Complete with ‘with’

Mobile phones are completed by advanced features.

Completed by

OK let’s look at some examples of ‘completed by’:

  • The questionnaires are completed by women aged 15–49.
  • A complete site overhaul was completed by our editorial staff.
  • The detailed project report has been completed by the consultants.

In all three examples we have to be + completed by + agent (the person doing the completing). In our opening example that would make ‘advanced features’ the agent, which is of course impossible. Continue reading

Fall down over

When demand is low, prices usually fall down.

This is a common error when describing trends in graphs in IELTS task 1 writing. It makes sense, intuitively – if something ‘falls’ then it falls down and not up! However, ‘fall’ and ‘fall down’ can have quite different meanings depending on the context.

Take a look at these examples.


  • Real incomes actually fell in many places.
  • The deer fell immediately and never moved again.
  • The squad fired and both men fell.
  • Just about anything or anyone can fall, either accidentally or predictably. This is a good word to use when describing trends in IELTS Task 1 Writing! In fact, this is what we need with our opening example:
  • When demand is low, prices usually fall.

Fall down

  • He fell down from his horse and died immediately.
  • It’s better to wear a belt so that your trousers don’t fall down.
  • Both of these examples highlight ‘accidents’ in which someone or something falls down from a higher position to a lower position.

fall down

fall down

Fall over

  • Houses rocked and cracked; furniture fell over.
  • I actually fell over the bed when entering the room.
  • These are also ‘accidents’, but this time a person or thing falls over from its normal standing position into an abnormal position on the floor or on the ground.

fall over

fall over

Throw food (away)

Since there are many starving people in the world, it is better not to throw food.

The featured image for this post shows a man retrieving a pizza from a roof. This is how it got there:

Throwing pizza

Obviously the man doesn’t want to eat the pizza. However, most people in that situation would either give it someone else or throw it away:

Pizza in bin

So that’s two different ways to get rid of a pizza in English, each using a slightly different verb:

  1. If I throw food I send it flying through the air, often without too much thought for where it’s going to land.
  2. A straightforward verb – throw (Indonesian flag lempar).
  1. If I throw food away, I dispose of it in a place designed for waste collection – a dustbin, for example.
  2. A phrasal verb that includes a preposition – throw away (Indonesian flag buang). As with many phrasal verbs, the preposition can move, and so I can throw away food, or I can throw food away

If you’re talking about people starving in the world, it’s more normal to use the second of these meanings!

  • Since there are many starving people in the world, it is better not to throw away food.

Abstract and concrete spending

Helping developing nations can spend much money.

If I want to spend money, I basically have two options:

  1. Give someone some cash in return for goods or services.
  2. Transfer some money electronically in return for goods and services.

I can do either of these things because I can use my hands to handle cash or to operate electronic gadgets.

The problem with our opening example is that the thing doing the spending – helping developed nations – does not have hands, and therefore cannot ‘spend’ anything.

What our writer means is:

  • Helping developing nations can be expensive.
  • Helping developing nations can cost a lot of money.
  • = Someone has to spend a lot of money.

Indonesian flag In Bahasa Indonesia, the same verb is used for people getting rid of many and for things getting rid of money – menghabiskan uang. Sorry guys, in English only people can spend money!

Giving to people for a purpose

In recent times, the obligation of developed nations to give aid for developing nations has been widely discussed.

This grammar item is handled differently by different languages. Let’s take a look at some examples:

  • Several highly independent intelligence operations were given to him.
  • Eventually they gave the house to their eldest son.
  • Don’t give it to them! They’ll waste it.
  • In these examples, is followed by a person or group. (Indonesian flag kepada)

So, ‘to’ + person or people. What about ‘for’?

  • Cool, huh?! My parents gave it to me for my birthday.
  • I normally give a tip for good service, but this time I was disappointed.
  • Here give..for is followed by a purpose. (Indonesian flag untuk)

Now try this practice activity. Continue reading

Insisting on skirts!

Forward-thinking schools don’t insist their students to wear uniforms.

Ok I admit that there are some similar words that behave like this:

  • Forward-thinking schools don’t force their students to wear uniforms.
  • Forward-thinking schools don’t oblige their students to wear uniforms.
  • Forward-thinking schools don’t require their students to wear uniforms.
  • Meaning: schools want uniforms, students don’t.
    Structure: verb + someone + to + V1

Insist is unusual:

  • Forward-thinking schools don’t insist on uniforms for their students.
  • Meaning: schools want uniforms, students don’t.
    Structure: verb + on + something
  • Forward-thinking schools don’t insist that their students wear uniforms.
  • Meaning: schools want uniforms, students don’t.
    Structure: verb + that + independent clause

In the featured image for this post, boys who are not allowed to wear shorts at school are insisting that they should be allowed to wear skirts instead!

Take a look at these examples.

Interested in ‘interest’

Admittedly some people may not interests in the arts.

OK so ‘interest’ is potentially a problematic word.

Let’s say I’m one of those people who like the arts, I like attending arts events, and I like going to galleries, etc. In this case I can say any of the following:

  • I’m interested in the arts.
  • S.o. + (not) to be + interested in +
  • The arts interest me.
  • + (doesn’t) interest(s) + s.o.
  • I find the arts interesting.
  • S.o. + (doesn’t) find(s) + + interesting
  • The arts are interesting to me.
  • + (not) to be + interesting + to + s.o.

Returning to our original example, we need:

  • Admittedly some people may not be interested in the arts.
  • Admittedly some people may not find the arts interesting.
  • Admittedly the arts may not interest some people.
  • Admittedly the arts may not be interesting to some people.

Try this practice activity: Continue reading