Trends can make you ill

Australians who disagreed or remained neutral had an upward trend during the period.

I mentioned in a previous post that ‘trend’ is a dangerous word and perhaps best avoided because:

  1. it is usually redundant
  2. it carries with it unusual collocation that does not translate easily from other languages

The wrong collocation can cause meaning to change. In the example above, ‘upward trend‘ sounds like some kind of illness, which is something that we ‘have’, for example “I had a cold last week.” We might imagine the following conversation:

You: Sorry I missed our appointment yesterday. I had an upward trend.
Your friend: Sorry to hear that. I hope you’re feeling better!

trend

Once again, it’s possible, and usually preferable to describe a trend without using the word ‘trend‘. Avoid it!

In(the) first place

In the first place is over-grazing, which caused 35% of land degradation.

Not a terrible error – we know what you mean! But still, it’s important to understand the distinction between ‘in first place’ and ‘in the first place’.

In IELTS Task 1 writing we often find ourselves ranking items as follows:

  • In first place is over-grazing, which caused 35% of land degradation. Meanwhile in second place, 20% of land degradation was caused by deforestation.

But what if you’re listing rather than ranking? Let’s say, for example, that you’re listing supports for an argument. In this case you need ‘in the first place’, ‘in the second place’, etc.:

  • Mr Jones cannot be the one who stole your car. In the first place he was in a different city when the car was stolen, and secondly he is blind!

In this case ‘in the first place‘ means ‘as the first consideration‘. It’s often used to introduce reasons that should be obvious but may need to be emphasised, as in the above example. Notice that it is unusual to continue ‘in the second place‘, ‘in the third place‘, etc. Better to switch to ‘secondly‘, ‘thirdly‘, and so on.

To sum up..

  • In first place..’ is useful in Task 1 writing (for ranking)
  • In the first place..’ is useful in Task 2 writing (for emphasising reasons)

TIP! If you’re doing this in IELTS Speaking, it can sometimes help you to structure an argument if you count off items using your fingers, perhaps under the table!

firstsecondthird


PS. See also my earlier post dealing with ‘in second place’ instead of ‘second winner’ (which does NOT mean ‘in second place’!).

The widespread misuse of ‘widespread’

The widespread of this crime can be reduced by imposing stricter penalties.

Widespread’ is an adjective, not a noun. Nouns used in this context might include  ‘incidence’, or indeed ‘spread’. These we might classify as ‘statistics nouns’, which are particularly useful in IELTS Task 1 writing.

Widespread’ as complement:

  • This crime is widespread. However, its spread can be reduced by imposing stricter penalties.

Widespread’ as noun modifier:

  • Widespread criminality can be reduced by imposing stricter penalties.

And if you’re interested in ‘spreading‘ and need a laugh, check out ‘manspreading‘!

‘Other’ in IELTS Task 1

Bakso was chosen by 60% of students, Martabak by 20%, Siomay by 15%, and only 5% chose Other.

studentsandfastfood.jpg

OK the problem here is that ‘other‘ is rarely used as a noun. Generally it is used as a noun modifier: “other people“, “other things“, etc. In the above example, what is the noun that is being modified by ‘other’? Well, all of the items in the chart belong to a class, or group, and the name of that group is usually given as a label on the chart. In any case we know that Bakso, Martabak, and Siomay are all different kinds of Asian fast food, so we can write:

  • Bakso was chosen by 60% of students, Martabak by 20%, Siomay by 15%, and only 5% chose other kinds of Asian fast food.

Other‘ is used as a noun in sociology, psychology and anthropology to identify and possibly explain ‘something different from us‘, either as individuals or as a society. In these contexts there is a related concept: ‘otherness‘.

‘That’ and ‘V3’ in noun phrases

The table shows the percentage of money that allocated by people in different countries for different reasons in 2002.

Indonesian flag Here an Indonesian student has made a noun phrase based on ‘yang di alokasikan‘. A grammar error has affected her IELTS score, but this could have been avoided using more sophisticated – and easy-to-learn – vocabulary.

Improved grammar

  • The table shows the percentage of money that was allocated by people in different countries for different reasons in 2002.

Here I added ‘to be‘ before the V3 to produce a correct passive. However, a native speaker would probably choose more sophisticated vocabulary:

Improved vocabulary

  • The table shows the percentage of money allocated by people in different countries for different reasons in 2002.

Here, instead of the ugly passive structure, which Indonesians always get wrong, I made a nominal group that contains the following elements all joined together:

  • the percentage..
  • of money (preposition phrase)
  • allocated by people (V3 phrase)
  • in different countries (preposition phrase)
  • for different reasons (preposition phrase)
  • in 2012 (preposition phrase)

Other elements are possible in nominal groups, but these are common. I will come back to nominal groups in future posts (for example here) as problems experienced by my current class arise.

