Preparing (for) disaster

Is this a good way for students to prepare their new academic environments?

Compare these:

  • I’m preparing dinner.
    (You’re mixing ingredients, boiling, baking, frying, etc.)
  • I’m preparing for dinner.
    (You’re washing your hands. You’re going to eat very soon.)

preparing for dinner

A baby prepares for dinner while
his mother prepares dinner!

  • I’m preparing an exam.
    (You’re writing the questions that someone will answer when they sit the exam.)
  • I’m preparing for an exam.
    (You’re reading and thinking about questions that might be included in an exam that you are about to take.)

preparing disaster

These men prepared a disaster.
They made the first atom bomb!

preparing for dinner

Some people prepare for disaster.

Returning to our opening example, you probably need:

  • Is this a good way for students to prepare for their new academic environments?

If students are preparing their academic environments, they’re already there – possibly they’re busy arranging furniture in their accommodation, putting books on shelves, etc. If they’re preparing for their new environments, they’re not there yet because they’re not yet ready – possibly they need to study more first, pass exams, save money, etc.

During a period of time

At the same time parents spend lots of money on their children because they consider traveling costs and additional expenses during their children take their gap year.

Indonesian flag Indonesians tend to translate selama as during, but then they run into this grammatical error.

In English, during requires the following grammar:

  • ..parents spend lots of money on their children because they consider traveling costs and additional expenses during their children’s gap year.
    [signal + noun (period of time)]
Indonesian flag Indonesians might consider using while as a translation for selama, in which case they can follow up with a sentence:

  • ..parents spend lots of money on their children because they consider traveling costs and additional expenses while their children take their gap year.
    [signal + sentence]

College or Colleges

Taking a gap year gives certain advantages to young people before attending colleges.

Yet another of those dreaded words that have slightly different meanings in their countable and uncountable forms.

1. College, countable

If you attend colleges, then..

  • you attend more than one college in more than one location, either sequentially or at the same time.
  • possibly you keep changing your mind about what you want to study?
  • possibly you are never satisfied with the college you happen to be attending?
  • possibly you are super human!

2. College, uncountable

If you attend college, then..

  • you are enrolled on a course of study.
  • your course lasts for a fixed period of time.
  • you probably study on the same campus every day.
  • when you finish your course, you hope to receive some kind of qualification.

Perhaps it’s best to think of attend college, or go to college as phrasal verbs that carry all of these meanings. All of the above also applies to the word ‘university’.

Since A is true, B is true

Since young people want to be considered independent humans. They try to prove their ability for themselves and other people as well.

This student is experimenting with alternatives for because but has found herself in hot water. There are two possible improvements:

  • Since young people want to be considered independent humans, they try to prove their ability for themselves and other people as well.
    [since + cause sentence + comma + effect sentence]
  • Young people try to prove their ability for themselves and other people as well, since they want to be considered independent humans.
    [effect sentence + comma + since + cause sentence]

In both of these examples, since is indeed an exact synonym for because, and so is as. However, as and since are more likely to appear at the beginning of a sentence, whereas because is more common after a comma:

because since as
after comma beginning of sentence beginning of sentence

Returning to our opening example, we could also get rid of the word humans since it is clear we’re not talking about aliens or rocks:

  • Since young people want to be considered independent, they try to prove their ability for themselves and other people as well.

Indonesian flag The over-use of the word human may be cultural. See here, here and here.

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

I love the culinary

First of all I love the culinary.

Here an Indonesian IELTS candidate has made a positive claim about a place he or she likes, and is supporting that claim with another positive comment about the food there. This candidate perhaps feels that food is not a particularly ‘high-band’ word, and is experimenting with a more sophisticated synonym.

Indonesian flag The word culinary has been imported from English into Indonesian, but it has changed slightly in the process. Whereas in Indonesian kuliner can be used either as an adjective or a noun, the English culinary can only be used as an adjective. And so straight away the candidate has produced a word form error.

If you want a high-band synonym for ‘food’, you might try:

  • First of all I love the cuisine.

But be careful! Cuisine (a word borrowed from French!) is used in English to refer to the kind of food preparation you might expect in an expensive restaurant, or the kind of cooking that wins prizes in competitions. On the other hand if you’re talking about the kind of food that ordinary people eat in a particular country, day-to-day, then you’re talking about their food:

  • First of all I love the food.

