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Sunday, December 11, 2016

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Hi Simon.
I followed the lesson: IELTS Grammar: 'highest' or 'the highest'?. You said that: "We use "the" when there is a noun after the adjective". Then a person asked you: "I noted that in others lesson, u stil worte like that: "The Los Angeles network is THE newest" or "the Washington DC underground is THE most extensive" althought we put the noun before??? It confused me alot
http://ielts-simon.com/ielts-help-and-english-pr/2011/03/ielts-writing-task-1-table-essay.html
".
I could not find your answer about this question. So, could you give me an answer?
Thank you very much!

Peter

You are confused because when the noun is already in the sentence, we almost always leave it out because it is unnecessarily repetitive. We could replace it with a synonym, but it is common practice to leave it out. For example:

The Washington underground is the most extensive (underground).

We usually use a superlative without 'the' when we compare something to itself, not to other categories. For example:

The train station is busiest at 8am.

Here we are comparing the train station to itself at different times. We are not comparing it to other train stations.

10 th dec task 2 India
most scientific resesrch is funded by big compaines..nt by governments...how advantages outweiegh disafvantages
BC topic...
cue card...short journey often do bt dislike

timing is main prob there....specially reding n writing
n spellingggg.....

Exploring the word "underlying":

https://books.google.com/ngrams/graph?content=underlying+*&year_start=1800&year_end=2000&corpus=15&smoothing=3&share=&direct_url=t2%3B%2Cunderlying%20%2A%3B%2Cc0%3B%2Cs0%3B%3Bunderlying%20the%3B%2Cc0%3B%3Bunderlying%20principles%3B%2Cc0%3B%3Bunderlying%20cause%3B%2Cc0%3B%3Bunderlying%20this%3B%2Cc0%3B%3Bunderlying%20principle%3B%2Cc0%3B%3Bunderlying%20causes%3B%2Cc0%3B%3Bunderlying%20all%3B%2Cc0%3B%3Bunderlying%20it%3B%2Cc0%3B%3Bunderlying%20these%3B%2Cc0%3B%3Bunderlying%20idea%3B%2Cc0

More common collocations for "significance":

https://books.google.com/ngrams/graph?content=underlying+*&year_start=1800&year_end=2000&corpus=15&smoothing=3&share=&direct_url=t2%3B%2Cunderlying%20%2A%3B%2Cc0%3B%2Cs0%3B%3Bunderlying%20the%3B%2Cc0%3B%3Bunderlying%20principles%3B%2Cc0%3B%3Bunderlying%20cause%3B%2Cc0%3B%3Bunderlying%20this%3B%2Cc0%3B%3Bunderlying%20principle%3B%2Cc0%3B%3Bunderlying%20causes%3B%2Cc0%3B%3Bunderlying%20all%3B%2Cc0%3B%3Bunderlying%20it%3B%2Cc0%3B%3Bunderlying%20these%3B%2Cc0%3B%3Bunderlying%20idea%3B%2Cc0

Relative frequency of some of your phrases (note they all fall below 0.001%):

https://books.google.com/ngrams/graph?content=at+stake%2C+we+no+longer+remember%2Cnon+-+religious%2Cnon-religious+festivals%2Cin+the+sense+that%2Cat+an+early+age%2Cdeeper+significance%2Cplays+a+role+in&case_insensitive=on&year_start=1800&year_end=2000&corpus=15&smoothing=3&share=&direct_url=t1%3B%2Cat%20stake%3B%2Cc0%3B.t4%3B%2Cwe%20no%20longer%20remember%3B%2Cc0%3B%2Cs0%3B%3Bwe%20no%20longer%20remember%3B%2Cc0%3B%3BWe%20no%20longer%20remember%3B%2Cc0%3B.t4%3B%2Cnon%20--%20religious%3B%2Cc0%3B%2Cs0%3B%3Bnon%20--%20religious%3B%2Cc0%3B%3BNon%20--%20religious%3B%2Cc0%3B%3BNon%20--%20Religious%3B%2Cc0%3B%3BNON%20--%20RELIGIOUS%3B%2Cc0%3B.t1%3B%2Cnon%20-%20religious%20festivals%3B%2Cc0%3B.t4%3B%2Cin%20the%20sense%20that%3B%2Cc0%3B%2Cs0%3B%3Bin%20the%20sense%20that%3B%2Cc0%3B%3BIn%20the%20sense%20that%3B%2Cc0%3B.t4%3B%2Cat%20an%20early%20age%3B%2Cc0%3B%2Cs0%3B%3Bat%20an%20early%20age%3B%2Cc0%3B%3BAt%20an%20early%20age%3B%2Cc0%3B.t1%3B%2Cdeeper%20significance%3B%2Cc0%3B.t1%3B%2Cplays%20a%20role%20in%3B%2Cc0

