The art of which?

The arts perhaps bring balance and harmony which the arts are not just what you see but what you make others see.

This is potentially sophisticated. You need:

  • The arts perhaps bring balance and harmony in which the arts are not just what you see but what you make others see.

OK, so what’s happening here? Well we have..

independent clause in which independent clause
The arts perhaps bring balance and harmony in which the arts are not just what you see but what you make others see.

But notice that the second independent clause describes the thing mentioned in the rheme of the first independent clause (balance and harmony).

Actually you can also use according to which:

  • The arts perhaps bring balance and harmony according to which the arts are not just what you see but what you make others see.

Hmm OK so let me see if I can create my own example following the same 3 elements. (Just let me roll up my sleeves. Ahem.) OK here goes..

  • Language acquisition is a gradual process in which students struggle to master the grammatical and phonological rules of a new language.
  • Language acquisition is a gradual process according to which students struggle to master the grammatical and phonological rules of a new language.

OK. Now your turn! Comments below this post, please!

Opinion in IELTS Task 2 Introductions

Some people argue that taking a year break causes hesitation to continue study permanently. However, many people claim that taking a gap year between finishing high school and starting university studies is beneficial.

If you want a good score for Task Response in IELTS writing (see public band descriptors) then you need to make sure your opinion is clear in every paragraph – including your introduction.

Most of the time in academic writing we try to make our own opinions look strong and other people’s appear weak. We can achieve this in 3 ways:

1. Positioning

Position other people’s ideas before your own and add a contrasting signal to show that your own idea is coming next.

In our opening example, our writer uses effective positioning, beginning with someone else’s idea before giving us her own, and she uses a contrasting signal – however – to confirm that it’s her idea next.

2. Evaluative language

Use negative evaluative language to talk about other people’s ideas and positive evaluative language to talk about yours.

Our writer does not use particularly negative language to describe opposite opinion, but that’s OK – she has already put opposite opinion in ‘weak’ position. She then strengthens her own idea with an extremely positive evaluative adjective – beneficial.

3. Problematising

When introducing other people’s ideas, use problematising phrases to show that there might be something wrong with their ideas.

Our writer uses a problematising phrase – some people argue that – to introduce opposite opinion and make it appear weak. Great! But then..

sinking ship
..she uses another problematising phrase – many people claim that – to introduce her own idea!? This is supposed to be your opinion, not many people’s!

Summary

If we take out that second – confusing – problematising phrase, then we’re left with a nice introduction to this argument about gap years. The writer’s opinion is now obvious, and the reader can look forward to some supporting arguments in the following body paragraphs.

  • Some people argue that taking a year break causes hesitation to continue study permanently. However, taking a gap year between finishing high school and starting university studies is beneficial.

Global warming cause effect

Climate change is a depressing topic, but it provides us with a rich source of cause effect language that we can borrow and use in our IELTS speaking and writing.

Some world leaders continue to deny that human activity is to blame for global warming, but the following text argues that humans are in fact largely responsible.

The text features some quite sophisticated cause effect signals. Try the gapfill and be sure to review alternative answers mentioned in the answer key (available after submitting answers). Continue reading

‘Compared to’ instead of ‘rather than’

Cities offer larger salaries to people rather than small towns.

Here the comparison is between ‘salaries’ and ‘small towns’. The writer is saying that cities offer people large salaries and do not offer them small towns. Hmm. I would be quite happy if someone gave me a small town!

If we want to compare the salaries offered by cities with the salaries offered by small towns, then we need:

  • Cities offer larger salaries compared to small towns.
    (= salaries in cities vs. salaries in small towns)

And if you really must use rather than, then you could also write:

  • Cities offer larger salaries rather than smaller salaries.
    (= larger salaries vs. smaller salaries)

Most of the time instead of is synonymous with rather than:

  • Cities offer larger salaries instead of smaller salaries.

However, instead of is quite often a replacement for something that came before:

  • City companies now use electronic transfer instead of cash payment for salaries.

Next time make sure you’re comparing what you mean to compare!

As much uncountable as possible!

These days gadgets do not consume power as much as they used to.

This should read:

  • These days gadgets do not consume as much power as they used to.

Actually there are three grammar issues we need to consider here:

  1. as..as with verbs
  2. as..as with uncountable and plural count nouns
  3. as..as with singular count nouns

Before we examine these separately, here is a text to illustrate all three:

Life is so unfair. My friend can eat and drink as much as he likes and not get fat. He eats as many Big Macs as I eat. He drinks as much beer as I drink. However, he does not have as large a stomach as I have!

1. as..as with verbs

You have seen phrases like as much as, as far as, as long as, as fast as, etc. These phrases are used when far, long, fast behave as adverbs:

  • He can eat and drink as much as he likes. (‘much’ affects the meaning of the verbs ‘eat’ and ‘drink’)
  • I drinks as much as he likes. (‘much’ affects the meaning of the verb ‘drink’)
  • etc.

2. as..as with uncountable and plural count nouns

When far, long, fast, etc. behave as adjectives, then you need to change the word order:

  • He eats as many Big Macs as I eat. (‘many’ affects the meaning of the noun ‘Big Macs’)
  • He drinks as much beer as I drink. (‘much’ affects the meaning of the noun ‘beer’)
  • etc.

Notice that when you’re focusing on nouns, your only options are much (for uncountable nouns) and many (for plural countable nouns)!

Indonesian flag Indonesians need to be careful here because in Bahasa Indonesia the uncountable noun is positioned before ‘as much as’, for example “Kalau anjing anda keracunan, kasih dia air kelapa sebanyak mungkin!”

3. as..as with singular count nouns

This can be difficult to translate into English if your first language does not have countable and uncountable nouns.

  • He does not have as large a stomach as I have. 
  • I have joined a fitness centre and soon I will have as small a stomach as he has.

Notice the singular countable noun always has the article ‘a‘! Notice also that you are no longer restricted to many and much. Any adjective can be used!

Indonesian flag Again, Indonesians need to be careful because in Bahasa Indonesia the singular count noun is positioned before ‘as much as‘, for example “Nanti kalau saya punya uang saya mau bikin rumah sebesar mungkin!”

Such as this and that

There are many factors that can contribute to failure such as students do not manage their time well, or they are just lazy.

In this example, such as is followed by independent clauses whereas it should be followed by noun phrases:

  • There are many factors that can cause students to fail such as bad time management, or just laziness.

If you really want verb phrases, then use for example:

  • There are many factors that can contribute to failure, for example students do not manage their time well, or they are just lazy.

(Remember to put a comma before for example!)

Notice that for example is a more flexible signal as it can be used to introduce either a noun or a verb phrase. In the next example it is used to introduce nouns.

  • There are many factors that can contribute to failure, for example financial pressure and physical injury.