😦 In the first place is over-grazing, which caused 35% of land degradation.
Not a terrible ‘error’ – we know what you mean! But still, it’s important to understand the distinction between ‘in first place’ and ‘in the first place’.
In IELTS Task 1 writing we often find ourselves ranking items as follows:
🙂 In first place is over-grazing, which caused 35% of land degradation. Meanwhile in second place, 20% of land degradation was caused by deforestation.
But what if you’re listing rather than ranking? Let’s say, for example, that you’re listing supports for an argument. In this case you need ‘in the first place’, ‘in the second place’, etc.:
🙂 Mr Jones cannot be the one who stole your car. In the first place he was in a different city when the car was stolen, and secondly he is blind!
In this case ‘in the first place’ means ‘as the first consideration’. It’s often used to introduce reasons that should be obvious but may need to be emphasised, as in the above example. Notice that it is unusual to continue ‘in the second place’, ‘in the third place’, etc. Better to switch to ‘secondly’, ‘thirdly’, and so on.
To sum up..
- ‘In first place..’ is useful in Task 1 writing (for ranking)
- ‘In the first place..’ is useful in Task 2 writing (for emphasising reasons)
TIP! If you’re doing this in IELTS Speaking, it can sometimes help you to structure an argument if you count off items using your fingers, perhaps under the table!
😦 In Australia I will need a lot of money to pay my basic needs.
This is obviously a translation problem.
- If I pay the shopkeeper, I give money to the shopkeeper.
- If I pay for the bananas, I give money to the shopkeeper.
- If I pay the shopkeeper for the bananas, I give money to the shopkeeper.
- If I pay the bananas, I give money to the bananas!
Indonesian has different word forms to communicate different meanings – bayar, bayar kepada, bayari, and bayarkan. English, on the other hand, only has ‘pay’ and ‘pay for’:
- Pay the man. (bayar kepada)
- Pay for the bananas. (bayar)
- Pay for my coffee, would you? (bayari)
- When you’re in town could you pay my electricity bill for me? Here’s the money. (bayarkan)
In the first picture (below), a man is paying a woman for some vegetables:
In the next illustration, a man is paying some fruit and vegetables. He’s giving money to the fruit and vegetables:
😦 Americans rose steadily, while Indonesians fell dramatically.
Well, maybe. Something like this?
With a sentence like the one above you are unlikely to communicate anything meaningful about a graph, table or chart. If there was a rise or a fall, then you need to state precisely what it was that rose and what it was that fell – What is the subject?
🙂 The divorce rate in America rose steadily, while the divorce rate in Indonesia fell dramatically.
Here there are 2 subjects:
- the divorce rate in America
- the divorce rate in Indonesia
Some of you will complain about the repetition in this sentence (‘the divorce rate’). However, it’s better to repeat words and phrases and communicate something meaningful than to avoid repetition and communicate nothing.
Actually in this example repetition can be avoided:
🙂 The divorce rate in America rose steadily, while that in Indonesia fell dramatically.
* Many thanks to Diro, Nando and Ari for the ‘falling Indonesians’ photo – You guys rock! 🙂
😦 Studying abroad needs high cost!
This one does not translate directly from Indonesian. In fact the meaning changes dramatically!
In English if you say something ‘needs high cost’ then you are saying:
- It is better if this thing is expensive!
- If it is not expensive I’m not interested!
- I am ‘gengsi’!
This is like the king who is building a palace that is bigger and better than all of the other palaces owned by all of the other kings.
‘High cost’ is used in English as part of a longer noun phrase:
- the high cost of living
- high cost housing
- cheap clothing’s high cost
The preposition phrase (‘of blah blah’) is probably the most common:
- the high cost of studying abroad
If you are writing about the cost of studying abroad then you might say:
🙂 The high cost of studying abroad needs to be taken into consideration. Studying abroad is expensive.
😦 The price of natural pearls is more expensive than the price of man made pearls.
This is an Indonesian student translating ‘harganya mahal’!
First of all ‘price’ can be ‘high’ or ‘low’:
🙂 The price of natural pearls is higher than the price of man made pearls.
Products and services, meanwhile, can be ‘cheap’ or ‘expensive’:
🙂 Natural pearls are more expensive than man made pearls.
We can use the same collocation to talk about this bottle of wine:
🙂 Penfolds Grange Hermitage 1951 is very expensive. Only a rich person can afford to pay such a high price for wine!
If you say the price is expensive, strictly speaking you are saying that a sequence of numbers (in this case 38420) is expensive! The wine is expensive, not the numbers!
😦 In general, all the lines show that there is an increasing trend of people with bronchitis.
When students are preparing for IELTS Task 1 writing they learn the importance of describing ‘trends’ in graphs, tables and charts. Not surprisingly, they go ahead and use the word ‘trend’ to describe these trends. But native speakers almost never do that.
In the opening example a trend is described, but the word ‘trend’ is redundant. It is enough to write:
🙂 In general, all the lines show that the incidence of bronchitis is increasing.
This kind of statement stands out as ‘a trend’ because it says something general about a change over time without mentioning data.
So here’s your checklist for a trend:
- It is expressed as a sentence
- It does not feature the word ‘trend’
- It says something general without mentioning values from the graph, table or chart
- It describes a change over time
- The thing that is affected by change is named specifically (‘incidence’).
Understand also, that a trend is usually apparent in data that is highly irregular. In the following graph grammatical accuracy goes up and down erratically over time, but the general trend (shown by the straight line) is downward.
The ‘trend’ in this graph can be described:
🙂 The more frequently the word ‘trend’ is used, the less accurate the writing.
😦 Famous people are followed everywhere by the press. Their families sometimes feel they have to hide from reporters, and the children of famous people may feel that they are living behind the bar.
Here, again, we have a breakdown in communication caused by inaccurate use of articles.
Remember that for any noun there are 3 possible meanings:
- all of them everywhere (or all of it for non-count nouns)
- one of many (or some of many for plurals)
- this one exactly (or these exactly for plurals)
I think the writer of the opening example meant to describe the bars in a prison, and was trying to use the idiom ‘behind bars’ (grammar = some of many).
- ‘the’ indicates this one exactly. If you are talking idiomatically about a prison window then that doesn’t look right. If there’s only one bar and unless it’s a very small window – or a very large bar – then the prisoner will be able to escape easily!
- Meanwhile ‘the bar’ has very strong connotations with the part of a pub or restaurant where people sit to drink alcohol. Add ‘behind’ and you get ‘behind the bar’ – the area where drinks are stored and where the bar staff prepare drinks for customers. Clearly this is not a suitable place for children!
I’m sure the writer meant something like this:
🙂 Famous people are followed everywhere by the press. Their families sometimes feel they have to hide from reporters, and the children of famous people may feel that they are living behind bars.
Now the text carries two correct meanings:
- The ‘s’ on ‘bars’ gives us the grammatical meaning some of many – so, more than one bar. (high score in IELTS writing for grammar)
- ‘behind bars’ is an idiom – we don’t imagine the children actually in prison, they’re just ‘trapped’ somehow, or their movements are restricted. (high score in IELTS writing for vocabulary)
Be careful with your meanings and choose articles (or ‘s’) with care!