Note that there is no ‘that’ in the V3 phrase (Indonesian ‘yang’). And BTW ‘V3 phrase’ is not its official name, but it’s much easier to remember than the official name (which I will keep secret for now..).

‘Stood at’ in a chocolate bar chart

In this post we’ll do two things. First, you will read a text and complete (draw) a bar chart based on the text. Next we’ll think about the use of ‘stood at’ in this kind of text, which is very similar to the writing you do in IELTS Task 1.

Reading (and drawing!)

  1. Copy this chart to a piece of paper:

Freddo

  1. Read this article. As you read, complete the bar chart on your paper.
  2. Check your completed chart against mine.

Stood at

Now let’s notice how the writer uses ‘stood at’:

  1. The time frame in the ‘stood at’ phrase is past and finished.
  2. The number being described in the ‘stood at’ phrase (in this case the price of Freddos) remained the same for a significant period of time (in this case 3 years).
  3. The number is represented as a number (and not, for example, as a percentage).
  4. The number is subject to some kind of change throughout the period.
  5. The following structure is applied: subject + stood at + number + past time expression

Note that the time expression can also appear at the beginning:

past time expression + subject + stood at + number

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Completed chart:

Freddo2

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Games of the future? Perfect!

In 2020, sales of all devices will increase.

In IELTS Task 1 writing candidates are often required to make future predictions based on data in graphs, tables, and charts.

This can be an opportunity to display some sophisticated grammar, in particular the future perfect tense!

In a previous post I showed you how to use a phrase beginning by + time expression to build a sentence using past perfect tense. In fact we can take the same approach with other perfect tenses:

Games of the future

In this example we can say:

By 2020, sales of all devices will have increased.

Here I used the structure:

by + future time expression + subject + will + have + V3

We can then add other information in the usual manner using will for prediction:

By 2020, sales of all devices will have increased. Sales of the PS4 will be double sales for the Xbox One, which will in turn be three times sales for the Wii U.

Future perfect is very rarely used by native speakers because there are very few opportunities to use it! This is one of the reasons why future perfect, and indeed the other ‘perfect’ tenses, helps to increase your IELTS score for grammar in both writing and speaking.

Pay careful attention to the structure of future perfect and good luck with your future predictions in IELTS task 1!

Change in graphs, tables and charts

fast food 550

In 2015 sales of all 3 types of fast food increased dramatically.

This is a common error. Unfortunately there is no information about change in 2015, only from 2005 to 2015:

  • Between 2005 and 2015 sales of all 3 types of fast food increased dramatically.

If you are not specific about the time frame then your reporting of data will be inaccurate and you will receive a low score in IELTS for Task Achievement.

Before you write, decide exactly when the change happened and design a suitable time expression. These are the most commonly used:

  1. from time 1 to time 2
  2. between time 1 and time 2

X accounts for Y in IELTS Task 1

The number of students in 2001 was accounted 33,438 students.

This writer has learned, or noticed, that the word ‘account‘ is often used to describe numbers in IELTS Task 1 writing.

Well, that’s a step in the right direction, but he or she now needs to do some more noticing. And to speed up noticing, we need many many examples!

Take a look at (print?) these examples. Then answer the following questions.

  1. What word nearly always follows accounts when accounts is a verb)? (answer)
  2. What kind of data always follows accounts for when accounts for is describing data? (answer)

Now that we know more about account (we have noticed more), we can see that the use of account in the opening example is inappropriate because the data being described is the wrong kind of data. We cannot use accounts for to  give an objective description of a number in a graph, table or chart.

We saw in the examples that accounts for is part of the structure:

Something accounts for something.

OR

accounts for Y.

Look at the pie chart below. Refer again to the examples and see if you can make a sentence about Firefox using accounts for. As you write, think also about the time frame and what tense you need to use. If you like what you’ve written, please add it as a comment below this post!

X accounts for Y

1. ‘Accounts’ is always followed by ‘for’.
2. The data that follows ‘accounts for’ is a percentage.

Stating subjects in IELTS Task 1

Americans rose steadily, while Indonesians fell dramatically.

Well, maybe. Something like this?

USD_IDR

With a sentence like the one above you are unlikely to communicate anything meaningful about a graph, table or chart. If there was a rise or a fall, then you need to state precisely what it was that rose and what it was that fell – What is the subject?

For example:

divorce rate

  • The divorce rate in America rose steadily, while the divorce rate in Indonesia fell dramatically.

Here there are 2 subjects:

  1. the divorce rate in America
  2. the divorce rate in Indonesia

Some of you will complain about the repetition in this sentence (‘the divorce rate‘). However, it’s better to repeat words and phrases and communicate something meaningful than to avoid repetition and communicate nothing.

Actually in this example repetition can be avoided:

  • The divorce rate in America rose steadily, while that in Indonesia fell dramatically.

* Many thanks to Diro, Nando and Ari for the ‘falling Indonesians’ photo – You guys rock! 🙂