Definite about puppies and sectors

Agricultural sector is different from economic sector in the way research is conducted.

In the noun phrases agricultural sector and economic sector, you mention specific sectors – agricultural and economic. It is obvious that you are not talking about the bananas sector and the pornography sector.

If you mention a noun and both you and your reader know exactly which noun you’re talking about, then you must use the definite article – ‘the’.

In the photo that accompanies this post, there are two puppies. If you say you want the light-coloured puppy, you use ‘the’, because it is clear both to you and to your listener exactly which puppy you want!

It’s the same when you’re talking about sectors:

  • The agricultural sector is different from the economic sector in the way research is conducted.

Admittedly, identifying the main noun in a noun phrase becomes challenging with longer phrases. For example, can you identify the main noun in the following highlighted phrase? Answers in the comments section below! 🙂

  • I sometimes experience difficulties with the less obvious and more subtly nuanced aspects of article use in unnecessarily complicated academic writing.

Incidentally, an English native speaker would probably use the name of the sector without labelling it ‘sector’:

  • The agricultural sector is different from the economic sector in the way research is conducted.

This ‘labelling’ of nouns is discussed further in a previous post.


In Australia I will need a lot of budget because I have to buy many things.

First of all budget is countable, and since you’ve written ‘a lot of’, then there should be an ‘s’ on budget. But there’s another problem. Budget has 2 meanings that are potentially useful in this situation:

1. Budget as a sum of money that has been set aside for a particular purpose:

In Australia I will need a large budget because I have to buy many things.

2. Budget as a document containing a list of items:

In Australia there will be many items on my budget, and so I will need a lot of money.

In both of these examples..

  • budget is a singular countable noun
  • ‘large’ collocates with budget
  • ‘item(s)’ collocates with budget (don’t forget the preposition ‘on’)
  • as a singular countable noun, budget requires some kind of determiner (article, possessive, etc.)

Often students who are preparing for IELTS feel they have to do everything to avoid repetition, and so they use budget instead of ‘money’. However, budget is not synonymous with ‘money’. When you’re talking about money and comparing how much things cost, it’s safer to use words like ‘money’, ‘cheap’, ‘expensive’, etc.

Add a comment below and tell us about some of the items on your budget for study in Australia! 🙂

image source

Against the misuse of ‘against’

Most Indonesian people against the removal of fuel subsidies.

In English, against is a preposition, and so this sentence does not contain a verb and is therefore not a sentence. To make it a sentence, you can do this..

  • Most Indonesian people are against the removal of fuel subsidies.
    (to be + against)

or (slightly more academic) this..

  • Most Indonesian people oppose the removal of fuel subsidies.

or (also academic) this..

  • Most Indonesian people object to the removal of fuel subsidies.

Hope that helps!

there is/are (ada)

In Australia there are many women receive the same salary as men.

Indonesian flag A common mistake made by Indonesians is to include the ‘introductory subject’ (there is/there are) as well as another subject, before the verb in a sentence.This might be possible in Bahasa Indonesia, but in English you must choose either this:

  • In Australia many women receive the same salary as men.
    (subject: many women)

..or this:

  • In Australia there are many women who receive the same salary as men.
    (subject: there are)

Indonesian flag Next time your head is telling you ‘ada..‘, stop and ask yourself whether you really need to use there is/there are. If you already have a subject, don’t use there is/there are!

(the) society

Unemployment is one of the most serious problems for the society today.

The problem here is that the society (with ‘the’) has quite a different meaning to society (without ‘the’).

If you’re talking about all of humanity as a collective, then you’re probably talking about society. In this case you’re probably thinking about the whole of the human race at a particular time, usually around now. If problems are faced by society (without ‘the’), then they are likely to be problems that all people face, either across an entire country, or possibly all over the world, and so in this case you need:

  • Unemployment is one of the most serious problems for society today.

On the other hand if you’re talking about a specific group of people who have some kind of shared set of specific interests then you need the society. For example in this list of academic ‘societies’, group members relate to each other because they share the same academic interests. Similarly, universities often have societies devoted to particular hobbies or interests. In this case you might be writing something like:

  • In our university the most popular society is the photographic society. The society has 600 members.

Notice that in this example, not only do we use ‘the’ to show that we are talking about a specific group, but we also use words to modify the word society so that our reader understands exactly which group we’re talking about (‘most popular’, ‘photographic’).

So, be careful next time you use society! And if you’re still not happy with this explanation, and you’re not afraid of distractions, you can check out society in a dictionary. Better still look at some sentences featuring society.

(cover photo: source)

Trump, Twitter, Trends, Task 1

IELTS Task 1 trends practice activity

  1. Study the chart below (source here).
  2. On a piece of paper, write a short paragraph describing the main trends. Don’t look at PG’s text just yet!
  3. Read PG’s sample text (below). Click highlighted text for explanations.


Sample text by @guruEAP. Click highlighted text for explanations.

In general, Donald Trump and Hilary Clinton attract by far the highest numbers of Twitter followers, but all candidates enjoyed significant increases in follower numbers during the period. In terms of average retweets per tweet, Bernie Sanders joins Trump and Clinton in the top three. Trump’s Twitter account saw almost twice as many retweets as Sanders’, and more than three times as many as Clinton’s. However, Sanders trumps trump when it comes to retweets per tweet per 1,000 followers.


In general – This is the most concise way to introduce an overview, and remember that an overview is important if you want a good score for Task Achievement. See public band descriptors for Task 1. (back)

attract – This is more sophisticated vocabulary than simply saying ‘have’. (back)

by far – This is a good way to intensify a superlative adjective. (back)

numbers – ‘number’ (without ‘s’) is also possible. However, each candidate has a number of followers, so technically there is more than one ‘number’. (back)

but – In this part of the essay it is often possible, and therefore a good idea, to show comparison and/or contrast. Remember to signal this contrast (here I use ‘but’.). (back)

enjoyed – Again, this is more sophisticated than simply saying ‘had’. (back)

significant – This is a more sophisticated alternative to ‘big’, ‘large’, ‘huge’, etc. (back)

in – The correct preposition after ‘increase(s)’. (back)

during the period – If you have already mentioned the period – July 1 2015-Feb 29 2016 – in your opening statement, then you can use this phrase to refer back to it. (back)

in terms of – This is an extremely useful phrase in Task 1 writing. With this phrase you make clear to the examiner exactly what it is you are talking about. (back)

in the top three – Ranking items is usually possible, and often desirable, in the overview. (back)

saw – More sophisticated than ‘had’. (back)

twice as many – Always look for multiples! (back)

trump – Be careful when you use idioms, but they increase your score for lexical resource (=vocabulary). Take a look in a dictionary at the idiomatic uses of ‘trump’. (back)

when it comes to – An alternative to ‘in terms of’ to make clear exactly what you are talking about. (back)

Useful resources

IELTS Writing Task 1 public band descriptors

every time / all the time

Doctor, what’s wrong with me? I feel tired every time!

If you say this to a doctor then the doctor will think to himself “Every time you do what?” He will begin to imagine frequent scenarios in your life when you feel tired, for example every time you plough a rice field, or every time you do an IELTS practice test, or every time you lift 200kg above your head.

Indonesian flag Every time in English is more like the Indonesian setiap kali. What you mean to say is all the time:

  • Doctor, what’s wrong with me? I feel tired all the time!

And so, every time you say ‘every time’, you should stop and think: Do you actually mean all the time?!