Why is..?

Excuse me, why the answer to number 10 is ‘A’?

Excuse me, why is this grammatically incorrect? Here are some correct sentences:

Positive ūüôā The answer to number 10 is ‘A’.
Negative ūüôā The answer to number 10 is not ‘A’.
Yes/No question ūüôā Is the answer to number 10 ‘A’?
Why question ūüôā Why is the answer to number 10 ‘A’?
Negative why question ūüôā Why isn’t the answer to number 10 ‘B’?

How about I show you study the correct sentences and then explain the rule in your own words in the comments below?


DishwasherS, vacuum cleanerS, etc.

Domestic work is made easier with the use of dishwasher, vacuum cleaner, and washing machine.

It doesn’t matter which dishwasher, which vacuum cleaner, or which washing machine, they all make domestic work easier, or at least so this claim seems to suggest.

  • Domestic work is made easier with the use of dishwashers, vacuum cleaners, and washing machines.

If your claim applies to all of them everywhere, add an ‘s’ to your noun!


Wrong because of ‘because of’

These problems have become more serious because of the government have failed to end corruption.

Ok, so there’s a problem here because of ‘because of’!

It should read:

ūüôā These problems have become more serious because the government have failed to end corruption.

Just follow this rule:

  • because +¬†cause sentence
  • because of +¬†cause noun

If you really want to use because of then you might write:

  • These problems have become more serious because of the government’s failure to end corruption.


Million or millions?

According to a recent census, there are 265 millions people living in Indonesia.

Yes, I know it seems¬†right. But it isn’t.¬†Only put an ‘s’ on million when million is the main noun in a noun phrase.¬†Very often¬†million¬†is the main noun in a noun phrase when it is at the beginning of a sentence..

  • Millions of people live in Indonesia, a huge archipelago in south-east Asia.

..but not always. It might appear somewhere inside a sentence:

  • Indonesia spends millions of dollars every year subsidising fuel.

In the noun phrase¬†millions of people,¬†millions is the main noun, modified by¬†of people. We know exactly which millions you’re talking about – not¬†millions of bananas, for example! The same goes for¬†millions of dollars¬†(not¬†millions of rupiah!).

When¬†million¬†is not the main noun, for example when it is modifying another noun, don’t add an ‘s’:

According to a recent census, there are 265 million people living in Indonesia.

In the noun phrase¬†265 million people living in Indonesia, the main noun is ‘people’. All of the other words in the phrase¬†give us information about ‘people’ – how many, and where they live.

The same rule applies to hundred(s), thousand(s), etc.



Select words from the drop-down menus to complete the text. When you have finished, click 'Check your answers!' for feedback.

('Z' = 'zero article')

Last year of people around the world spent 2 dollars or more buying consumer goods. Of these goods, smartphones have become a dollar industry with of manufacturers in more than 3 countries. In the future this is likely to grow to many .

Task 1 Past Perfect

Past perfect tense needs to be handled with care. It is most useful in the narrative genre and is seldom needed in Task 2 writing. However, Task 1 essays occasionally present an opportunity to use past perfect.

Let’s try an exercise! Follow my instructions carefully and attempt the tasks before reading my sample texts.

  1. Look at the following graph and attempt to describe it in two short paragraphs. The first paragraph will focus on general trends and will begin:

In general..

The second paragraph will describe details and will begin:

In detail..

When you’re happy with your writing, you can read my sample text.

  1. Finished writing? OK now take a look at my sample text and analysis.






Sample text

In general, Facebook had by far the highest number of active users per month, and this number increased by more than 50% during the period. Despite having far fewer users per month, Twitter experienced a similar increase in numbers, but was overtaken half way through the period by Instagram.

In detail, Facebook already had a billion active users in 2012, but by 2015 this figure had increased to more than 1.5 billion. Twitter was in second place until 2014 when the monthly number of active Instagram users began to exceed that of Twitter users, and by 2015 Instagram had taken a 0.1 billion user lead over Twitter, forcing Twitter into third position. Similarly, by 2015 Snapchat had attracted only half as many active users per month as Instagram.


