Not everything is ‘convenient’

Physical shops are more convenient than online stores. Firstly, in physical shops customers are able to touch goods and try on clothes. Secondly, shopping in physical shops can be a social activity.

There is a category of physical store aptly named ‘convenience stores‘. Many countries have 7 Elevens. In Indonesia we have Indomaret, Alfamart and Circle K.

Indonesian flag Indonesians might call a shop that sells everything at a low price ‘convenient‘. However, the prices in convenience stores like Circle K can be quite a lot higher than average. These shops inflate prices precisely so that they can offer ‘conveniences‘:

  • they are numerous, especially in cities
  • they have ample parking if they are situated on a road
  • they can even be found inside large shopping centres
  • they stock items that most people need on a daily basis
  • they provide fast and efficient service

These are all features that native English speakers would consider ‘convenient‘. In English something is ‘convenient‘ when it saves you time and effort. Being able to touch goods is not a matter of ‘convenience‘. It may be practical, but it is not what most people would call ‘convenient‘, and neither is meeting your friends when you go to physical stores.

For your convenience, here are some definitions of ‘convenience’, as well as some pictures of convenient things.

Ways that have to be done

There are more ways that have to be done to halt the spread of HIV.

Ways‘ followed by ‘to + V1’ is quite common, as in the expression “There’s more than one way to kill a cat.

However, ‘way‘ (noun) does not collocate in English with ‘do‘ (verb). You cannot ‘do‘ a ‘way‘. This is possible in some languages (Indonesian flag), but not in English.

Another problem here is the redundant use of ‘there are‘ (see previous post).

In English you might write:

  • More action needs to be taken to halt the spread of HIV.


  • More solutions needs to be considered to halt the spread of HIV.

Remember that strong collocation like this will get you a higher score for vocabulary in IELTS speaking and writing. You will find references to collocation in the IELTS public band descriptors.

Nominalisation yin and ‘yang’

In a previous post I showed how you can avoid relative clauses when you’re post-modifying nouns. This is especially useful in IELTS Task 1 writing where you have to modify a statistics word (number, amount, etc.) to include information from the axes of a graph, or from the labels attached to a chart, or from the column and row headings of a table.

Indonesian flag Here I want to appeal to Indonesian students to think again before translating ‘yang‘ when post-modifying nouns. Let’s compare a few sentences written by Indonesian students with their likely equivalents written by native English speakers:

Modified noun picture
Student sentence with error The picture that on the wall is from Australia.
Student sentence without error The picture that is on the wall is from Australia.
Native speaker The picture on the wall is from Australia.
Strategy used preposition phrase to post-modify the noun
Modified noun person
Student sentence with error The person who teach us is PG.
Student sentence without error The person who is teaching us is PG.
Native speaker The person teaching us is PG.
Strategy used ___ing to to post-modify the noun
Modified noun department store
Student sentence with error The department store that located in Bridge Street is SOGO.
Student sentence without error The department store that is located in Bridge Street is SOGO.
Native speaker The department store located in Bridge Street is SOGO.
Strategy used V3 to post-modify the noun

In these examples I used three very useful strategies to post-modify nouns:

  1. preposition phrases
  2. ___ing
  3. V3

Notice that when you avoid the relative pronoun ‘that’ (Indonesian flag YANG!), then you also avoid a common error made by Indonesian students – not adding the verb ‘to be’ to the relative clause.

Try using these strategies instead of relative clauses and see how it increases your score for vocabulary in IELTS writing and speaking!

Big cows because big horse

Indonesian flag In Bahasa Indonesia words are pronounced the way they are spelled. This often leads to some humorous mispronunciations when Indonesians apply the same rule to English.

It’s a good idea to try and overcome this problem, especially in words and phrases commonly used in IELTS Speaking. One such word is ‘because‘.

If we say ‘because‘ as it is spelled, then it sounds like:

  • big cows

However, when a native speaker says ‘because‘, it sounds very much like:

  • big horse

So, next time you want to say ‘because‘, say ‘big horse‘.

Paying (for) basic needs

In Australia I will need a lot of money to pay my basic needs.

Indonesian flag This is obviously a translation problem.

  • If I pay the shopkeeper, I give money to the shopkeeper.
  • If I pay for the bananas, I give money to the shopkeeper.
  • If I pay the shopkeeper for the bananas, I give money to the shopkeeper.
  • If I pay the bananas, I give money to the bananas!

Indonesian has different word forms to communicate different meanings – bayar, bayar kepada, bayari, and bayarkan. English, on the other hand, only has ‘pay’ and ‘pay for’:

  1. Pay the man. (Indonesian flag bayar kepada)
  2. Pay for the bananas. (Indonesian flag bayar)
  3. Pay for my coffee, would you? (Indonesian flag bayari)
  4. When you’re in town could you pay my electricity bill for me? Here’s the money. (Indonesian flag bayarkan)

In the first picture (below), a man is paying a woman for some vegetables:

pay for

In the next illustration, a man is paying some fruit and vegetables. He’s giving money to the fruit and vegetables: