Tagged: grammar

Parallel structures and IELTS

😦 Modern art and music can cause conflicts in existing cultural values and can cause misinterpretation or even losing their originality in cultural identity.

If you want to pack a list of items into one sentence, then these items need to be ‘parallel’. What do I mean by items and what do I mean by parallel?

  • Items are usually noun phrases or verb phrases, although they are sometimes preposition phrases.
  • Parallel means that all of the items are the same type – all nouns, all verb phrases, etc.

Parallel nouns

Our opening example could be written using noun phrases only:

🙂 Modern art and music can cause conflicts in existing cultural values, misinterpretation, or even loss of originality in cultural identity.

..in which we have one verb – cause – and three nouns separated by commas:

  • conflicts in existing cultural values
  • misinterpretation
  • loss of originality in cultural identity

(Notice that the final noun is preceded by or even as a substitute for and.)

Parallel verbs

Alternatively the sentence could be written using verb phrases only, again separated by commas:

🙂 Modern art and music can cause conflicts in existing cultural values, lead to  misinterpretation, or even result in loss of originality in cultural identity.

Parallelism and IELTS

Accurate parallel structures can help to increase your IELTS score for GRA (they’re ‘structural’), LR (noun phrases are probably the most common item), and CC (non-parallel structures are difficult to understand).

Ha! There – I just used a parallel structure built from nouns (GRA, LR, CC)!

@eapguru

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When should I use ‘have to’?

😦 I’m sorry I’m late. My wife is sick and so this morning I should take my son to school. And I’m sorry but I should leave early today to take him home.

OK so this is an Indonesian student over-translating ‘harus’ as ‘should’. Actually there are situations when we have to use ‘have to’ instead of ‘should’. Take a look at the following examples and try the exercises that follow.

As a teacher I have to [1] get up early on work days because I have to [2] be in class at 8 o’clock. I drive to work, although I should [3] probably use a motorcycle, which is faster and more convenient in Bali.

When I was a musician I didn’t have to [4] get up early. On the other hand I had to [5] be on stage most evenings at 8 o’clock. I had to [6] drive to gigs because I had to [7] carry many drums. I know what you’re thinking – I should’ve [8] chosen a smaller instrument like the violin. Yes, but then I would have had to [9] play the violin!

Discussion

  1. In which situations do/did/would I have a choice?
  2. In which situations do/did/would I NOT have a choice?

Complete the rule:

In the present:

  • we use ________________ to talk about situations when it is a good idea to do something, but we have a choice. (We probably don’t do it!)
  • we use ________________ to talk about situations when we have NO choice. (We do it, even if we don’t want to!)

In the past:

  • we use ________________ to talk about situations when it would have been a good idea to do something, but we didn’t do it, even though we had a choice.
  • we use ________________ to talk about situations when we had NO choice. (We did it, even if we didn’t want to!)

(scroll down for answers!)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Discussion

  1. In which situations do/did/would I have a choice? [Answer: 1,2,4,5,6,7,9]
  2. In which situations do/did/would I NOT have a choice? [Answer: 3,8]

Complete the rule:

In the present:

  • we use should to talk about situations when it is a good idea to do something, but we have a choice. (We probably don’t do it!)
  • we use have to to talk about situations when we have NO choice. (We do it, even if we don’t want to!)

In the past:

  • we use should have + V3 to talk about situations when it would have been a good idea to do something, but we didn’t do it, even though we had a choice.
  • we use had to to talk about situations when we had NO choice. (We did it, even though we didn’t want to!)

When corrected, the opening example reads as follows:

🙂 I’m sorry I’m late. My wife is sick and so this morning I had to take my son to school. And I’m sorry but I have to leave early today to take him home.

Hope that helps!

@eapguru

 

To show purpose, that’s why!

😦 I would like to study abroad one more time, especially for achieving a doctoral degree.

flag-of-indonesia This is an Indonesian translation for ‘untuk’ as a way to explain purpose.

In English the answer to this kind of ‘why’ question is nearly always ‘to + V1’:

🙂 I would like to study abroad one more time, especially to achieve a doctoral degree.

Questions that focus on purpose include:

  • Why do you want to..?
  • Why did you..?
  • What did you (do that) for?

In these examples the answer – ‘To + v1..’ is sometimes referred to as ‘the infinitive of purpose‘.