Notice the structural use of past perfect in the detail section. I admit that I went a bit mad with it, but I strongly recommend this structure:

By + past time expression + subject + V3

Final task

  1. Take another look at your own text. Did you use my past perfect structure? If not, can you edit your text so as to include it in at least one sentence? Please share your writing in the comments section!

The blah blah thing

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

In the noun phrases agricultural sector and economic sector, you mention specific sectors Рagricultural and economic. It is obvious that you are not talking about the bananas sector and the pornography sector.

If you mention a noun and both you and your reader know exactly which noun you’re talking about, then you must use the definite article ‘the’:

ūüôā The agricultural sector is different from the¬†economic sector in the way research is conducted.

Admittedly, identifying the main noun in a noun phrase becomes challenging with longer phrases. For example, can you¬†identify the main noun in the following highlighted phrase? Answers in the comments section¬†below! ūüôā

I sometimes experience difficulties with the less obvious and more subtly nuanced aspects of article use in unnecessarily complicated academic writing.

Have fun with ‘the’. See you in the comments section.



In Australia I will need a lot of budget because I have to buy many things.

First of all budget is countable, and since you’ve written ‘a lot of’, then there should be an ‘s’ on budget. But there’s another problem. Budget has 2 meanings that are potentially useful in this situation:

1. Budget as a sum of money that has been set aside for a particular purpose:

In Australia I will need a large budget because I have to buy many things.

2. Budget as a document containing a list of items:

In Australia there will be many items on my budget, and so I will need a lot of money.

In both of these examples..

  • budget is a singular countable noun
  • ‘large’ collocates with budget
  • ‘item(s)’ collocates with budget (don’t forget the preposition ‘on’)
  • as a singular countable noun, budget requires some kind of determiner (article, possessive, etc.)

Often students who are preparing for IELTS feel they have to do everything to avoid repetition, and so they use¬†budget instead of ‘money’.¬†However, budget is not synonymous with ‘money’. When you’re talking about money and comparing how much things cost, it’s safer to use words like ‘money’, ‘cheap’, ‘expensive’, etc.

Add a comment below and tell us about¬†some of the items on your budget for study in Australia! ūüôā

image source

Against the misuse of ‘against’

Most Indonesian people against the removal of fuel subsidies.

In English, against is a preposition, and so this sentence does not contain a verb and is therefore not a sentence. To make it a sentence, you can do this..

  • Most Indonesian people¬†are against¬†the removal of fuel subsidies.
    (to be + against)

or (slightly more academic) this..

  • Most Indonesian people oppose the removal of fuel subsidies.

or (also academic) this..

  • Most Indonesian people object to the removal of fuel subsidies.

Hope that helps!

there is/are (ada)

In Australia there are many women receive the same salary as men.

flag-of-indonesia¬†A common mistake made by Indonesians is to include the ‘introductory subject’ (there is/there are)¬†as well as¬†another subject, before the verb in a sentence.This might be possible in Bahasa Indonesia, but¬†in English you must choose either this:

  • In Australia many women receive the same salary as men.
    (subject: many women)

..or this:

  • In Australia there are many women who receive the same salary as men.
    (subject: there are)

flag-of-indonesia¬†Next time your head is telling you ‘ada..‘, stop and ask yourself whether you really need to use¬†there is/there are. If¬†you already have a subject, don’t use¬†there is/there are!

Avoiding condoms

Everybody knows that condoms can avoid pregnancy.

Why is the IELTS examiner confused by this? Because it creates in the mind of the examiner a kind of impossible cartoon image showing two condoms having sex in such a way that the female condom will not become pregnant.

image Indonesians need to consider the difference between avoid (menghindar) and prevent (mencegah):

  • Everybody knows that condoms can prevent pregnancy.

Think of the condom as the agent that does the preventing. Humans can avoid pregnancy through the use of condoms, where the condom is the agent of prevention. So..

  • Condoms can prevent pregnancy.
  • Women can avoid pregnancy.