‘That’ and ‘V3’ in noun phrases

The table shows the percentage of money that allocated by people in different countries for different reasons in 2002.

Indonesian flag Here an Indonesian student has made a noun phrase based on ‘yang di alokasikan‘. A grammar error has affected her IELTS score, but this could have been avoided using more sophisticated – and easy-to-learn – vocabulary.

Improved grammar

  • The table shows the percentage of money that was allocated by people in different countries for different reasons in 2002.

Here I added ‘to be‘ before the V3 to produce a correct passive. However, a native speaker would probably choose more sophisticated vocabulary:

Improved vocabulary

  • The table shows the percentage of money allocated by people in different countries for different reasons in 2002.

Here, instead of the ugly passive structure, which Indonesians always get wrong, I made a nominal group that contains the following elements all joined together:

  • the percentage..
  • of money (preposition phrase)
  • allocated by people (V3 phrase)
  • in different countries (preposition phrase)
  • for different reasons (preposition phrase)
  • in 2012 (preposition phrase)

Other elements are possible in nominal groups, but these are common. I will come back to nominal groups in future posts (for example here) as problems experienced by my current class arise.

Note that there is no ‘that’ in the V3 phrase (Indonesian ‘yang’). And BTW ‘V3 phrase’ is not its official name, but it’s much easier to remember than the official name (which I will keep secret for now..).

Not Tuesday! Thursday!!

Customer: Hi. I’ve come to collect one of the free iPhones.
Shopkeeper: Sorry, we told you to come on Tuesday. Today is Thursday. The phones are all taken!

Indonesian flag Indonesians (and maybe you, too?) find it difficult to hear the difference between ‘Tuesday’ and ‘Thursday’ as spoken by native speakers. That’s because Indonesians do not say these words very well, and if you cannot say it clearly then you cannot hear it clearly.

‘Tuesday’ is easy

‘Choose’ + ‘Day’ = Chooseday = Tuesday

‘Thursday’ is more challenging

Try saying ‘Sir’, but change the ‘s’ sound by pressing your tongue against the back of your upper teeth. Keep your tongue pressed against your teeth and just try to blow air between your tongue and your teeth. Keep your tongue in position so that it almost – but not quite – stops the air from getting out.

As you blow air past your teeth, try not to make any sound in your throat, like when the doctor asks you to say ‘Aaaaaaaaa’. Don’t do that – just blow!

‘Th…………………’

You should be able to blow out for several seconds, and so you should be able to make a ‘th’ sound for several seconds.

‘Th…………………………..’

Now add ‘Th’ to ‘Sir’, substituting ‘Th’ for ‘S’ (= ‘Thir!’). And then, as you say ‘ir’, you can add sound in your throat:

‘Th…….’ (lots of breath, no throat sound)… + ‘ir’ (less breath, added throat sound )…

Finally you can complete the word with ‘..sday’:

‘Th……….’ + ‘ir…..’ + ‘sday’

Now listen to two students and a teacher pronouncing the words Tuesday and Thursday!

Games of the future? Perfect!

In 2020, sales of all devices will increase.

In IELTS Task 1 writing candidates are often required to make future predictions based on data in graphs, tables, and charts.

This can be an opportunity to display some sophisticated grammar, in particular the future perfect tense!

In a previous post I showed you how to use a phrase beginning by + time expression to build a sentence using past perfect tense. In fact we can take the same approach with other perfect tenses:

Games of the future

In this example we can say:

By 2020, sales of all devices will have increased.

Here I used the structure:

by + future time expression + subject + will + have + V3

We can then add other information in the usual manner using will for prediction:

By 2020, sales of all devices will have increased. Sales of the PS4 will be double sales for the Xbox One, which will in turn be three times sales for the Wii U.

Future perfect is very rarely used by native speakers because there are very few opportunities to use it! This is one of the reasons why future perfect, and indeed the other ‘perfect’ tenses, helps to increase your IELTS score for grammar in both writing and speaking.

Pay careful attention to the structure of future perfect and good luck with your future predictions in IELTS task 1!

Lazy to read

I know that reading is important, but Indonesian people are lazy to read.

Indonesian flag This is an almost direct translation of “malas baca“, right?

In most English speaking countries, people who read are usually educated and interested in the world, and these are seen as positive characteristics. Meanwhile laziness is thought to be a very negative characteristic. Nobody in an English speaking country would openly admit to being ‘lazy to read‘ – they would feel too embarrassed.

In any case ‘lazy to + V1’ is bad collocation. In a situation when laziness is more appropriate, the native English speaker might say:

  • I can’t be bothered to go jogging this morning. Anyway it’s raining.

If you are ready to admit your laziness when it comes to reading, then you might say:

  • I know that reading is important, but Indonesian people can’t be bothered to read.

But I urge you to think again about reading. It’s an essential skill in IELTS and in university. Practice it and it will become easier and more enjoyable!

