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Thanks in large part to your continued support, traffic is increasing at EAPguru, and since wordpress.com doesn’t offer much room to expand, EAPguru is transitioning to self-hosting as guruEAP!

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PG

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You could use ‘can’, or not!

ūüė¶ This could be achieved using gravity to allow the water to flow from the higher to the lower level.

This is possible in some languages but not in English. In English if something happens the same way, all the time, predictably, without variation, then there isn’t really any question of probability (‘could’). For regular, predictable phenomena use good old present simple tense without modals:

  • This is achieved¬†using gravity to allow the water to flow from the higher to the lower level.

Only use modals for unpredictable or uncertain situations, and then think about the degree of predictability or certainty:

  • This could be achieved¬†using gravity to allow the water to flow from the higher to the lower level, but there are other, better methods. (Gravity perhaps not the best method)
  • In most situations this can be achieved¬†using gravity to allow the water to flow from the higher to the lower level. (Gravity usually the best method)

flag-of-indonesia Notice that could implies a more negative evaluation than can. Indonesians should think carefully about this distinction as they tend to over-use could, having been taught in school that could is more formal than can. Well, yes it is, but only in offers and requests:

  • Can you pass the salt? (informal)
  • Could you pass the salt, please?¬†(formal)
  • Excuse me. Would you mind passing the salt?¬†(very formal)
  • etc.

@eapguru

 

 

 

Youths or young people?

ūüė¶ These days¬†youths are more challenged by the future because making decisions about the future is not easy.

This is grammatically correct but inappropriate.

The countable noun youth¬†tends to have negative connotations, especially when it’s plural or part of the lexical phrase the youth of today:

  • Youths at football matches often cause trouble.
  • The youth of today have no respect for others.

Youths are troublemakers, at that awkward age between childhood and adulthood when they rebel against authority and indulge in sex, drugs and rock and roll, often with negative consequences. Youths hang around town in gangs and old ladies are afraid of them.

youths

‘Youths’ in a residential area.

Most of the time in IELTS Task 2 essays you want to maintain a more positive – or at least neutral – attitude to young people, and so it’s probably best to refer to them as exactly that –¬†young people!

These days young people are more challenged by the future because making decisions about the future is not easy.

Another option for IELTS writing would be:

These days the younger generation are more challenged by the future because making decisions about the future is not easy.

youngpeople

Clean living young people facing the future as responsible members of society!

In IELTS Task 2 you also often want to make a prediction about how a situation may affect young people in the future. In this case you are talking about future generations:

  • Global warming is a problem that governments need to solve for the sake of future generations.
  • Future generations will prosper as long as they follow a healthy lifestyle.

Notice that we assume there will be more than one future generation and if we’re generalising then there is no article (the).

@eapguru

 

 

 

Contribution, cause, effect

ūüė¶ The experience I got from this job has strong contributions in changing my character from employee to leader.

This is a word that has been borrowed from English and is now used in Indonesian as the noun¬†kontribusi. However, it’s difficult to find a verb that collocates with the noun contribution in English. Certainly you would not use ‘have’ + ‘contributions’. In English,¬†contribution¬†usually appears before the verb, as the subject of a sentence. In addition, contribution¬†(subject) often refers either to money or to the efforts of a person or people. In the example above, however,¬†experience and¬†changing are both abstract nouns where one is the cause and the other is the effect.

If you want to communicate cause effect¬†then you need the verb form contribute. There are still collocation issues, but¬†heck –¬†that gives you something to show off in your IELTS writing, right?

The experience I got from this job has contributed greatly to changing my character from employee to leader.

Notice!

Remember that when both nouns are abstract, contribute to behaves as a cause effect signal. This is a relatively low-frequency signal and is therefore a good signal to use in IELTS writing as an alternative to the more common verb cause.

Contribute to is also weaker than cause and is therefore useful when you want to express less than 100% certainty:

  • Greenhouse gases cause global warming. (Strong – implies no other causes)
  • Greenhouse gases contribute to global warming.¬†(Weaker – implies there may be other causes)

Using weak verbs is one of several strategies for weakening debatable claims. I deal with other strategies in other posts. You can find two more strategies here.

@eapguru

Two chill pills for writers

ūüė¶ Students experience stress when they enter university because college life is tough and tiring.

In my opinion this writer needs to take a chill pill. The claim he or she is making about university seems highly subjective and emotional.

The first problem is that there are plenty of students Рmyself included Рwho do not experience stress when they enter university. Secondly, college life is not always tough and tiring. College life includes fun social activities with friends, holidays, and leisure activities on and off campus. Both of these ideas can be incorporated into the original statement after taking two chill pills:

Students often experience stress when they enter university because college life can be tough and tiring.

  1. (Pill 1) The adverb often tells us two things:
    • the frequency of stress (not always!)
    • the number of students who experience stress (not all!)
  2. (Pill 2) The modal¬†can tells us about the possibility that college life is not always tough and tiring (It’s possible, but maybe not.)

Why is it a good idea to weaken claims like this?

  • it makes claims easier to defend
  • it makes your writing appear less subjective and more objective
  • it shows that you are¬†confidently¬†uncertain.¬†
  • it sends a message to your reader that you might be wrong, and you welcome feedback and corrections

When you’re reading journal articles, look for other strategies writers use to weaken (or strengthen) claims.

@eapguru

 

‘One of’ or ‘a’?

ūüė¶ Euthanasia may be one of ways to deliver health resources fairly to people who still want to live.

flag-of-indonesia This is a direct translation from Bahasa Indonesia: ‘salah satu’.

For every noun in English it is important to communicate one of three meanings:

In the opening example the writer communicated successfully. However, the sentence is gramatically incorrect. If you really must use ‘one of’ then you need more grammar:

  • Euthanasia may be one of several ways to deliver.. (‘several’ behaves like ‘many’)
  • Euthanasia may be one of the best ways to deliver.. (‘one of’ + the + superlative adjective + plural count noun)

You can see how easy it can be to introduce grammatical error, or to choose the wrong word to follow ‘one of’! A much easier and far more common way to communicate ‘one of many’ is using the indefinite article ‘a’ (or ‘an’) – NOT ‘one of’.

Want to communicate one of manyUse the indefinite article:

ūüôā Euthanasia may be a way to deliver health resources fairly to people who still want to live.

For more examples of article use, click the articles tag.

@eapguru

Comprise or consist?

ūüė¶ Overall, the tap comprise of many parts.

This is an easy one to get wrong. Your options here are:

  • Overall, the tap comprises many parts.
  • Overall, the tap is comprised of many parts.
  • Overall, the tap consists of many parts.

..but NOT comprise of!

@eapguru