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    Be careful to answer fully the question(s) from the pen friend.
    Remember that it is an informal letter, so use informal language.
    Use confident and natural language.
    Link the sentences coherently.
    Use the article correctly.
    Use a range of structures – this is not elementary level.
    Use good vocabulary – for the same reason.
    Use correct punctuation.
    Close and sign off correctly.

    Write more than 105 words.
    Write less than 95 words.
    Make basic grammatical mistakes.
    Make mistakes with the tenses.
    Make spelling mistakes.
    Digress from the subject.
    Invent or guess words.
15 marks are awarded for the Composition
To obtain full marks your composition should:
    be of the correct length.
    all the content elements (up to 3) are covered without digression and with some elaboration.
    all the content elements are organised coherently.
    grammatical accuracy so that the composition reads well.
    have good punctuation
    the composition has been appropriately closed and signed off.
    confident and ambitious use of PET language.
    wide range of structures and vocabulary within the task set.
    be informal with contractions.
    contain coherent linking of sentences using simple cohesive devices.
    have only minor errors, due to ambition, but do not impede communication.

To obtain a low mark like out of 15:
    language is simplistic/limited/repetitive
    inadequate range of structures and vocabulary
    some incoherence; erratic punctuation
    numerous errors which sometimes impede communication
    requires considerable effort by the reader
General Advice for the Composition.
Before you start your composition it is a good idea to:

   1.   Define the task (how many questions do you have to answer – give them equal importance).
   2.   Note down your ideas.
   3.   Put them in order.
   4.   Write.
   5.   Check.

Close the letter appropriately with one of the following:

Looking forward to  …ing
                  e.g. Looking forward to            getting your letter
                                                     meeting you soon
                                                     hearing from you
Best wishes,

Please write back soon,

See you soon.

General Advice for the Language.

Language used should be reasonably ambitious.
replace verbs like to go, to walk, to look, to see, to say etc. with more ambitious verbs, for
example, to stroll, to stride, to gaze, to grumble.
combine two adjectives, for example, long, curly hair; fascinating, Gothic cathedral.
use informal adverbs for cohesion for example, anyway, in any case, so, even if, whereas, what’s
more, by the way, in fact ……
use relative pronouns to make more complex sentences: the car that I hired broke down after 5
km.; the stairs which led to the cellar were slippery.
include conjunctions like if, but, or: the party was interesting, but it went on for a long time.
try to include a couple of phrasal verbs (no more than two): set off, run into, come across,
break down.
find one (not more than one) idiomatic expression: it was raining cats and dogs; we were
over the moon; every cloud has a silver lining.
The following is just a selection of mistakes made by PET students in this Faculty recently.
Without any special order of priority.

Well-known place names should be translated and not left in Italian e.g. London, Florence, the
Trevi Fountain, the Colosseum.

Do not write capital letters in the middle of a sentence without reason. It is almost always given as
a mistake e.g. ‘I don’t know why Hhe was so angry with me.

Remember to punctuate your letter correctly.

The suffix –ful should never be full – e.g. wonderfull, beautifull, but wonderful and beautiful. Only
‘full’ has the double l. ‘Beautiful’ is used too often and often in the wrong context. Try to use a
different adjective.

The verb ‘to enjoy’ can’t be used as follows: ‘I enjoyed so much’ it must be followed by a
reflexive pronoun or a direct object – e.g. I enjoyed myself so much; I enjoyed the meal.

To meet/to know are often confused. To meet is used when we encounter somebody for the first
time. I met my boyfriend in Sardinia. Not I knew my boyfriend in Sardinia . We use to get to know
somebody, when we mean the procedure of making friends.

When we like a person we do not say he/she is ‘sympathetic’ – this word has another meaning – we
say a ‘pleasant’ person.

Person/people. Usually we do not use the plural ‘persons’ it is better to use 1 person, 2 people.

Sons/children. One child, 2 children. Have you got children? Not have you got sons? Sons are
male children. Even people of 80 years old can be asked ‘Have you got children?’

Possibility of/ opportunity to. Remember that after a preposition in English a verb takes the
….ing form. The possibility of playing football.

The contracted form of has – ’s – can’t be used without a past participle after it. This makes it a
mistake, because it is interpreted as ‘is’. e.g. It’s plenty of flowers, should be: ‘It has plenty of
flowers’ or ‘It’s got plenty of flowers’.

Particular/unusual, special. We do not use particular in the Italian way. e.g. ‘It was a particular
day’ should be it was a special day.

Tell/say. Tell, told, told should be followed by a direct object.
          Say, said, said should be followed by to
      I told that she was blonde should be ‘I told her that she was blonde’
      She said me it was heavy should be ‘She said to me that it was heavy’

Arrive is not a movement verb. So, ‘arrive to’ is wrong. Use ‘arrive at’.
Remember that movement verbs take the preposition to. But arrive home, go/come home without a

Such as/like ‘we visited many beautiful places as the cathedral.’
Like is usually used for similarity. ‘That coat is like mine’.
‘we visited many beautiful places such as the cathedral’

Collective nouns information, advice, furniture etc. do not take the plural ‘s’ informations
Furniture/furnishings are different. Furnishings are soft – curtains, cushions etc.

