More than one ‘most’!

Over-grazing is one of the most significant factor in environmental land degradation.

I know what you’re thinking – one means singular. Well, true, but that’s ‘over-grazing’ – even though it’s uncountable, the subject ‘over-grazing’ is a single thing. In this structure, one of + superlative adjective is telling us about ‘factors’, not about ‘over-grazing’.

I know what else you’re thinking – surely there is only one most?! Well, not always! When it comes to land degradation there is more than one ‘most significant factor’. For example, ‘deforestation’ is another ‘most significant factor’, and so ‘factor’ needs to be plural:

Over-grazing is one of the most significant factors in environmental land degradation.

Repeat after me..

one of + superlative + plural countable noun
one of + superlative + plural countable noun
one of + superlative + plural countable noun
one of + superlative + plural countable noun
one of + superlative + plural countable noun
(repeat until you get tired..)

More examples using ‘most’ here.

Remember to be passive

As the tap handle rotated the spindle moves up inside the tap body.

Indonesian flag Bahasa Indonesia has a special construction for passives – ‘di‘ + verb: diputar. Maybe that’s why Indonesians writing in English find it easy to produce the passive form of the verb, adding ‘ed‘ to regular verbs as a substitute for their own ‘di‘. However they often forget to include ‘to be’ in the English passive structure:

  • As the tap handle is rotated the spindle moves up inside the tap body.

If you want a good score for GRA in IELTS writing, don’t forget ‘to be’ in passives. Here’s a little rhyme to aid memory:

  • to be + V3, the English form of ‘Di’, to be + V3, the English form of ‘Di’!

Blah changed, resulting in blah!

Sales increased dramatically reached 2,000 in July.

So, this is obviously bad grammar because there are 2 verbs in the same clause: increased and reached. There are three possible corrections:

1. Separate sentences

The easiest solution would be to put verbs increased and reached into separate sentences:

  • Sales increased dramatically. They reached 2,000 in July.

2. Conjunction

Another approach would be to use comma + conjunction (‘and’) to join two clauses together:

  • Sales increased dramatically, and reached 2,000 in July.

3. Comma + __ing

A third solution is to use comma + ___ing.

  • Sales increased dramatically, reaching 2,000 in July.

This last example is little used by lower level IELTS candidates but very common in native speaker speaking and writing, particularly when describing statistical changes over time. It’s especially useful when you want to include the result of a series of changes:

  • Sales increased dramatically but then remained steady, finishing at 10,000 at the end of the period.

Ultimately you want to aim for variety in your grammar, and so aim to use a mix of all three structures in your writing.

Fancy a challenge?

Take a look at the highlighted area of the graph below. Can you describe what’s happening using the three structures that I have demonstrated? Answers in the comments box below!

comma __ing exercise

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..).