Conservation Conversation

Zoos are good places for animals conservation.

This is an example of a noun pre-modifying another noun.

Say what?!

Well, sometimes we have to consider how nouns function within a larger noun phrase.

Come again?!

Well, animal is a noun, and conservation is a noun, but together they form a noun phrase: animal conservation.

So what’s the problem then, Pak Guru?

Well, in this example, the ‘main’ noun is conservation.

What do you mean main noun?

Well, in this example, are you saying that zoos are good for animals or good for conservation?

For.. conservation!

Right, so conservation is the main noun.

I see, so what’s wrong with animals?

OK, well in the example animals is pre-modifying conservation. ‘Pre’ means ‘before’ – the word ‘animals’ comes before the word ‘conservation’, right?

Wait. Did you say ‘modifying’? What’s that?!

Well, the word animals changes (modifies) the word conservation – it tells us exactly what kind of conservation.

OK. But I still don’t see what is wrong with the original sentence.

The problem is.. If you use a countable noun to pre-modify another noun, then that modifying noun (in this case animal) must be singular.

I see. Like ‘Computer scientist?’


The featured image for this post is a photograph of the man who has done more than any other to conserve wildlife, the incredible David Attenborough – here conversing with orang utan.

When to be possessive?

Interacting with many people expands students vision and broadens their horizons.

This is a tricky one! There are many exceptions to the guidelines that follow. First of all let’s compare the following noun phrases:

  1. students vision
    plural noun + noun – is not possible. It is grammatically incorrect.
  2. students’ vision
    plural noun + possessive + noun is possible, meaning particular vision – the vision of the group of students under discussion. This structure is common when the first noun is ‘animate’.
  3. student vision
    singular noun + noun – is also possible, meaning a kind of vision – ‘student vision’ as opposed to, say, ‘teacher vision’. This structure is common when the first noun is ‘inanimate’.

Returning to our opening example, meaning 2 would appear to be the most appropriate:

  • Interacting with many people expands students’ vision and broadens their horizons.

Notice also that we now have a parallel structure with two clauses containing possessives – expands students’ vision, broadens their horizons.

Not that sector, this one!

Agricultural sector is different from economic sector in the way research is conducted.

Indonesian flag First of all in English we tend not to label nouns as much as you do in Bahasa Indonesia. An easy example is colours. In English when we mention colours, it isn’t necessary to use the word ‘colour’:

  • Saya suka warna merah.
  • I like blue.

Therefore our opening example could easily be written:

  • Agriculture is different from economics in the way research is conducted.

However, if you must use the word ‘sector’, and if you are talking about specific sectors, then you need to communicate this one exactly:

  • The agricultural sector is different from the economic sector in the way research is conducted.

If you do not use ‘the’ when you mean this one exactly then you will receive a low score in IELTS for grammar and for coherence and cohesion. If you do not use ‘the’ when you mean this one exactly then your reader will stop reading and think “Does he mean this one exactly, or does he mean one of many, or does he mean all of them everywhere?” You must communicate one of these meanings if you want to be understood clearly.

If you want to communicate one of many then you need to use ‘a’:

  • Agriculture is a sector that requires different research approaches.
    (This implies that, in addition to agriculture, there are other sectors, like education, which also require different research approaches.)

If you want to communicate all of them everywhere then you need to use ‘s’:

  • Government sectors include health, education, agriculture and economics.

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!