Make me ______!

Routine activities make our hearts are happy.

Indonesian flag I’m not sure why Indonesian students run into problems with make, especially when make is tied to an adjective –  as it is in this example. The Indonesian structure is exactly the same as the English:

verb noun adjective
Indonesian flag membuat orang senang
Union Jack make someone happy

Buat orang senang = Make someone happy = Make + noun + adjective

  • Routine activities make our hearts happy.

Of course make can also be tied to a verb:

  • She made me do it!

In this case you need the structure:

  • subject + make + object + V1

So, make is actually easier to use than you might think:

  • She makes me happy (adj).
  • She makes me laugh (v).

Photos that never forget

I keep my photos because they can memorise the moment.

But in order to memorise anything they would need consciousness, which is of course impossible. A photograph does not have a brain:

memorise

Only humans can memorise things, so perhaps you mean:

  • I keep my photos because they help me to remember the moment.

Be careful with ‘memorise‘. We don’t usually memorise ‘moments’. We generally memorise information, and this often requires continued and intensive concentration. For example if you want to remember somebody’s phone number, you must first of all memorise it. The memory of the number then stays in your head ready for the next time you need it. With a photograph, the memory might not stay in your head. Rather, you remember the moment whenever you look at the photograph. In this sense the photo acts as ‘a reminder‘.

Indonesian flag Indonesians would do well to read through the previous paragraph and consider the translations of ingat and its forms, and also hafal and its forms.

My yard is wide

Of course I love my house. It has a yard. Actually it’s not a very wide yard.

Indonesian flag Here an Indonesian candidate is translating ‘luas’ (lit. ‘wide’).

In English, ‘wide’ is one of several dimensions (including ‘long’, ‘deep’, etc.), and doesn’t really communicate the idea of overall size.  If you tell me your yard is wide, I immediately want to know whether it is long. Then I might be able to decide whether it is big or small. For example, a yard might be 10m ‘wide’, but only 10cm ‘long’.

To communicate the idea of overall size – when speaking about the land next to or between buildings – it would be better to say:

  • Of course I love my house. It has a yard. Actually it’s not a very big yard.

More academic synonyms for ‘big’ might include ‘spacious’, ‘expansive’.

Labouring over ‘labourers’

Some people claim that working hours for labours in factories are too long.

Indonesian flag Here an Indonesian student is trying to find a synonym for ‘worker‘. Unfortunately the hierarchy of ‘work‘ is labelled differently in English.

In English a ‘labourer‘ (‘labour‘ + ‘er‘) does work that distinguish him or her from other kinds of worker:

  • Labourers are usually unskilled.
  • Labourers often have to use physical strength because their work requires them to lift and carry things.
  • The work of labourers is generally outdoor work.
  • Labouring is often dirty work.
  • Labouring is not very well paid in most countries.

Here are some pictures of ‘labourers.

If you want to use a synonym for ‘worker’ then try to consider:

  • where the work takes place
  • the level of skill involved
  • the salary it attracts

These considerations will lead you to a more accurate label for the work you are talking or writing about. In IELTS a more accurate label is also likely to get you a higher score for Lexical Resource (vocabulary).

This dictionary entry offers a wide selection of labels for different kinds of work.

Other word forms and idioms

Labourer – the person (countable)

Labour – noun (uncountable, abstract meaning)

Labour – verb

Laborious – adjective (Sometimes skilled work can be ‘laborious’, especially if it requires physical effort or is repetitive).

Hard labour – A form of punishment used by tyrannical governments, often for political prisoners. If my work feels like hard labour, it’s very hard work!

In labour – Giving birth!

Labour over something – Work extra hard at a task.

When ‘existence’ should not exist

Some people believe that the existence of machines helps to generate more profit than loss.

Indonesian flag This is a common translation problem for Indonesians. Keberadaan!

In English it is automatically assumed that things and people exist, unless otherwise stated.

  • Some people believe that machines help to generate more profit than loss.
  • Some people believe that the absence of machines can result in losses.

Incidentally, can anyone guess the names of the couple in the cover photo for this post, and why were they chosen? Comments below!

Humans are usually redundant

In conclusion, long working hours are necessary for human beings.

Indonesian flag I’m guessing this may be a cultural issue.

Let’s try a quick test. Which of the following sentences is NOT about working hours and humans?

  1. Long working hours are necessary for human beings.
  2. Long working hours are necessary.
  3. Long working hours are necessary for ants.

Hopefully you chose number 3. In any discussion of working hours, and indeed of many other topics, we’re usually talking about human beings, unless otherwise specified.

The only time we really need to mention humans is when we’re contrasting them with non-humans!