Perhaps if we are going to make a serious effort to learn a phrase, it should be of more general use, such as:

https://books.google.com/ngrams/graph?content=with+no+strings+attached%2Cgrey+area%2Cget+rid+of%2Ca+two-edged+sword%2Ccarte+blanche%2Cdire+consequences%2Cin+one+fell+swoop%2Cat+the+eleventh+hour%2Cat+stake%2Cthe+bottom+line&case_insensitive=on&year_start=1800&year_end=2008&corpus=15&smoothing=3&share=&direct_url=t4%3B%2Cwith%20no%20strings%20attached%3B%2Cc0%3B%2Cs0%3B%3Bwith%20no%20strings%20attached%3B%2Cc0%3B%3BWith%20no%20strings%20attached%3B%2Cc0%3B.t4%3B%2Cgrey%20area%3B%2Cc0%3B%2Cs0%3B%3Bgrey%20area%3B%2Cc0%3B%3BGrey%20Area%3B%2Cc0%3B%3BGrey%20area%3B%2Cc0%3B.t4%3B%2Cget%20rid%20of%3B%2Cc0%3B%2Cs0%3B%3Bget%20rid%20of%3B%2Cc0%3B%3BGet%20rid%20of%3B%2Cc0%3B.t4%3B%2Ca%20two%20-%20edged%20sword%3B%2Cc0%3B%2Cs0%3B%3Ba%20two%20-%20edged%20sword%3B%2Cc0%3B%3BA%20two%20-%20edged%20sword%3B%2Cc0%3B.t4%3B%2Ccarte%20blanche%3B%2Cc0%3B%2Cs0%3B%3Bcarte%20blanche%3B%2Cc0%3B%3BCarte%20Blanche%3B%2Cc0%3B%3BCarte%20blanche%3B%2Cc0%3B.t1%3B%2Cdire%20consequences%3B%2Cc0%3B.t4%3B%2Cin%20one%20fell%20swoop%3B%2Cc0%3B%2Cs0%3B%3Bin%20one%20fell%20swoop%3B%2Cc0%3B%3BIn%20one%20fell%20swoop%3B%2Cc0%3B.t4%3B%2Cat%20the%20eleventh%20hour%3B%2Cc0%3B%2Cs0%3B%3Bat%20the%20eleventh%20hour%3B%2Cc0%3B%3BAt%20the%20eleventh%20hour%3B%2Cc0%3B.t4%3B%2Cat%20stake%3B%2Cc0%3B%2Cs0%3B%3Bat%20stake%3B%2Cc0%3B%3BAt%20stake%3B%2Cc0%3B.t4%3B%2Cthe%20bottom%20line%3B%2Cc0%3B%2Cs0%3B%3Bthe%20bottom%20line%3B%2Cc0%3B%3BThe%20bottom%20line%3B%2Cc0%3B%3BThe%20Bottom%20Line%3B%2Cc0%3B%3Bthe%20Bottom%20Line%3B%2Cc0%3B%3BTHE%20BOTTOM%20LINE%3B%2Cc0

Is it okay to use the latin phrases in the right context? Or are they too academic?

https://books.google.com/ngrams/graph?content=at+stake%2Cthe+bottom+line%2Csine+qua+non%2Cde+facto%2Cbona+fide&year_start=1900&year_end=2008&corpus=15&smoothing=3&share=&direct_url=t1%3B%2Cat%20stake%3B%2Cc0%3B.t1%3B%2Cthe%20bottom%20line%3B%2Cc0%3B.t1%3B%2Csine%20qua%20non%3B%2Cc0%3B.t1%3B%2Cde%20facto%3B%2Cc0%3B.t1%3B%2Cbona%20fide%3B%2Cc0

The following phrases seem to be more generally useful in task two, but quite rare. Would it be worthwhile learning to use them in context?