Purpose when we express purpose we use the full infinitive with a verb ‘he went to meet his sister
at the airport’ and ‘for’ before a noun. ‘I always go there for a holiday’. Never: ‘for to meet’

Think + preposition Normally we use to think of/about, something specific/general. Never think

Amusing/funny Funny usually makes us laugh. e.g. a funny joke. Amusing is pleasant and

Available/helpful usually places are ‘available’ and people are ‘helpful’, people can also be
available, meaning that they have time for you.

Placed/located ‘The house is placed in the centre of town’ should be ‘the house is located in the
centre of town’.

To take photographs take is the correct verb for photography.

Everything - everybody/all we use ‘everything’ or ‘everybody’ on its own. ‘All’ usually has to be
followed by an object. ‘We enjoyed all’ should be ‘we enjoyed everything.’

Be careful with ‘false friends’ ‘actually’, ‘attend’, ‘eventually’, ‘sensible’ etc. all have different
meanings from their Italian ‘friends’.

English sentences don’t start with a day of the week without a preposition first in the same way as
Italian sentences e.g. ‘Sunday we went for a walk…’ should be ‘On Sunday we went for a walk…’
but ‘Sunday was a lovely day, so …’ is all right.
Study irregular verbs! For the examiner there is nothing worse than reading ‘buyed’ or ‘thinked’
instead of ‘bought’ and ‘thought’ – it tells him what a weak candidate has written the letter.

Do not assume that place names you know are also known to the examiner e.g. ‘On Sunday we
went to Sila…’ you should write ‘On Sunday we went to the Sila mountains.

‘According to me/you’ is always a mistake, use ‘In my opinion / In your opinion’. ‘According to
him/her/them’ is correct. Do not use ‘For me’, again use ‘In my opinion’.

Be suspicious when you see a double ‘will’ in a sentence. This is very rare. Usually the problem is
a time conjunction, these are always followed by the present tense. They may introduce two
clauses or separate two clauses. E.g. ‘As soon as I see her, I’ll phone you’; ‘I’ll phone you as soon
as I see her’. NOT ‘As soon as I’ll see her, I’ll phone you’; nor ‘I’ll phone you as soon as I’ll see

Amusing/funny ‘funny’ has the sense of laughter (ha ha!) so use it for jokes etc. ‘We had an
amusing funny time’ – because ‘amusing’ means pleasantly entertaining.

Way/road ‘way’ can be used as the direction for somewhere or to mean ‘manner’, but it
is wrong to write ‘ there is a bus stop on my way, just opposite my house’.

Look at/watch/see to see is a perception verb and so doesn’t go in the progressive form
in most cases. ‘I’m seeing a dog’ should be ‘I can see a dog’. To look at is used for
something not in motion – ‘look at that poster’ – to watch, for something in motion –
‘watching the hockey match’.

Do not write etc. it reveals a lack of vocabulary. E.g. ‘we saw the Colosseum, the Trevi
Fountain, the Forum etc. and Trajan’s column’ or ‘we saw the Colosseum, the Trevi
Fountain, the Forum etc. and so on.

Do not start sentences with ‘but’ or ‘and’ or any other obvious joining word.

Do not use the Saxon genitive for two things e.g. the kitchen’s door – the kitchen door;
life’s way – way of life etc.

Word order is all important. Usually we do not separate a verb from its direct object. I like very
much walking by the sea very much. Try never to separate them.
You should try to remember MPT (manner, place and time) these often follow the verb
(and its direct object when applicable) e.g. ‘We played football with the children happily
(M) in the park (P) all afternoon (T)’

Suggest is a difficult verb. ‘I suggest + ….ing’ or ‘I suggest that + personal
pronoun/noun’ e.g. ‘I suggest going to the cinema’ but less ambiguous is ? I suggest that
you go to the cinema’!!
The dictionary uses ‘one’ or ‘oneself’ meaning that you should choose the person for the
construction e.g. first person singular – dictionary: ‘on one’s own – I did it on one’s my
own’. ‘She enjoyed oneself herself’.

Plural reflexive pronouns change from self to selves: themselves not themselves

Lack/miss ‘I feel the lack of my family’ should be ‘I miss my family’ ‘lack’ is used for
the absence of some possession, time or virtue, whereas ‘miss’ is used as a sentiment.