Ethnic(ity)

Different ethnics will have different languages to communicate.

Indonesian flag This is one of those situations where the English word has been borrowed and its use altered. In this case what was in English an adjective has been turned into a noun.

English offers two word forms – ethnic (adjective), ethnicity (noun):

  • Different ethnic groups will have different languages to communicate.
  • People with different ethnicity will have different languages to communicate.

And by the way, how exactly do you describe your own ethnicity? Comments below!

Are the benefits benefitial?

Constructing impressive buildings benefits more for visitors than local people.

Indonesian flag This is another word that often gets at least partly lost in translation. Let’s look at some possible improvements.

Benefit – verb

  • Constructing impressive buildings benefits visitors more than local people.

The verb ‘benefit‘ is transitive, no preposition. Notice the position of ‘more‘ in the comparison!

Beneficial – adjective

  • Constructing impressive buildings is more beneficial for visitors than for local people.

The adjective ‘beneficial’ may be followed by a preposition phrase – usually ‘beneficial + for‘ (except “When attempting to lose weight it is more beneficial to exercise than to diet.“).

Without a comparative you might also write:

  • Constructing impressive buildings is beneficial.

Benefit – noun

  • The benefits to visitors of constructing impressive buildings are greater than the benefits to local people.

The noun ‘benefit‘ – when applied to people (visitors) – is followed by ‘to‘.
When applied to things (constructing impressive buildings) it is followed by ‘of‘.

(And) besides

Search features help shoppers to find what they’re looking for. Besides, online shopping offers customers various payment methods.

Besides…
And besides…

These are often used inaccurately as they don’t translate well from other languages.

Besides

Let’s use besides to modify the following argument:

  • I don’t think we should go to the cinema tonight. First of all I don’t like the film. Secondly, there is an unusual amount of traffic in town. Finally, we don’t have any money.

Here there are three supports for not wanting to see the film:

  1. I don’t like the film.
  2. The traffic in town is heavy.
  3. We don’t have any money.

The same argument could be expressed using besides, as follows:

  • I don’t think we should go to the cinema tonight. Besides not liking the film and the unusual amount of traffic in town, we don’t have any money.

The second sentence (the supports) can be represented:

  • Besides + claim(s) [expressed as noun phrases] + , + final claim [expressed as a sentence].

In this case ‘besides‘ simply means ‘as well as‘.

And besides

Here the meaning is a little different:

  • I don’t think we should go to the cinema tonight. First of all I don’t like the film. Secondly, there is an unusual amount of traffic in town. And besides, we don’t have any money.

The claim introduced by and besides is much stronger than the preceding claims. In fact, it is so strong that it is really not necessary to consider the previous claims. If we have no money, then there’s no way we can go to the cinema!

Again, it’s useful to diagram the structure:

  • Weak claim(s) + And besides + very strong (and final!) claim

Here the meaning is more than just ‘as well as‘. ‘And besides‘ introduces a very powerful claim that makes all other preceding claims redundant.

The use of ‘usage’

The usage of technology is very important to learn effectively.

OK this is a tricky one. I’ve searched online for an answer but could find only one that is useful for IELTS candidates and EAP students. I’m going to borrow heavily from this person’s post. Unfortunately I cannot include an attribution because link added to the post is no longer active.

When we refer to word usage, we might be talking about how much of a thing is used or has been used. This is usually in the context of fuel consumption:

  • Darling our electricity bill was huge this month. We really must cut down on our usage!

In language learning, meanwhile, we use usage when we’re talking about the conventions for using words:

  • This text describes the principles of word usage.

By ‘conventional’ use, we mean:

  • how a word is conventionally used in a certain communicative context
  • how a word is conventionally used next to other words in a sentence
  • how the same word is conventionally used in a particular language (The Indonesian meaning of ‘convenient‘ is not quite the same as the English meaning.)

When we refer to ‘use of words’, we mean only the employment of words:

  • He is noted for his frequent use of wrong words.

People frequently use usage when they should use use. The noun usage should not be substituted for use when the meaning is ‘the employment of’ – even if you think it sounds more sophisticated.

Neither of the following is correct:

  • The wise usage of computers saved the company money.
  • Usage of insulation can save fuel.

In both of these examples, use is the appropriate word.

Returning to our opening example, we need:

  • The use of technology is very important to learn effectively.

usage

Even better, avoid ‘use‘ altogether and begin with a more coherent theme:

  • Technology plays an important role in effective learning.
  • Learning is more effective with the help of technology.

Incidentally people also write utilisation when they mean use. That’s another one likely to get you into trouble, so just avoid it. Use is all you need!