Word forms

This page focuses on using the correct word form in your writing

I see the same old mistakes all the time in my students’ writing and I tell them that with a little more awareness they can dramatically improve their accuracy. Here are some examples of  mistakes which I have come across recently:

1. The UK is a high population country.

2.  France is a develop country.

3. European countries students generally have fewer problems in UK universities than students from other parts of the world.

The students have generally used the correct words but they have not put them into the correct form. The correct sentences are:

1. The UK is a highly (densely) populated country.

2.  France is a developed country.

3. European students / Students from Europe / Students from European countries generally have fewer problems in UK universities than students from other parts of the world.

Let’s take a look at a couple of simple sentences:

Subject (noun phrase) verb article adverb adjective noun
The USA is a very powerful country.
Drug trafficking is an extremely serious crime.

The word which comes before the final noun, describing that noun, must be an adjective. If we go back to sentence 1 and look up the word ‘population’ in anadvanced learner’s dictionary it says ‘population: noun’. So we can’t use it! The next word is ‘populated: adj’. Ah ha! That’s the one we want. The word before ‘populated’, to say if that adjective is strong or weak should be an adverb. If we look up ‘high’ in our dictionary we can see it is an adjective. So look further to see ‘highly: adv’ - great we can use that. So now we have:

The UK is a highly (densely) populated country.

and in this example we can use ‘densely’ which is an even better adverb to describe population.

This system of checking will prevent uncomfortable phrases like: European countries students. The noun is ’students’ so we need an adjective before it to describe what sort of students we are talking about. ‘Countries’ is a noun so it isn’t going to work. Find a suitable adjective instead.

Here’s a useful page from Birmingham City University with information about word types and an accompanying exercise complete with answers to check your work.

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