Cementing ideas with ‘it’ and ‘this’

A good way to avoid repetition in writing, and at the same time to cement (= stick) sentences together so that ideas flow smoothly, is to use what’s called referencing and substitution (many examples of referencing and substitution in previous posts).

In this post we focus again on using it and this as substitutes for themes and rhemes. If you’re not sure what is meant by theme and rheme, please read this before trying the activity below. Continue reading

I love the culinary

First of all I love the culinary.

Here an Indonesian IELTS candidate has made a positive claim about a place he or she likes, and is supporting that claim with another positive comment about the food there. This candidate perhaps feels that food is not a particularly ‘high-band’ word, and is experimenting with a more sophisticated synonym.

Indonesian flag The word culinary has been imported from English into Indonesian, but it has changed slightly in the process. Whereas in Indonesian kuliner can be used either as an adjective or a noun, the English culinary can only be used as an adjective. And so straight away the candidate has produced a word form error.

If you want a high-band synonym for ‘food’, you might try:

  • First of all I love the cuisine.

But be careful! Cuisine (a word borrowed from French!) is used in English to refer to the kind of food preparation you might expect in an expensive restaurant, or the kind of cooking that wins prizes in competitions. On the other hand if you’re talking about the kind of food that ordinary people eat in a particular country, day-to-day, then you’re talking about their food:

  • First of all I love the food.

So what have we learned?

  1. Words borrowed from other languages can change in several ways:
  • form : culinarykuliner
  • meaning : special food only – all food
  • grammar : adjective – adj/noun
  1. Using synonyms in an attempt to appear more sophisticated can get you into trouble. Only do it if you’re confident that you have chosen a synonym that carries the right meaning and fits grammatically into a phrase or sentence.

Little equipment

You only need little equipment to play badminton.

This has two literal meanings, both of which seem odd:

  1. You only need small equipment to play badminton.
  2. You need not enough equipment to play badminton.

Clearly the writer did not intend either of these meanings. First of all there is obviously a standard size for badminton equipment, which is neither small nor large. Secondly, it would be impossible to play badminton without ‘enough’ equipment!

Little and a little have quite different meanings. Compare:

  1. Gosh I’m thirsty after that game! Do you have any water left?
  2. Yes, I still have a little. Here you are.
    [a little = not much, but enough]
  1. I wish we could play badminton more often!
  2. Yes, but because of my job I have little time.
    [little = not enough]

In the opening example, the writer is – I think – trying to say that playing badminton does not involve a lot of equipment:

  • You don’t need much equipment to play badminton.

In this case, not much means enough, and that’s good because it means that badminton is inexpensive compared to, say, photography, which generally involves a lot of expensive equipment and therefore a lot of spending!

Industrial theatre production(s)

Automation in industry means increased productivity and better productions.

Yet another word that has quite different meanings in its countable and uncountable forms!

In its countable form, production has strong associations with music and theatre:

  • Medieval theatre productions are still performed today.
  • 300 performances were given of 33 different opera productions.
  • The earliest sound effects were strictly studio productions.
  • Previous acclaimed productions include “Oklahoma!”
  • The building was used for massive concerts and theatrical productions.

It’s only when it’s in its uncountable form that production means manufacturing:

  • The highest production recorded was fifty thousand annually.
  • The company has 15 production plants worldwide.
  • By 1900 daily production was 2 thousand tons.
  • Even small scale “capitalist” production was suppressed.
  • The pellets production required increased freshwater access.

And so returning to our opening example, we need:

  • Automation in industry means increased productivity and better production.

‘Industry’ and ‘Industries’

Urbanisation supports economic development. Firstly, it is a supporting factor to increase industries.

OK so industry is one of those annoying words that can be countable and can be uncountable, depending on the context. If you’re being general then you need the uncountable form. Continue reading

Articles and/or ‘s’

WARNING to lazy students! This post includes tricky grammar rules and there’s a challenging practice activity for you to try at the end!

Articles and nouns

For every noun you speak or write, you need to use grammar to communicate one of the meanings in the ‘meaning’ column in the table below. Continue reading

‘Compared to’ instead of ‘rather than’

Cities offer larger salaries to people rather than small towns.

Here the comparison is between ‘salaries’ and ‘small towns’. The writer is saying that cities offer people large salaries and do not offer them small towns. Hmm. I would be quite happy if someone gave me a small town!

If we want to compare the salaries offered by cities with the salaries offered by small towns, then we need:

  • Cities offer larger salaries compared to small towns.
    (= salaries in cities vs. salaries in small towns)

And if you really must use rather than, then you could also write:

  • Cities offer larger salaries rather than smaller salaries.
    (= larger salaries vs. smaller salaries)

Most of the time instead of is synonymous with rather than:

  • Cities offer larger salaries instead of smaller salaries.

However, instead of is quite often a replacement for something that came before:

  • City companies now use electronic transfer instead of cash payment for salaries.

Next time make sure you’re comparing what you mean to compare!

Commoners turn from opera to Oprah!

Common people watch television every night for six hours.

I don’t think the writer intended to be so negative, or worse – insulting! Let’s explore the meaning of common, first of all by looking inside an opera house.

Opera house
Seating inside a typical opera house

Some seats in opera houses have always been more expensive than others. The cheapest seats are in ‘The Stalls’ or in ‘The Gods’, because in these areas the view of the stage is limited. Wealthier people can afford to pay for a private ‘box’, and they get a better view. The best view, meanwhile, is from the ‘Royal Box’. Continue reading