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?

The tunnel passed by the sperm?!

The fallopian tube is a tunnel which will be passed by the sperm on its way to the egg.

This  might be possible if all the sperm does is pass by the entrance to the tunnel without actually entering it. But then it won’t be on its way to the egg, it will be on its way somewhere else!

If you want to say that the sperm enters the tunnel, travels along it and then meets the egg, you need to use a preposition that carries that meaning:

  • The fallopian tube is a tunnel which the sperm passes through on its way to the egg.

Compare these situations:

tunnel

  • A > B: The sperm passes through the tunnel.
  • C > D: The tunnel is passed by the sperm.
  • D > E: The tunnel is passed by the sperm.

Indonesian flag Indonesians take care when you’re translating melalui, melintasi, menyebrangi, and melewati.

Such as this and that

There are many factors that can contribute to failure such as students do not manage their time well, or they are just lazy.

In this example, such as is followed by independent clauses whereas it should be followed by noun phrases:

  • There are many factors that can cause students to fail such as bad time management, or just laziness.

If you really want verb phrases, then use for example:

  • There are many factors that can contribute to failure, for example students do not manage their time well, or they are just lazy.

(Remember to put a comma before for example!)

Notice that for example is a more flexible signal as it can be used to introduce either a noun or a verb phrase. In the next example it is used to introduce nouns.

  • There are many factors that can contribute to failure, for example financial pressure and physical injury.

Not that sector, this one!

Agricultural sector is different from economic sector in the way research is conducted.

Indonesian flag First of all in English we tend not to label nouns as much as you do in Bahasa Indonesia. An easy example is colours. In English when we mention colours, it isn’t necessary to use the word ‘colour’:

  • Saya suka warna merah.
  • I like blue.

Therefore our opening example could easily be written:

  • Agriculture is different from economics in the way research is conducted.

However, if you must use the word ‘sector’, and if you are talking about specific sectors, then you need to communicate this one exactly:

  • The agricultural sector is different from the economic sector in the way research is conducted.

If you do not use ‘the’ when you mean this one exactly then you will receive a low score in IELTS for grammar and for coherence and cohesion. If you do not use ‘the’ when you mean this one exactly then your reader will stop reading and think “Does he mean this one exactly, or does he mean one of many, or does he mean all of them everywhere?” You must communicate one of these meanings if you want to be understood clearly.

If you want to communicate one of many then you need to use ‘a’:

  • Agriculture is a sector that requires different research approaches.
    (This implies that, in addition to agriculture, there are other sectors, like education, which also require different research approaches.)

If you want to communicate all of them everywhere then you need to use ‘s’:

  • Government sectors include health, education, agriculture and economics.

The key to ‘_ing'(?!)

Conserving a language is the key to fully grasp the identity of a culture.

Let’s look functionally at what we are trying to communicate in this sentence:

[…something A…] is the key to [..something B..].

OK. So something A is obviously a thing or a behaviour that will help us to achieve something B, which is a thing or a behaviour that is difficult to achieve without something A. If something B is a thing, then it is a noun and not a verb, so we need the noun form of grasp, which is grasping:

  • Conserving a language is the key to fully grasping the identity of a culture.

For some reason the expressions the key to and the answer to often lead to this error, so watch out for those! In this structure, ‘to’ is a preposition and not part of the infinitive ‘to + V1’.

Thank(s) God

I just heard that I achieved 7.0 overall in my recent IELTS test. Thanks God!

This is when you are grateful for something. You may be alone, or you may be together with others, but you feel a need to express your gratitude, even out loud. You may be addressing God (who is not present), or you may be addressing nobody in particular. Indonesians might want to say ‘syukur’ or ‘alhamdullilah’, or ‘puji tuhan’. In this case you would say thank god (without ‘s’).

  • I just heard that I achieved 7.0 overall in my recent IELTS test. Thank God!

You can think of this as an instruction beginning with the imperative verb ‘thank’.

You can also think of it as a reduced form of the suggestion “You/We should all thank God!”

If you are lucky enough to be face to face with God, and if God has helped you in some way, then you can look God in the eye and say: Thanks, God. (with ‘s’ on ‘thank’) However, note that this is quite informal, and may not be an appropriate way to address someone as important as God. If you want to be more polite when addressing God directly, say Thank you, God. (no ‘s’ on ‘thank’)

‘It’ or ‘this’? Theme or rheme?

The government has just removed fuel subsidies. It means that the price of basic goods will surely go up.

It’s sometimes useful to think of a sentence as having a theme (in this case ‘The government’) and a rheme (‘has just removed fuel subsidies’).

When you want to refer back to the theme, use a pronoun:

  • The government has just removed fuel subsidies. They felt that the fuel subsidies were not economically sustainable.

When you want to refer back to the rheme, use ‘this’ or ‘these’:

  • The government has just removed fuel subsidies. This means that the price of basic goods will surely go up.

Choosing the right referencing word (‘it’ or ‘this’) will make your writing more coherent (easier to understand). If you are preparing for IELTS, the right choice of referencing word will give you a higher score for coherence and cohesion (see IELTS public band descriptors).

Comparing ‘like with like’

population

The population of Japan is lower than Thailand.

Here is an example of not ‘comparing like with like’.

In the noun phrase ‘the population of Japan’, ‘population’ is the main noun. ‘Population’, which is a mass of people, is said to be lower than ‘Thailand’, a land mass. This leaves the reader with an image of Thailand hovering up in the air, with the Japanese population some physical distance below it!

A mass of people is not like a land mass. In order to make sure that you’re ‘comparing like with like’, use a parallel structure:

  • The population of Japan is lower than the population of Thailand.

This may result in some repetition – ‘the population of’ is used twice. But don’t worry about repetition. At least you’re ‘comparing like with like’.

Repetition can be avoided in this kind of comparative structure by substituting ‘that’ for part of the phrase that you’re trying not to repeat:

  • The population of Japan is lower than that of Thailand.

In this example, that replaces the population, but it can be used to replace any noun or noun phrase.

Affected by ‘Affect to’

These days children see far too much violence on TV and this can affect to their emotional development.

Oops!

affects Y (without ‘to’) / Y is affected by X:

  • These days children see far too much violence on TV and this can affect their emotional development.
  • These days children’s emotional development can be affected by violence on TV.

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!