Tagged: task 2

Not everything is ‘convenient’

ūüė¶ 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.

flag-of-indonesia 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.

For your convenience, here are some definitions of ‘convenience’, as well as some pictures of convenient things.

@eapguru

In(the) first place

ūüė¶ In the first place is over-grazing, which caused 35% of land degradation.

Not a terrible ‚Äėerror‚Äô – we know what you mean! But still, it‚Äôs important to understand the distinction between ‚Äėin first place‚Äô and ‚Äėin the first place‚Äô.

In IELTS Task 1 writing we often find ourselves ranking items as follows:

ūüôā 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‚Äôre listing rather than ranking? Let’s say, for example, that you’re listing¬†supports for an argument. In this case you need ‚Äėin the first place‚Äô, ‚Äėin the second place‚Äô, etc.:

ūüôā 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!

firstsecondthird

@eapguru

PS. See also¬†my¬†earlier post dealing with¬†‚Äėin second place‚Äô instead of¬†‚Äėsecond winner‚Äô (which does NOT mean ‘in second place’!).

Goodbye to ‘By’

ūüė¶ 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):

ūüôā 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:

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

@eapguru

Used to using ‘used to’

ūüė¶ I’m not used to invite visitors to my house.

‘Used to’ has two meanings:

  1. I used to invite visitors to my house. (= I don’t invite them any more.)
  2. 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.

Ouch!

@eapguru

I would if I could, but I can’t

ūüė¶ 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.

Possibility

How possible is it?

ūüôā 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 Рan unlikely situation Рis by far the most common context for could and would.

Will

flag-of-indonesia¬†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:

  1. ‘First conditional’ – a situation that is highly possible:

Look at those clouds. I forgot my umbrella. If it rains I will get wet!

  1. Predictions

Look at those dark clouds! It will probably rain soon.

  1. 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!

Ability

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.

Summing up

Next time you write could or would stop and think. You probably should be writing can or will!

@eapguru@eapguru

 

Children living behind the bar

ūüė¶ 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!

behind-the-bar

I’m sure¬†the writer meant something like this:

ūüôā 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:

  1. The ‘s’ on ‘bars’ gives us the grammatical meaning some of many¬†– so, more than one bar. (high score in IELTS writing for grammar)
  2. ‘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!

@eapguru

Noun phrase ‘__ed’ucation

ūüė¶ Consequently, people lived in remote areas sometimes have limited access to learning resources.

Here the¬†student wants¬†to post-modify¬†the noun ‘people’ using a verb – ‘live’. When post-modifying nouns using verbs, one option is to use a non-finite verb. Don’t worry you don’t need to google ‘non-finite’ –¬†that’s just a fancy name for the following little group of verb forms:

  • __ing (sometimes called present participle)
  • __ed (sometimes called past participle)
  • to + v1

If you’re using __ed to extend or ‘post-modify’ a noun, then you’re¬†really using a kind of shortened relative clause:

ūüė¶ “..people who¬†are lived in remote areas..”

In this case you end up with a passive construction (to be + V3), which obviously doesn’t make sense here because a thing or a person cannot ‘be lived’.

‘Live’ is an intransitive verb – it doesn’t take an object. But no worries, we can easily¬†re-write the noun phrase¬†with a relative clause and a¬†transitive verb so that it makes sense:

ūüôā “..people¬†who¬†are situated¬†in remote areas..”

Native speakers will nearly always shorten this relative clause to leave the non-finite verb only:

ūüôā “..people¬†situated¬†in remote areas..”

Finally, the noun phrase can now be incorporated into the sentence like this:

ūüôā Consequently, people¬†situated¬†in remote areas sometimes have limited access to learning resources.

Alternatively¬†we could stick with ‘live’ but¬†use __ing:

ūüôā Consequently, people¬†living¬†in remote areas sometimes have limited access to learning resources.

In this case we are shortening another relative clause but we don’t have to consider whether or not the verb is transitive:

ūüôā “..people who are living in remote areas..”

When post-modifying nouns, native speakers generally use the shortened version without the relative pronoun.


To end this post, it’s worth¬†putting non-finite verbs in context with other common methods for post-modifying nouns:

preposition phrases relative clauses __ing, __ed, to+V1 time expressions

Sometimes these are interchangeable:

the number of plastic bags used by consumers in 2015 in America
the number of plastic bags used in America by consumers in 2015

And I’ll throw in a relative clause just to show off:

the number of plastic bags used by consumers in 2015 in America which are not made of biodegradable material

Notice that the __ed phrase also has a preposition phrase embedded into it:

used by consumers
used in America

And notice that time expressions are often also preposition phrases:

in 2015
on Tuesday
after I finished work
etc.

I hope all of that helps and look forward to hearing your feedback!

@eapguru

 

 

Happy people – ‘people’¬†pre-modified using ‘happy’
People everywhere – ‘people¬†post-modified with ‘everywhere’
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