(The) Government(s)

Government must work hard to tackle the problem of inflation.

There are more communicative uses of the word government:

  1. Government (without ‘the’, without ‘s’)
  2. Governments (with ‘s’)
  3. The government (with ‘the’, without ‘s’)

1. Government (without ‘the’, without ‘s’)

Here you are talking about the abstract concept of government, which means the phenomenon whereby an elected minority govern the majority:

  • Government is a potentially effective tool to tackle the problem of unemployment.

2. Governments (without ‘the’, with ‘s’)

Here you are talking about all governments, in all countries, everywhere:

  • Governments must work hard to tackle the problem of inflation if they want to be competitive in the global market.

3. The government (with ‘the’, without ‘s’)

Here you are usually talking about your government, although you may be talking about a different but specific government that you have already mentioned elsewhere in your text:

  • The government must work hard to tackle the problem of inflation in Indonesia.

Indonesian flag Note to Indonesians..
Next time you want to translate pemerintah, consider which of these three meanings you want to communicate. If you choose the right one, your meaning will be clear and you will receive a high score for vocabulary (Lexical resource – LR) and a high score for coherence and cohesion (CC),  because it will be easier to understand what you are saying or writing.

Browse the IELTS public band descriptors.

The key to ‘_ing'(?!)

Conserving a language is the key to fully grasp the identity of a culture.

Let’s look functionally at what we are trying to communicate in this sentence:

[…something A…] is the key to [..something B..].

OK. So something A is obviously a thing or a behaviour that will help us to achieve something B, which is a thing or a behaviour that is difficult to achieve without something A. If something B is a thing, then it is a noun and not a verb, so we need the noun form of grasp, which is grasping:

  • Conserving a language is the key to fully grasping the identity of a culture.

For some reason the expressions the key to and the answer to often lead to this error, so watch out for those! In this structure, ‘to’ is a preposition and not part of the infinitive ‘to + V1’.

Thank(s) God

I just heard that I achieved 7.0 overall in my recent IELTS test. Thanks God!

This is when you are grateful for something. You may be alone, or you may be together with others, but you feel a need to express your gratitude, even out loud. You may be addressing God (who is not present), or you may be addressing nobody in particular. Indonesians might want to say ‘syukur’ or ‘alhamdullilah’, or ‘puji tuhan’. In this case you would say thank god (without ‘s’).

  • I just heard that I achieved 7.0 overall in my recent IELTS test. Thank God!

You can think of this as an instruction beginning with the imperative verb ‘thank’.

You can also think of it as a reduced form of the suggestion “You/We should all thank God!”

If you are lucky enough to be face to face with God, and if God has helped you in some way, then you can look God in the eye and say: Thanks, God. (with ‘s’ on ‘thank’) However, note that this is quite informal, and may not be an appropriate way to address someone as important as God. If you want to be more polite when addressing God directly, say Thank you, God. (no ‘s’ on ‘thank’)

‘It’ or ‘this’? Theme or rheme?

The government has just removed fuel subsidies. It means that the price of basic goods will surely go up.

It’s sometimes useful to think of a sentence as having a theme (in this case ‘The government’) and a rheme (‘has just removed fuel subsidies’).

When you want to refer back to the theme, use a pronoun:

  • The government has just removed fuel subsidies. They felt that the fuel subsidies were not economically sustainable.

When you want to refer back to the rheme, use ‘this’ or ‘these’:

  • The government has just removed fuel subsidies. This means that the price of basic goods will surely go up.

Choosing the right referencing word (‘it’ or ‘this’) will make your writing more coherent (easier to understand). If you are preparing for IELTS, the right choice of referencing word will give you a higher score for coherence and cohesion (see IELTS public band descriptors).

Affected by ‘Affect to’

These days children see far too much violence on TV and this can affect to their emotional development.

Oops!

affects Y (without ‘to’) / Y is affected by X:

  • These days children see far too much violence on TV and this can affect their emotional development.
  • These days children’s emotional development can be affected by violence on TV.

Himself, herself, theirselves(?!)

Before departing for Australia, students must prepare theirselves in order to avoid culture shock.

..selves. More than one ‘self’. OK, no complaints about that.

..theirselves. Now you’re being inconsistent with your object pronouns.
You guys have no problem producing the following:

  • He loves her.
  • She loves him.
  • Their parents love them.

And you would never write:

  • Their parents love their.
  • Look at their!
  • They say they love each other and I believe their.

So why the sudden switch to possessive ‘their’?! Please use the object pronoun (him, her, them) + ‘self/selves’:

  • Before departing for Australia, students must prepare themselves in order to avoid culture shock.

And you might think about some collocation (prepare + s.o./s.th. + for + s.th.):

  • Before departing for Australia, students must prepare themselves for culture shock.

Finally, we can assume that the students must prepare themselves and not other people, so strictly speaking themselves is redundant:

  • Before departing for Australia, students must prepare for culture shock.

There is a kind of exception to the above rule. Does anybody know what it is? Comments below please!

Cannot ‘also can’!

In addition to smoking, excessive drinking also can cause illness.

Actually the meaning is clear, it’s just not good collocation. Don’t write also can, write can also instead:

  • In addition to smoking, excessive drinking can also cause illness.

Indonesian flag Indonesians.. Are you translating directly again?! 😉

Concerned about ‘concern’

The government does not concern about the crime rate in cities.

Here concern is used in the form of a verb, but the grammar is not right. It would have been better to use to be along with the adjective form of concern: concerned.

On the one hand you can be concerned about nothing in particular:

  • The government is not concerned.

And on the other hand you can (not) to be concerned about a particular thing:

  • The government is not concerned about the crime rate in cities.

If something is the object of concern, then remember to use the preposition: concerned about (something).

It’s also possible to say the same thing using concern as a noun, where concern often collocates with another word (in this case, ’cause’):

  • The government does not consider the crime rate in cities to be a cause for concern.

And it’s also possible to use the verb form (notice the auxiliary verb ‘to do’ in the construction of the negative!):

  • The crime rate in cities does not concern the government.

So which one to use? Adjective? Noun? Verb? Well if you can remember to put __ed onto concern and add about, it’s probably best to use the adjective form!

Tell us about some of the things you’re concerned about. Use the comments box below this post.

Humansss

There will be many disadvantages for human if animal testing is stopped.

If we check in a dictionary, we see that human can be an adjective and it can be a noun. In this example human is used as a noun.

If we check again in the dictionary, we see that human is a countable noun. In grammar, we know that if we’re talking about all examples of a thing, everywhere, and the thing is countable, then we must add an ‘s’ to the noun:

  • There will be many disadvantages for humans if animal testing is stopped.

Mistakes are often made when human is used as a noun modifier, in which case the ‘s’ might be added to the main noun:

  • There will be many disadvantages for human beings if animal testing is stopped.

Can you identify examples of human used as a noun, and human used as a noun modifier? Add them to the comments below :).

When ‘usually’ is unusual!

In my spare time I usually go out with my friends.

This is grammatically correct. However, if you’re talking about something you do regularly or habitually then present simple tense is all you need:

  • In my spare time I go out with my friends.

Indonesian flag Indonesians will feel a need to translate ‘biasanya’, but in English present simple tense already carries the meaning of usually, and so usually is redundant in a sentence like this.

Only use usually when you want to make a contrast between something you do habitually, and something that you do, or have to do, because of exceptional or unforeseen circumstances:

  • In my spare time I usually go out with my friends, but today I have my IELTS interview.