These seem to be popular, so I’ve combined three posts into one and made it all a little more user-friendly. Good luck!
Recently in class Chomsky’s name came up in discussion as the most widely cited author, but not many students knew his name or why he is so well-known.
The following video outlines Chomsky’s ground-breaking theory of language.
Before you watch the video, discuss with a friend the following questions.
- What makes human language different from animal language?
- Is language learned, or are we born with it?
- How is it possible that small children learn languages so quickly?
Watch the video and then attempt the text reconstruction activity at the bottom of the page.
A fun tool that converts any text into an interactive gapfill.
Go ahead and test yourself! Continue reading
Articles and nouns
For every noun you speak or write, you need to use grammar to communicate one of the meanings in the ‘meaning’ column in the table below. Continue reading
IELTS Listening Section 4 is arguably the most difficult part of the listening test. A single speaker delivers a talk or a lecture, and all ten questions have to be answered without a break. Continue reading
I enjoy using Facebook because I could see photos of my friends there.
Students are often confused about can/could, will/would. Sometimes they have learned at school that could and would are more formal, or more polite than can and will. That may be true when you are requesting something, but in IELTS speaking and writing you’re usually using can and will to communicate possibility or ability rather than to make a request.
Possibility / Likelihood
How possible or likely is it?
- I enjoy using Facebook because I can see photos of my friends there.
In this case there is a strong possibility (almost 100%) that I will see my friend’s photos on Facebook. In this case I need to use can.
Let’s imagine a similar situation where there is no possibility:
- If I had an Internet connection, I could see photos of my friends on Facebook.
Here the writer clearly does not have an Internet connection and so he is not likely to see his friend’s photos. Notice that in this example could is part of a structure called ‘second conditional’, which is used to describe an unlikely situation in the present:
If + subj + V2 + ‘,’ + subj + could/would + V1
In the ‘second conditional’ the situation you are describing is unlikely:
- If I found a million dollars in the street I would buy a new house.
This kind of imaginary situation is by far the most common context for could and would.
Indonesian students tend to overuse ‘will‘ because they want to translate ‘akan‘. But ‘will‘ is not used in English as much as ‘akan’ is used in Indonesian. Actually there are generally only three situations where will is suitable:
- ‘First conditional’ – a situation in the present that is highly possible:
Look at those clouds. I forgot my umbrella. If it rains I will get wet!
Look at those dark clouds! It will probably rain soon.
- Habits (usually annoying habits)
He drives me crazy. He‘ll (he will) trim his nails and then leave the cuttings all over the floor for me to clean up!
How able are you (or were you)?
It’s unusual to talk about past abilities, because once you acquire an ability, for example the ability to swim, you rarely lose that ability. It would be ridiculous, for example, to write:
- When I was younger I could swim, but then I forgot how to swim so now I can’t.
We generally only lose this kind of ability when something terrible happens to us:
- When I was younger I could swim, but then I lost my arms and legs in an accident and so now I can’t swim.
On the other hand ability can sometimes be a matter of degree. for example we can talk about partial ability, and about changes in our level of ability:
- When I was younger I could swim 20km, but now that I’m old I can only swim 20 metres!
Most of the time when we talk about ability we use can – present tense – because, most of the time, we’re making a claim that is true now or always.
Next time you write could or would stop and think. You probably should be writing can or will!