😦 Space exploration does not improve conditions in the society.
Recently in class we were discussing the difference between society and community and it occurred to me that this might be an opportunity to contrast society and the society (see also previous post).
As you may be aware, there are so-called ‘uncontacted peoples‘ living in forests in different parts of the world. These people form communities whose social structures are very different from those found in ‘modern society‘. This is because uncontacted peoples – for whatever reason – are cut off from the rest of society.
In this case, society (uncountable, without the) refers to all of humanity. Meanwhile community (here countable) refers to a group having shared values, interests and lifestyle. Academics sometimes identify uncontacted peoples as ‘primitive societies‘ (plural countable), where each society can be counted as a separate group having unique social characteristics. Note, however, that the countable use of society tends to be restricted to the fields of anthropology, sociology, and other social sciences.
If we wish to talk about society (uncountable, without the) to mean ‘all of humanity’, then our opening sentence should probably read:
🙂 Space exploration does not improve conditions in society.
A common error made by Indonesian students is to write the society (a particular group) when you really mean society (all of humanity).
For further analysis of society and the society try here.
Another song from eapguru – this time to practice the words ‘easy and ‘difficult’. See also this earlier post for further practice of these not-so-easy items!
A free handout with lyrics and tasks for students accompanies the song. The video features Indonesian EAP students preparing to study abroad. Enjoy!
😦 Physical shops are more convenient than online stores. Firstly, in physical shops customers are able to touch goods and try on clothes. Secondly, shopping in physical shops can be a social activity.
There is a category of physical store aptly named ‘convenience stores’. Many countries have 7 Elevens. In Indonesia we have Indomaret, Alfamart and Circle K.
Indonesians might call a shop that sells everything at a low price ‘convenient’. However, the prices in convenience stores like Circle K can be quite a lot higher than average. These shops inflate prices precisely so that they can offer ‘conveniences’:
- they are numerous, especially in cities
- they have ample parking if they are situated on a road
- they can even be found inside large shopping centres
- they stock items that most people need on a daily basis
- they provide fast and efficient service
These are all features that most people would consider ‘convenient’. In English if something saves you time and effort then it is ‘convenient’. Being able to touch goods is not a matter of ‘convenience’. It may be practical, but it is not what most people would call ‘convenient’, and neither is meeting your friends when you go to physical stores.
😦 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!
😦 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.
😦 I’m not used to invite visitors to my house.
‘Used to’ has two meanings:
- I used to invite visitors to my house. (= I don’t invite them any more.)
- I’m not used to inviting visitors to my house. (= I don’t do it very often.)
If you’re talking about something you did regularly in the past, but don’t do now:
used to + V1
On the other hand if you’re talking about an activity that you don’t do very often and as a result find difficult or awkward:
used to ___ing
Let’s look at one more example.
When Europeans visit Bali and eat in a restaurant, the staff assume that these visitors do not want to eat spicy food because Europeans are not used to eating spicy food.
On the other hand I have a Balinese friend who used to eat spicy food but had to stop because he developed stomach ulcers.
😦 I enjoy using Facebook because I could see photos of my friends there.
Students are often confused about can/could, will/would. Sometimes they have learned at school that could and would are more formal, or more polite than can and will. That may be true when you are requesting something, but in IELTS speaking and writing you’re usually using can and will to communicate possibility or ability rather than to make a request.
How possible is it?
🙂 I enjoy using Facebook because I can see photos of my friends there.
In this case there is a strong possibility (almost 100%) that I will see my friend’s photos on Facebook. In this case I need to use can.
Let’s imagine a similar situation where there is no possibility:
If I had an Internet connection, I could see photos of my friends on Facebook.
Here the writer clearly does not have an Internet connection and so there is no possibility of him seeing his friend’s photos. Notice that in this example could is part of a structure called ‘second conditional’:
If + subj + V2 + ‘,’ + subj + could/would + V1
In the ‘second conditional’ the situation you are describing is unlikely:
“If I found a million dollars in the street I would buy a new house.”
Second conditional – an unlikely situation – is by far the most common context for could and would.
Indonesian students tend to overuse ‘will’ because they want to translate ‘akan’. But ‘will’ is not used in English as much as ‘akan’ is used in Indonesian. Actually there are generally only three situations where will is suitable:
- ‘First conditional’ – a situation that is highly possible:
Look at those clouds. I forgot my umbrella. If it rains I will get wet!
Look at those dark clouds! It will probably rain soon.
- Habits (usually annoying habits)
He drives me crazy. He’ll (he will) trim his nails and then leave the cuttings all over the floor for me to clean up!
How able are you (or were you)?
It’s unusual to talk about past abilities, because once you acquire an ability, for example the ability to swim, you rarely lose that ability. It would be ridiculous, for example, to write:
When I was younger I could swim, but then I forgot how to swim so now I can’t.
We generally only lose this kind of ability when something terrible happens to us:
When I was younger I could swim, but then I lost my arms and legs and so now I can’t swim.
On the other hand ability can sometimes be a matter of degree. for example we can talk about partial ability, and about changes in our level of ability:
When I was younger I could swim 20km, but now that I’m old I can only swim 20 metres!
Most of the time when we talk about ability we use can – present tense – because, most of the time, we’re making a claim that is true now.
Next time you write could or would stop and think. You probably should be writing can or will!