IELTS Grammar: adjectives after nouns?

As I’m sure you know, we normally place the adjective in front of the noun in English e.g. “the red car” instead of “the car red”.

However, English is a crazy language, and rules are there to be broken!

If you read yesterday’s lesson (and clicked on this link), you may have seen the following examples of noun + adjective:

  • someone important
  • somewhere nice
  • the best room available
  • the only decision possible
  • the worst choice imaginable
  • the person responsible

Remember: The ‘rules’ that you find in an intermediate (or even ‘advanced’) grammar book are probably a simplification. There are deeper levels to be discovered!

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February 29, 2020

IELTS Grammar: ‘any product imaginable’

There was an interesting discussion in the comments below Wednesday’s lesson about the phrase “I can buy any product imaginable”.

Here’s a summary of the questions in that discussion:

1) Why did I write any product imaginable instead of any imaginable product?
2) Would any imaginable product also be correct?
3) Is there a difference in meaning between the two phrases?

I’ll try to answer without going deep into grammar, but if you really like the grammar side of things, have a look at this page (especially the part about ‘the only decision possible’ and ‘the worst choice imaginable’).

  1. The simple answer is that “any product imaginable” sounds better to me as a native speaker. This phrase isn’t my own original creation; I’ve probably heard or read it many times in similar contexts, so it’s the instinctive phrase to use.
    Note: There are 14,300 Google search results for this collocation.
  2. While “any imaginable product” is also grammatically correct, it seems just a little less natural to me. The emphasis is slightly different, and the meaning could also be understood in a slightly different way.
    Note: There are only 905 Google search results for this collocation.
  3. This is debatable. If I had to give you my view, I would say that an “imaginable product” could include products that don’t currently exist (e.g. a flying car), whereas my phrase “any product imaginable” tends to refer to products that currently exist.

In the end, the Google results and my instinct as a native speaker are probably your best guide. In normal English usage, “any product imaginable” is the typical collocation.

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February 22, 2020

IELTS Grammar: linking with ‘this’

All students learn to link ideas using words like “however”, “furthermore” etc. Most students don’t realise that the word “this” is also a linking word. Look at the following examples:

  • Nowadays, people can use the Internet to work from home. In this way, people who do not have access to transport can find employment.
  • Most products are built to last only a short time, and this creates a “throw-away” culture.
  • A global economy means free trade between countries. This can strengthen political relationships.

The word “this” refers to the sentence or idea that came before. “This” helps you to link ideas and avoid repetition. Native speakers and good writers use “this” a lot, and the IELTS examiner will be impressed if you can use it.

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February 08, 2020

IELTS Grammar: mixed conditional

Yesterday I asked you to look at the sentence below.

  • There would be no computer programmers if the computer hadn’t been invented.

This sentence contains a mixed conditional: would + infinitive (2nd conditional) with if + past perfect (3rd conditional).

Notice that I’m imagining the present result of an imagined event in the past.

To learn more about this type of construction, visit this web page.

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February 07, 2020

IELTS Speaking / Grammar: a mixed conditional

Somebody asked me about this sentence from last Friday’s speaking lesson:

  • There would be no computer programmers if the computer hadn’t been invented.

The student asked me why I didn’t follow the normal third conditional ‘rule’ and write “there would have been” instead of “there would be”? Did I make a mistake?

The answer is no, I didn’t make a mistake. I wrote a mixed conditional sentence on purpose. Can you see why? I’ll explain in tomorrow’s lesson.

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February 02, 2020

IELTS Vocabulary: editing and improving

You won’t have time to do this in your test, but it’s a good idea to edit and improve the essays that you write at home.

For example, in the music essay that I shared on Wednesday, there’s a phrase that we could improve: “the planet’s global language”.

While this phrase is fine and wouldn’t affect the essay’s score, you could argue that it contains repetition because ‘planet’ and ‘global’ communicate similar meanings. Note: We could simply write “the planet’s language” or “the global language”, but I wanted to use this structure: noun + adjective + language.

So let’s think about some possible alternatives:

  1. the planet’s shared language
  2. the planet’s common language
  3. humanity’s global language
  4. our global language

Notice that I changed the adjective ‘global’ in the first two examples, I used a different noun (humanity) in example 3, and I used a pronoun instead of the noun ‘planet’ in example 4. Which alternative do you prefer?

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February 01, 2020

IELTS Grammar: I was hoping that…

A student asked me about the phrase “I was hoping that you could help me”.

Why do we use the past tense (was hoping) if we’re asking for help now?

Here’s the answer that I gave the student:

I know it seems strange, but this is a common way to ask for something in English. For example:

  • I was hoping that you could help me = I hope you can help me.
  • I was hoping to get your advice = Can you give me your advice?

Perhaps you could think about it like this: the “hoping” happened in my head before I decided to ask for the help.

Or you could just see this as a fixed phrase, and a typically English way to ask politely and indirectly!

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January 25, 2020

IELTS Grammar: do you make this ‘pronoun’ mistake?

Look at the sentences below. Can you see the mistake in each one?

  1. Children who play chess, they become more creative as adults.
  2. A lot of political leaders, they are corrupt.
  3. My brother, he is studying at university in Canada.
  4. My writing exam, it was very difficult.

I’ve underlined the problem: each sentence contains an unnecessary pronoun. Many students make this mistake, especially when speaking. If you can avoid it, your English will sound much more natural.

Here are the correct versions:

  1. Children who play chess become more creative as adults.
  2. A lot of political leaders are corrupt.
  3. My brother is studying at university in Canada.
  4. My writing exam was very difficult.

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