😦 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.
- cause (n) + contributes + (adv) + to + effect (n)
- greatly (adv) collocates strongly with contribute (v)
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.
😦 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 – myself included – who 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.
- (Pill 1) The adverb often tells us two things:
- the frequency of stress (not always!)
- the number of students who experience stress (not all!)
- (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.
😦 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.