So what have we learned?

  1. Words borrowed from other languages can change in several ways:
  • form : culinarykuliner
  • meaning : special food only – all food
  • grammar : adjective – adj/noun
  1. Using synonyms in an attempt to appear more sophisticated can get you into trouble. Only do it if you’re confident that you have chosen a synonym that carries the right meaning and fits grammatically into a phrase or sentence.

Little equipment

You only need little equipment to play badminton.

This has two literal meanings, both of which seem odd:

  1. You only need small equipment to play badminton.
  2. You need not enough equipment to play badminton.

Clearly the writer did not intend either of these meanings. First of all there is obviously a standard size for badminton equipment, which is neither small nor large. Secondly, it would be impossible to play badminton without ‘enough’ equipment!

Little and a little have quite different meanings. Compare:

Bill
Gosh I’m thirsty after that game! Do you have any water left?
Mike
Yes, I still have a little. Here you are.
 
[a little = not much, but enough]
Bill
I wish we could play badminton more often!
Mike
Yes, but because of my job I have little time.
 
[little = not enough]

In the opening example, the writer is – I think – trying to say that playing badminton does not involve a lot of equipment:

  • You don’t need much equipment to play badminton.

In this case, not much means enough, and that’s good because it means that badminton is inexpensive compared to, say, photography, which generally involves a lot of expensive equipment and therefore a lot of spending!

Industrial theatre production(s)

Automation in industry means increased productivity and better productions.

Yet another word that has quite different meanings in its countable and uncountable forms!

In its countable form, production has strong associations with music and theatre:

  • Medieval theatre productions are still performed today.
  • 300 performances were given of 33 different opera productions.
  • The earliest sound effects were strictly studio productions.
  • Previous acclaimed productions include “Oklahoma!”
  • The building was used for massive concerts and theatrical productions.

It’s only when it’s in its uncountable form that production means manufacturing:

  • The highest production recorded was fifty thousand annually.
  • The company has 15 production plants worldwide.
  • By 1900 daily production was 2 thousand tons.
  • Even small scale “capitalist” production was suppressed.
  • The pellets production required increased freshwater access.

And so returning to our opening example, we need:

  • Automation in industry means increased productivity and better production.

Two competitions

There is an increasing competition which results in several negative effects.

Compare the following meanings.

  1. He won first prize in the competition.
    (competition, countable = an organised event in which people compete with each other – in front of an audience – to win a prize or a medal) [Indonesian flagkompetisi / lomba / pertandingan]
  2. There is fierce competition among rival tech companies.
    (competition, uncountable = a situation in which a person or an organisation is trying to be more successful – often financially – than another person or organisation) [Indonesian flagsaingan]
Apple Samsung
Apple – Samsung

In the opening example our writer is using meaning (1), but I think he should be using meaning (2). First of all it’s difficult to imagine a competition, like the Olympic Games, ‘increasing’. What does that mean? Does it mean more countries are taking part? Or more people are taking part? Or more events are included now? And anyway, who would consider any of these increases to be ‘negative’?

I think the writer means this:

  • There is increasing competition which results in several negative effects.

Finally, eventually

..blah blah blah. In addition, cities provide and manage recycling of garbage, and provide waste disposal services. Eventually, most cities provide good drainage to prevent flooding.

I’m not sure this is what the writer meant. According to the dictionaryeventually means ‘in the end, especially after a long delay, dispute, or series of problems.‘  Our writer, however, is simply adding a final support to a debatable claim about cities:

  • In addition, cities provide and manage recycling of garbage, and provide waste disposal services. Finally, most cities provide good drainage to prevent flooding.

With eventually, we might have some thing like:

  • The people lobbied the government for years to improve drainage. They sent letters, held meetings, and marched regularly in front of the government offices. For years people’s houses were destroyed by floods until the situation become unbearable. Eventually the government agreed to fund a new drainage system.
The Suffragettes fought for, and eventually won, the right for women to vote.
The Suffragettes fought for, and eventually won,
the right for women to vote.

If you know of a problem that took a long time and a lot of effort to resolve, tell us about it in the comments below. And don’t forget to use eventually!