‘For + noun’ is used to explain some kind of function:

A: What’s that machine for?
B: It’s for pounding rice. (function)
A. Oh. I see. But why use a machine?
B. Maybe to save time. (purpose)
A. Ah. Right.

flag-of-indonesia Indonesians – next time you want to translate ‘untuk’, stop and think. Are you talking about function or purpose?

@eapguru

When is a school not a school?

😦 I have also been a teacher in one of high schools in Padang.

flag-of-indonesia This is a common mistake made by Indonesians desperate to translate ‘salah satu’ or maybe ‘sebuah’.

In English, when we want to communicate ‘one of many’, we use the indefinite article ‘a/an’:

🙂 I have also been a teacher at a high school in Padang.

This is sometimes called ‘generic’ reference. The school in the example is not a particular school – we don’t yet know the name of the school, its address, etc. So far we’re just imagining a typical school. The image of the school in the writer’s mind will not be exactly the same as the image of the school in the reader’s mind, and that doesn’t matter.

I might use ‘one of’ if I’m introducing more specific information about ‘a’ school. For example:

🙂 There are many schools in Padang. One of them is close to my house.
(information about the location of the school)

🙂 Only one of the schools in Padang offers an international curriculum.
(information about the curriculum of the school)

🙂 I studied at one of the best schools in Padang.
(information about the quality of the school)

Notice also that ‘one of’ is followed by certain words, in particular:

  • the / them (pronouns)
  • these / those (demonstratives)
  • my/his/their (possessives)
  • superlative adjectives

For more examples, click here.

As a general rule – if you’re talking generally (generically!), use ‘a/an’ for countable nouns. For uncountable nouns use ‘some’.

@eapguru

The King dies/(has) died?!

Which of the following would you expect to see in a news headline?

  1. The King dies
  2. The King has died
  3. The King is dying
  4. The King died
  5. The King will have been dying

(I was being silly with number 5!)

Let’s consider the grammar first of all from the context of natural disasters. We’ll return to the King of Pop later!

quake

Recently I was reviewing tenses with students when I saw this news item and remembered the grammatical quagmire I’m struggling to drag students through. How to explain tenses in news articles?! I’ll have a go, but feel free to correct me (add comments) if I’m wrong.

Deadly magnitude 6.5 earthquake hits Aceh in Indonesia.

News headlines often feature present simple tense. Even after an event is ‘finished’,  its effects may be being felt right now. And since news is supposed to be ‘new’, the ‘nowness’ of simple present communicates ‘newness’.

An undersea earthquake off Indonesia’s northern Aceh province has killed at least 52 people.

Verbs in the body of news items are often written in present perfect tense. This is the essential function of present perfect – to highlight a connection between past and present. Events that appear in the news often have immediate repercussions that are felt in the present.

The magnitude 6.5 quake struck just off the north-east coast of Sumatra island where dozens of buildings have collapsed and many people are feared trapped under rubble.

Events leading up to the main news event are often written using past simple tense. They may be coincidental, or they may have contributed directly to the main event. Notice that this sentence also features present perfect and present simple tense, for the reasons described above.

The King of Pop
Returning to Michael Jackson – any idea which headline fits best?
(Answers in comments below!)

Please share news stories that illustrate these uses of these and other tenses. Feel free to add links and post comments in the box below. I will attempt to respond to any questions! As I say, it’s a quagmire!

@eapguru

A many-headed doctor?!

😦 I am a doctor. My first sister is a doctor. My second sister is a doctor. And my third sister is a doctor. My father wanted us to become a doctor.

For a second, this is what your reader imagines:

doctor

You need:

🙂 I am a doctor. My first sister is a doctor. My second sister is a doctor. And my third sister is a doctor. My father wanted us to become doctors.

doctorsfemale

@eapguru

Goodbye to ‘By’

😦 By paying more attention to corruption can improve the welfare of a country.

Yet another Indonesian structure that doesn’t translate directly into English!

If you really must begin with ‘by’ then you need…

By + [name of solution] + subject + verb (+ etc):

🙂 By paying more attention to corruption, a government can improve the welfare of a country.

However, native speakers would probably just say “Goodbye to ‘By'” and go straight to the solution as the theme in the sentence:

🙂 Paying more attention to corruption can improve the welfare of a country.

@eapguru