Making people able with ‘enable’

Easy access to shops online makes buyers can visit many stores without leaving their homes.

This collocation – make (v) / can (modal) – is possible in Bahasa Indonesia, but not in English. These are your options in English:

  1. Easy access to shops online enables buyers to visit many stores without leaving their homes.
    [enable + s.o./s.th. + to + V1]
  2. Easy access to shops online makes it possible for buyers to visit many stores without leaving their homes.
    [make it possible for + s.o./s.th. + to + V1]
  3. Online shops are easy to access, and so buyers are able to visit many stores without leaving their homes.
    [to be + able + to + V1]

Practice!

We could use the same language to talk about the benefits – or the enabling effects – of a wide range of technologies. Comments below!

‘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!

Commoners turn from opera to Oprah!

Common people watch television every night for six hours.

I don’t think the writer intended to be so negative, or worse – insulting! Let’s explore the meaning of common, first of all by looking inside an opera house.

Opera house
Seating inside a typical opera house

Some seats in opera houses have always been more expensive than others. The cheapest seats are in ‘The Stalls’ or in ‘The Gods’, because in these areas the view of the stage is limited. Wealthier people can afford to pay for a private ‘box’, and they get a better view. The best view, meanwhile, is from the ‘Royal Box’. Continue reading

Recounting Rainy Rugby

In this post we practice the recount genre. This is a very common generic text form in IELTS Speaking Part 2, when you are asked to recount some kind of experience.

In this example the candidate might have been asked to describe a time when they experienced very bad weather. If you’ve experienced bad weather, why not tell us about it in the comments below?

Fill in the gaps with the correct forms of the verbs in brackets. then click ‘Check your answers!’. Continue reading

At the weekend I like watching

In my leisure time I like swimming, reading, and watching.

If you are contrasting doing an activity with simply watching then you don’t need to mention the activity:

Examiner: Do you do any sport?
Candidate: I like to watch.
(= I prefer watching than playing!)

Meanwhile if someone is showing you how to do something, you don’t need to mention the thing that they’re showing you:

Instructor: OK, now watch carefully!
Student: I’m watching.

However, if the thing you’re watching is something specific, then you need to mention that thing:

  • In my leisure time I love to swim and watch movies.
  • I don’t watch much TV now that we have YouTube.

This is especially important if the thing you are watching is TV or a movie, because watch collocates very strongly with these nouns.

Indonesian flag Indonesians translating ‘nonton‘ need to remember that if you don’t tell your listener what it is that you’re watching, then as far as your listener is concerned, you could by watching almost anything, like watching paint dry or watching grass grow!

A ‘he’ or a ‘she’?

What a cute baby! Is it a ‘he’ or a ‘she’?

Ok so I admit that occasionally we might not recognise somebody’s gender. But when their gender is obvious then we need to use the right pronoun, at least when we’re taking an exam!

Many languages, including Bahasa Indonesia, use non-sexist pronouns. And many languages use the same pronoun for subjects and objects, and even for possessives! It’s hardly surprising that students find English pronouns challenging, but for IELTS they have to be right!

Some yukky theory:

subject object possessive
he him his
she her hers
it it its

Ok now fill the gaps with suitable pronouns!

Continue reading

College colleagues

I’m very busy during the week, but at weekends I go out with my colleges.

 This was something I overheard someone say, although I sometimes see the same error in writing. Mostly it’s a pronunciation problem that influences written form.

There’s a world of difference between colleges and colleagues:

  • colleges (3 syllables: /kɒlɪdʒɪz/) – educational institutions
  • colleagues (2 syllables: /kɒliːgz/) – the people we work with
Colleges or colleagues?
A student out for a walk with his colleges(!)

Whoever you are, and wherever you are, you’re extremely unlikely to go out with your colleges! What you mean is:

  • I’m very busy during the week, but at weekends I go out with my colleagues.

But even here there’s a problem. English native speakers are unlikely to refer to the people they study with as colleagues. If the context is education, then a native speaker is more likely to use the following:

  • I go out with my classmates.
  • I go out with people from my class.
  • I go out with fellow students.

If you go out with colleagues, you are going out with the people you work with, and not the people you study with! If you are hanging out with college colleagues then you are probably a teacher or professor hanging out with fellow teachers or professors!

Pedro, Hans, Fritz and Francois

In this post we review country names, language names, nationalities, etc. Students sometimes use the nationality when they mean the country, or the country when they mean the language, and so on. I’ve chosen to focus on four countries in western Europe whose vocabulary most often causes confusion.

First of all here’s a table showing available word forms. Continue reading