Smog in English is the deadly mixture of fog and smoke. We do not use it for traffic.
Here you should use ‘traffic fumes’ or ‘exhaust fumes’.
***** There are many other mistakes that can be made while writing English. Reading English a lot
helps to avoid errors. Studying English grammar also helps to avoid many grammatical errors such as
misuse of tenses. The above mistakes are only indicative, they are not meant to be comprehensive.
TYPICAL COMPOSITIONS – Good and not so good. (Written by our students
and published with their kind consent – anonymity guaranteed!!!)

Two months ago you moved from the countryside to a large town. Now you are writing
to an English-speaking friend to tell him/her all about it. Describe where you live, say
something about your new way of life and explain how you feel about it.

Here is the first letter (including the few mistakes):

Dear Sarah,
              There’s an interesting piece of news to tell you. Two months ago my family
moved to Milan and I went with them. No dubt Milan is a great European city; It’s an
attractive place, and it has an interesting way of life. There are lots of things to do, I
can’t afford to be tired.
 At the beginning I felt alone and depressed, but in consequence I adapted to Milan
Now I’m having a great time. Everything’s full of history and tradition here. The only
thing I don’t like is the weather, it’s cold and rains a lot!
That’s all for now!
                      Looking forward to getting your reply

This composition responds to the task and is written in good, fluent English. The
language level is good enough without being too ambitious. There are only three
mistakes, which do not impede comprehension. I think this composition would receive a
high mark.

Here is another good composition on the same theme (including the few mistakes):

Dear Nino,
Sorry, but I couldn’t reply immediately to your letter, because two months ago I moved
from my little village to the big and frenzied city of Rome.
I decided to come here to study at the local university. Life is very hard: now I’m living
in a very small flat with three girls, but I think I’ll leave it because my Faculty is a long
way off and my fellow tenants are too untidy!
I would like to have some peacefulness, the peacefulness I had when I lived in my
I feel lonely. I miss my family and my friends. On the other hand life at University is
very interesting; I knew many new friends who I go out with.
Now I have to go but I’m writing you another letter when I explain you better than now
my new way of life!
                                   Write soon,
Once again, this composition is very well written. The mistakes do not impede
comprehension and the task is very competently fulfilled. The punctuation is clear and
techniques are used to make the letter flow. Another high mark.

Here is a bad composition (complete with the few correct words!):

Dear Jhon,           (John)
How are you? I hope good. Me too. Two months ago I have moved to Firenze now live
in skyscraper (sic!) on second floor. There are four bedroom, chikten, and big
livingroom. This town has got a lot shop, but too many smog. Before I have gone to
University with bike throught trees but now I must can to breathe bad air. It’s hard life’s
way but I will hope for better.
                                  Kisses,             (don’t write this – ed.)

Well …… this is not so good and the student knows it! In fact, he says he’s not ready for
the PET and I AGREE with him!!! Apart from the many basic grammatical mistakes, he
has more or less covered the task, but the language level, when correct is very low. I
doubt whether this would get more than 4/10.
False friends
False friends are words which are similar to words in your own language, but have a
different meaning. Below is a list of just some of the common, Italian false friends.
English word                     False friend                 Meaning of English word
actually (adv)                   attualmente                  veramente; perfino
argument (n)             argomento                    discussione; litigio
annoyed (adj)                    annoiato                     infastidito
attend (v)                       attendere                    frequentare
brave (adj)                      bravo                        coraggioso
camera (n)                       camera                       macchina fotografica
cold (adj)                       caldo                        freddo
eventually                       eventualmente                prima o poi
expensive (adj)                  espansivo                    costoso
factory (n)                      fattoria                     fabbrica
firm (n)                         firma                        ditta, impresa
library (n)                      libreria                     biblioteca
magazine (n)                     magazzino                    rivista
noisy (adj)                      noioso                       rumoroso
notice (n)                       notizia                      avviso
occasionally (adv)               occasionalmente              ogni tanto
parent (n)                       parente                      genitore/genitrice
pretend (v)                      pretendere                   fingere
recover (v)                      ricoverare                   ricuperare
scope (n)                        scopo                        possibilità, ambito
sensible (adj)                   sensibile                    di buon senso, raggionevole
straight (adj)           stretto                      diritto, liscio
stranger (n)                     straniero                    sconosciuto, forestiero
                               THE USE OF THE ARTICLE
The Indefinite Article

Used for singular countable nouns for general meaning.
         - the first mention of a noun
         - numbers and fractions
         - means ‘every’ with expressions of time
         - to describe a person’s job or situation
e.g. There is a strong wind, the wind is often strong here
e.g. It’s a quarter of the total.
e.g. Take the pills three times a day
e.g. She’s an architect, he’s an engineer.

No article is used with:

cities, towns and villages
possessive adjectives
sports / games
countries and regions
individual mountains
countable plural nouns (general sense)
uncountable nouns (general sense)
named shops

The Definite Article

the superlative
ordinal numbers
the adjective ‘only’
nouns representing a
class of people / things
groups of islands
musical instruments
oceans, seas, rivers
mountain ranges
something unique

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