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!

Concerned about ‘concern’

The government does not concern about the crime rate in cities.

Here concern is used in the form of a verb, but the grammar is not right. It would have been better to use to be along with the adjective form of concern: concerned.

On the one hand you can be concerned about nothing in particular:

  • The government is not concerned.

And on the other hand you can (not) to be concerned about a particular thing:

  • The government is not concerned about the crime rate in cities.

If something is the object of concern, then remember to use the preposition: concerned about (something).

It’s also possible to say the same thing using concern as a noun, where concern often collocates with another word (in this case, ’cause’):

  • The government does not consider the crime rate in cities to be a cause for concern.

And it’s also possible to use the verb form (notice the auxiliary verb ‘to do’ in the construction of the negative!):

  • The crime rate in cities does not concern the government.

So which one to use? Adjective? Noun? Verb? Well if you can remember to put __ed onto concern and add about, it’s probably best to use the adjective form!

Tell us about some of the things you’re concerned about. Use the comments box below this post.

Humansss

There will be many disadvantages for human if animal testing is stopped.

If we check in a dictionary, we see that human can be an adjective and it can be a noun. In this example human is used as a noun.

If we check again in the dictionary, we see that human is a countable noun. In grammar, we know that if we’re talking about all examples of a thing, everywhere, and the thing is countable, then we must add an ‘s’ to the noun:

  • There will be many disadvantages for humans if animal testing is stopped.

Mistakes are often made when human is used as a noun modifier, in which case the ‘s’ might be added to the main noun:

  • There will be many disadvantages for human beings if animal testing is stopped.

Can you identify examples of human used as a noun, and human used as a noun modifier? Add them to the comments below :).

When ‘usually’ is unusual!

In my spare time I usually go out with my friends.

This is grammatically correct. However, if you’re talking about something you do regularly or habitually then present simple tense is all you need:

  • In my spare time I go out with my friends.

Indonesian flag Indonesians will feel a need to translate ‘biasanya’, but in English present simple tense already carries the meaning of usually, and so usually is redundant in a sentence like this.

Only use usually when you want to make a contrast between something you do habitually, and something that you do, or have to do, because of exceptional or unforeseen circumstances:

  • In my spare time I usually go out with my friends, but today I have my IELTS interview.

Fluctuative?!

Since the abolition of fuel subsidies, prices have been fluctuative.

Nice try! The IELTS examiner will understand that you are trying to make an adjective from the verb ‘fluctuate’ using ‘ive’. Normally this would be a good strategy, but there is no such word as ‘fluctuative’ and so this time you will receive a low score for vocabulary.

The safest approach is to use the verb form:

  • ..prices have fluctuated.

Alternatively, you can make an adjective phrase using the noun form and featuring some collocation:

  • ..prices have been subject to fluctuation.

Finally you might try some more fancy academic collocation:

  • ..prices have tended to fluctuate.

Now go ahead and remove fluctuative from your list of ‘ive’ adjectives!

For the sake of future generations

It is important to consider the negative effects for the sake of our young generation.

We like ‘for the sake of’, but not ‘our young generation’. It’s grammatically correct but doesn’t feel right. Therefore we probably have a collocation problem.

How about this:

  • It is important to consider the negative effects for the sake of future generations.

When you think about it, future generations all start out young, and we would hope that there will be more than one future generation. In academic writing it is also better to avoid personal pronouns, even possessives (‘our’). We therefore recommend the phrase for the sake of future generations.

Consider ‘consider’

First of all it is necessary to consider about unemployment. Unemployment is considered as a serious problem.

Indonesian flag This one is a quickie for Indonesians who feel a strong urge to insert ‘tentang’ after consider and ‘sebagai’ after the passive considered.

  • First of all it is necessary to consider unemployment.
  • Unemployment is considered (to be) a serious problem.

Next time you use consider/considered, consider not using ‘tentang’/’sebagai’!

Spend time _ing

At the weekend I like to spend my time to cook.

There are two problems here. First of all you are unlikely to spend anybody else’s time other than your own, so ‘my’ is redundant. Secondly, ‘spend time’ is much more commonly followed by _ing (gerund):

  • At the weekend I like to spend time cooking.

You can also use a preposition phrase to show where you spend time:

  • At the weekend I like to spend time in the kitchen.

And you can even combine these two examples:

  • At the weekend I like to spend time in the kitchen cooking.

Now spend some time practicing ‘spend time’!

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
The answer to number 10 is ‘A’.
Negative
The answer to number 10 is not ‘A’.
Yes/No
Is the answer to number 10 ‘A’?
Why
Why is the answer to number 10 ‘A’?
Why (neg)
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!