https://books.google.com/ngrams/graph?content=live+long+day%2Cforegone+conclusion%2Clackluster%2Cwatered-down%2Cwriting+was+on+the+wall%2Cno+strings+attached%2Cgrey+area%2Ca+two-edged+sword%2Ccarte+blanche%2Cdire+consequences%2Cin+one+fell+swoop%2Cat+the+eleventh+hour&case_insensitive=on&year_start=1950&year_end=2008&corpus=15&smoothing=3&share=&direct_url=t4%3B%2Clive%20long%20day%3B%2Cc0%3B%2Cs0%3B%3Blive%20long%20day%3B%2Cc0%3B%3BLive%20Long%20Day%3B%2Cc0%3B.t4%3B%2Cforegone%20conclusion%3B%2Cc0%3B%2Cs0%3B%3Bforegone%20conclusion%3B%2Cc0%3B%3BForegone%20Conclusion%3B%2Cc0%3B.t4%3B%2Clackluster%3B%2Cc0%3B%2Cs0%3B%3Blackluster%3B%2Cc0%3B%3BLackluster%3B%2Cc0%3B.t1%3B%2Cwatered%20-%20down%3B%2Cc0%3B.t1%3B%2Cwriting%20was%20on%20the%20wall%3B%2Cc0%3B.t4%3B%2Cno%20strings%20attached%3B%2Cc0%3B%2Cs0%3B%3Bno%20strings%20attached%3B%2Cc0%3B%3BNo%20strings%20attached%3B%2Cc0%3B%3BNo%20Strings%20Attached%3B%2Cc0%3B%3BNO%20STRINGS%20ATTACHED%3B%2Cc0%3B.t4%3B%2Cgrey%20area%3B%2Cc0%3B%2Cs0%3B%3Bgrey%20area%3B%2Cc0%3B%3BGrey%20Area%3B%2Cc0%3B%3BGrey%20area%3B%2Cc0%3B.t1%3B%2Ca%20two%20-%20edged%20sword%3B%2Cc0%3B.t4%3B%2Ccarte%20blanche%3B%2Cc0%3B%2Cs0%3B%3Bcarte%20blanche%3B%2Cc0%3B%3BCarte%20Blanche%3B%2Cc0%3B%3BCarte%20blanche%3B%2Cc0%3B.t1%3B%2Cdire%20consequences%3B%2Cc0%3B.t4%3B%2Cin%20one%20fell%20swoop%3B%2Cc0%3B%2Cs0%3B%3Bin%20one%20fell%20swoop%3B%2Cc0%3B%3BIn%20one%20fell%20swoop%3B%2Cc0%3B.t4%3B%2Cat%20the%20eleventh%20hour%3B%2Cc0%3B%2Cs0%3B%3Bat%20the%20eleventh%20hour%3B%2Cc0%3B%3BAt%20the%20eleventh%20hour%3B%2Cc0

Learning vocabulary is a marathon, and mostly it seems best just to read around topics and stay interested. Bearing in mind one cannot "learn" more than ten phrases a day for more than a few weeks, without forgetting most of them - and that for a non-native speaker it is hard to know what is a fixed collocation and what is not - which phrases or type of phrase, or collocation is it best to focus on? Is there any merit in using a book like "English Collocations in Use" - it would be wonderful to remember just 1% of all the stuff in there. What's the best way (apart from reading this site) ?

Finally, in your experience, are most students' results dragged down by lack of vocabulary, or by poor grammar, or by wandering off topic? Which is it most important to focus on? For example: getting participle clauses and articles correct, or collocations?

Jonquin

1. Latin phrases are only rarely used in everyday writing and they appear very formal, or often legal. I would generally avoid them.

2. Vocabulary has both 'meaning' and 'use', and both are important, especially in language assessment. A good vocabulary user knows both the meanings of words, and how to naturally use them.

3. 'Learning' vocabulary comes through use, and language research clearly shows that we 'learn' natural vocabulary by reading and listening to a wide range of native texts. The more and varied books and websites you read, and the more TV shows, movies and native speakers you interact with, the more your brain will automatically 'soak up' a wide range of language and structures.

4. Expose yourself to vocabulary that is relevant to you: your interests, your profession etc. Accept that you can't be a vocabulary expert in every area (English natives aren't).

5. The Cambridge Collocation books are actually quite good because they are created from authentic corpus (computer sorting of real written and spoken texts) and they do focus generally on the most used phrases.

6. In my experience, grammar is perhaps the top issue in language assessment. Grammar errors are very quickly noticed by examiners in both speaking and writing. Also, grammar errors are factual, and every examiner will agree on an error. Whether a candidate is off topic, or not at a particular vocabulary level is more open to interpretation.

Jonquin,

Just to add to sjm's advice above (which I completely agree with):

It's great to see that you are using Google to check frequency of usage. Just remember that "general use" phrases don't impress the examiner as much as "topic-specific" phrases. Of course, the latter are much more difficult to learn and remember, because they require a much broader knowledge of English. The low frequency of these phrases is exactly why they demonstrate a higher level of English if you use them.

Language learning takes time and depends mainly on the amount of 'exposure' to the language that you have (in my view). The more you read and listen to English, the more phrases you'll pick up.

Plus, if you learn by copying the phrases that you read and hear, you'll make fewer mistakes - many grammar mistakes are made by people who try to create sentences word by word, often translating from their own languages. Native speakers and people who speak a second language really well tend to create their sentences by putting phrases together (language teachers often refer to "chunks of language") rather than individual words.

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