Idiomatic language in IELTS

I recently started walking to work occasionally, but it’s still only once in a blue moon.

Students read in the IELTS public band descriptors that band 7 candidates can use ‘idiomatic language’, and so they head for the nearest idioms dictionary and start writing things like ‘once in a blue moon‘, or ‘a bird in the hand is worth 2 in the bush‘, but in the wrong contexts!

In this post we take a look at what the IELTS test means by ‘idiomatic language’. Continue reading

The key to ‘_ing'(?!)

Conserving a language is the key to fully grasp the identity of a culture.

Let’s look functionally at what we are trying to communicate in this sentence:

[…something A…] is the key to [..something B..].

OK. So something A is obviously a thing or a behaviour that will help us to achieve something B, which is a thing or a behaviour that is difficult to achieve without something A. If something B is a thing, then it is a noun and not a verb, so we need the noun form of grasp, which is grasping:

  • Conserving a language is the key to fully grasping the identity of a culture.

For some reason the expressions the key to and the answer to often lead to this error, so watch out for those! In this structure, ‘to’ is a preposition and not part of the infinitive ‘to + V1’.