Performance and Appearance

My friends advised me change my performance, so I went to the salon, bought some new clothes and smart shoes. My friends agree that my performance is much better now.

Indonesian flag This looks like an Indonesian student trying to translate ‘penampilan‘!

  1. Appearance
    Before a clown goes on stage, he must first of all change his appearance. This usually involves changing clothes and applying makeup. When he goes on stage, the audience will laugh at the clown because he looks funny.
  2. Performance
    When the clown is on stage, the audience might also laugh at the clown because of his performance. For example he might walk in a funny way, or he might do funny things, like throw custard pies at people.

Notice also that appearance and performance have different meanings in their countable and uncountable forms:

  • appearance uncountable: clothing, makeup, grooming, etc.
  • appearance countable: Let’s say the clown goes on stage in London tonight, and in Jakarta tomorrow night. That’s two appearances.
  • performance uncountable: This is usually for machines, in particular cars. A high-performance car, for example a Ferrari, can move very fast.
  • performance countable: Let’s say the clown goes on stage in London tonight, and in Jakarta tomorrow night. That’s two performances.

You can see that in their countable forms, appearance and performance generally have the same meaning. However, you need to be careful with the uncountable forms of appearance and performance!

Indonesian flag Indonesians usually write performance when they mean appearance.

I’ll give you a text that features these different meanings. For each example, can you guess which meaning I’m using?

Clowns are not usually interested in the performance (1) of cars because that’s not funny. Instead they ride unicycles as part of their on-stage performances (2). They also change their physical appearance (3) before they go on stage to make sure they look funny. A travelling clown makes up to 100 appearances (4) a year in different locations.

Change in graphs, tables and charts

fast food 550

In 2015 sales of all 3 types of fast food increased dramatically.

This is a common error. Unfortunately there is no information about change in 2015, only from 2005 to 2015:

  • Between 2005 and 2015 sales of all 3 types of fast food increased dramatically.

If you are not specific about the time frame then your reporting of data will be inaccurate and you will receive a low score in IELTS for Task Achievement.

Before you write, decide exactly when the change happened and design a suitable time expression. These are the most commonly used:

  1. from time 1 to time 2
  2. between time 1 and time 2

X accounts for Y in IELTS Task 1

The number of students in 2001 was accounted 33,438 students.

This writer has learned, or noticed, that the word ‘account‘ is often used to describe numbers in IELTS Task 1 writing.

Well, that’s a step in the right direction, but he or she now needs to do some more noticing. And to speed up noticing, we need examples! Take a look at (print?) these examples. Then answer the following questions.

  1. What word nearly always follows accounts when accounts is a verb)? (answer)
  2. Answer: ‘Accounts’ is always followed by ‘for’.
  3. What kind of data always follows accounts for when accounts for is describing data? (answer)
  4. Answer: The data that follows ‘accounts for’ is a percentage.

Now that we know more about account (we have noticed more), we can see that the use of account in the opening example is inappropriate because the data being described is the wrong kind of data. We cannot use accounts for to  give an objective description of a number in a graph, table or chart.

We saw in the examples that accounts for is part of the structure:

Something accounts for something.

OR

accounts for Y.

Look at the pie chart below. Refer again to the examples and see if you can make a sentence about Firefox using accounts for. As you write, think also about the time frame and what tense you need to use. If you like what you’ve written, please add it as a comment below this post!

X accounts for Y

I love you because I love you

Yes, I like my job because it matches my education.

In IELTS you will often be required to express opinions about topics that you may not have thought about very deeply or discussed in daily conversation with friends. Not only do you have to give opinions, you also have to give reasoned support for these opinions.

The opening statement can be expressed:

Claim: I like my job.
Support: My job matches my education.

Fine. But let’s say you studied chemistry at university and you now work as a chemist. Then you could say:

  • I like working as a chemist because I studied chemistry at university.

OR

  • I studied chemistry at university because I wanted to work as a chemist.

But then it is possible to say:

  • I enjoy working as a chemist because I studied chemistry at university because I wanted to be a chemist because I was studying chemistry because I wanted to be a chemist.

This is known as a circular argument. You say you like your job, and since you chose to study chemistry, we assume that you like that, too. So we still don’t know why you like chemistry (your job)! You might as well say “I like it because I like it!

circular argument

There are much better reasons why a person might like their job:

  • the job pays a good salary
  • the job involves travelling (which you enjoy)
  • the job involves meeting interesting people
  • the job presents opportunities for career development
  • the workplace is situated conveniently close to your home
  • (other reasons here)

So, when you’re preparing for IELTS, think – more deeply than usual – about the things you like (or don’t like). And then think about why you like (or don’t like) them.

Let’s practice right now. Here is a list of things people either like or don’t like. Choose one item and add a comment below, saying why you either like or don’t like the item. Try to give two reasons, and avoid those circular arguments!

  • travelling
  • shopping
  • reading
  • listening to music
  • preparing for IELTS