context, or a time frame. Unfortunately your verb and your time expression do not match.

Today can mean literally ‘today’, so if today is Thursday then today means Thursday. But today can also mean other things. In academic papers today often refers more generally to time around now.

Time around now began at some point in the past and is likely to continue until some point in the future. Exactly how far into the past and how far into the future does time around now extend? Well that depends on the topic. Since ‘information technology’ implies quite recent innovations, then we’re probably thinking – in this example – of a roughly twenty year period with ‘now’ somewhere in the middle.

Time around now can also refer to a recently new, more permanent condition, that may not be likely to change, at least not for a long time.

Depending on which verb tense we choose, we can communicate either new, permanent condition OR continuous action.

Since information technology is changing continuously – i.e. becoming more complex all the time – then we need present continuous tense.

  • Today, with the introduction of information technology, life is becoming more complex.

Indonesian flag ‘Become’ always implies a change, unlike the Indonesian ‘menjadi’, which can communicate a permanent state: “Siti bilang bahwa rumahtangganya tidak bahagia, karena suami tak pernah memberikan nafkah batin yang menjadi haknya.”

If we want to describe a more permanent state in English, then present simple tense is used:

  • Today, with the introduction of information technology, people communicate more easily than they used to.

Remember that state verbs are never used in continuous form:

Today, with the introduction of information technology, people prefer to send emails rather than write letters.

There’s a time and a place for everything

In the last 10 years there is an increase in aquaculture.

Context is important. Context is generally about time and place. If you want to contextualise time then you need to communicate meanings such as:

  • time around now
  • time up to and including now
  • past and finished time
  • past unfinished time
  • future time related to the present
  • etc.

Time context is achieved using carefully chosen verb tenses and time expressions. In the sentence above, “in the last 10 years” is a time expression that carries the meaning time up to and including now. In this case the correct tense is present perfect:

  • In the last 10 years there has been an increase in aquaculture.

Create time context using verb tenses and time expressions. Make sure your verb tenses and time expressions match!

Free sex and a split personality

For me as religious people, I totally disagree with free sex.

How can you be more than one person? Are you schizophrenic?!

  • For me as a religious person, I totally disagree with casual sex.

It would be more academic to talk about promiscuous behaviour / promiscuity / casual sex rather than free sex.

Some counterargument, for people open to argument:

sex lies and religion

First the problem of no verb.

First of all, the problem of humans using too many of the world’s resources.

Me: Obviously this is no good because there’s no verb.
You: What about ‘using’? Isn’t that a verb?
Me: Sometimes yes, but here it functions as a noun modifier, not as a verb. It’s telling you something about the noun ‘humans’. It’s part of one long noun phrase: ‘the problem of humans using too many of the world’s resources. If you want to you can use this long noun phrase as a subject:

  • First of all, the problem of humans using too many of the world’s resources is a difficult problem to solve.

..or as an object:

  • The government is striving to solve the problem of humans using too many of the world’s resources.

In future make sure your sentence has at least a subject and a verb.

Using ‘that’ to acknowledge sources

A study conducted in 1965 identified that argument mapping leads to clearer writing.

Some reporting verbs require a ‘that’ clause, others do not:

  • A study conducted in 1965 showed that argument mapping leads to clearer writing.
  • A study conducted in 1965 identified improvements to writing following argument mapping.

Reporting verbs not followed by that are usually followed by a noun phrase. Unfortunately there is no strategy to determine which verbs require that and which do not. You just have to memorise them. The best way to acquire useful reporting verbs is by reading journal articles and academic text books. To get you started, here is a list of common reporting verbs followed by that:

admit agree argue assume
believe claim conclude consider
decide deny determine discover
doubt explain hypothesize imply
indicate infer maintain prove
presume reveal show state

It’s difficult to adjust my schedule, sorry.

Sorry, I can’t join you for lunch. I will meet my writing supervisor to discuss my dissertation.

These days this kind of meeting is difficult to re-schedule. Academic staff are increasingly busy and the time allowed for consultation increasingly short. If you try to change the time you may lose the opportunity altogether. This plan is fixed. You may have written it down in a diary. if you only made a mental note then that note is burned into your subconscious. It’s an important meeting. In this case you need:

  • Sorry, I can’t join you for lunch. I’m meeting my writing supervisor to discuss my dissertation.

I know, the meeting is due to take place in the future, but when a plan is difficult to change use present continuous tense, especially when you’re excusing yourself from some other offer.

Sorry but I have to go now. I’m teaching a class in 10 minutes!

Chomsky (2014) argued (or argues?)

Chomsky (2014) argued that grammar monopoly is an effective way to highlight first language interference.

I know, I know. 2014 is past and finished, so you want to use past simple tense. However, in this case the currency of the idea – is it recent and/or valid? – is more important than when it was written.

The currency of an idea can occasionally be difficult to determine, but in most cases it is obvious. If we assume that Chomsky is still alive (as he is at the time of this writing) and that his idea is still current then we use present simple tense, even if the idea was written in the finished past:

  • Chomsky (2014) argues that Grammar Monopoly is an effective way to highlight first language interference.

In most postgraduate writing we are dealing with current ideas, from recent sources, and so most of the time you will need present tense for your reporting verbs.

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?