Oh no! I’ve lost my weight!

When I was living in the desert I lost my weight.

Indonesian flag Indonesians for some reason like to use the possessive here. But there are problems with this. If you include the possessive then it sounds as though you lost something that you own.

Of course it is possible to own a ‘weight’ (countable thing – definition 1, items 2a and 2b), but not many people are owners of a single ‘weight’, and it’s unlikely anybody would worry about losing one!

missing weight

If you’ve been living in a desert then it’s possible that you have experienced weight loss (weight uncountable – definition 2), and so if you’re talking about body weight, you need:

  • When I was living in the desert I lost weight.

‘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‘.

Involve(d) in

Giving a challenge for human workers to involve in controlling machines is a good idea.

Involve as adjective

You got the preposition right, but the wrong form of ‘involve’. This is nearly always constructed as an ‘ed’ adjective phrase:

  • Giving a challenge for human workers to be involved in controlling machines is a good idea.

‘Get’ also collocates strongly with ‘involved in’, as does the more formal ‘become’:

  • Giving a challenge for human workers to get/become involved in controlling machines is a good idea.

It’s not always necessary to mention the activity that someone is involved in:

  • I’m involved.

Indonesian flag For Indonesians there are easy translations for involved as adjective:

  • involved – terlibat
  • (to be) involved in – terlibat dalam

Involve as a verb

If you want to use involve as a verb, usually there is an indirect object:

  • I rarely involve myself in politics.

Indonesian flag Again, for Indonesians there is an easy translation.

  • to involve + someone + in + something – melibatkan … dalam …

(members of an) Audience (s)

Several audiences left before the film finished.

Audience is indeed countable but it is a ‘collective’ noun, and so an (=1) audience can comprise many people. If you want to focus on a subgroup of an audience then it is common to refer to these people as ‘members of an audience’: Continue reading

No ‘second’ winner!

In the 100m running the winner was Usain Bolt. The second winner was Justin Gatlin.

The Olympics in Rio produced many winners, but…

In the 100m running the winner was Usain Bolt. Justin Gatlin came second.

We can also say:

  • Justin Gatlin was second.
  • Justin Gatlin finished second.

However, we cannot say:

  • Justin Gatlin was second winner. (Indonesian flag ‘Juara dua’!)

Unfortunately in a particular competition there can only be one winner. In this particular case the winner was Bolt.

‘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..).

Not Tuesday! Thursday!!

Customer: Hi. I’ve come to collect one of the free iPhones.
Shopkeeper: Sorry, we told you to come on Tuesday. Today is Thursday. The phones are all taken!

Indonesian flag Indonesians (and maybe you, too?) find it difficult to hear the difference between ‘Tuesday’ and ‘Thursday’ as spoken by native speakers. That’s because Indonesians do not say these words very well, and if you cannot say it clearly then you cannot hear it clearly.

‘Tuesday’ is easy

‘Choose’ + ‘Day’ = Chooseday = Tuesday

‘Thursday’ is more challenging

Try saying ‘Sir’, but change the ‘s’ sound by pressing your tongue against the back of your upper teeth. Keep your tongue pressed against your teeth and just try to blow air between your tongue and your teeth. Keep your tongue in position so that it almost – but not quite – stops the air from getting out.

As you blow air past your teeth, try not to make any sound in your throat, like when the doctor asks you to say ‘Aaaaaaaaa’. Don’t do that – just blow!

‘Th…………………’

You should be able to blow out for several seconds, and so you should be able to make a ‘th’ sound for several seconds.

‘Th…………………………..’

Now add ‘Th’ to ‘Sir’, substituting ‘Th’ for ‘S’ (= ‘Thir!’). And then, as you say ‘ir’, you can add sound in your throat:

‘Th…….’ (lots of breath, no throat sound)… + ‘ir’ (less breath, added throat sound )…

Finally you can complete the word with ‘..sday’:

‘Th……….’ + ‘ir…..’ + ‘sday’

Now listen to two students and a teacher pronouncing the words Tuesday and Thursday!

Lazy to read

I know that reading is important, but Indonesian people are lazy to read.

Indonesian flag This is an almost direct translation of “malas baca“, right?

In most English speaking countries, people who read are usually educated and interested in the world, and these are seen as positive characteristics. Meanwhile laziness is thought to be a very negative characteristic. Nobody in an English speaking country would openly admit to being ‘lazy to read‘ – they would feel too embarrassed.

In any case ‘lazy to + V1’ is bad collocation. In a situation when laziness is more appropriate, the native English speaker might say:

  • I can’t be bothered to go jogging this morning. Anyway it’s raining.

If you are ready to admit your laziness when it comes to reading, then you might say:

  • I know that reading is important, but Indonesian people can’t be bothered to read.

But I urge you to think again about reading. It’s an essential skill in IELTS and in university. Practice it and it will become easier and more enjoyable!