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Useful Grammar: Complex Noun Phrases

In this lesson we will learn vital (very important) grammar for the IELTS Writing task 1 test: complex noun phrases using preposition phrases and defining relative clauses. This will make your writing more accurate and more complex, and improve your grammatical range and accuracy band score.

This may sound complicated, but we will show you that it is actually easier than you think. Let’s begin.

Study the following IELTS academic task 1.

You should spend about twenty minutes on this task.

The table below shows the percentage of workers who preferred certain methods of communication to stay in contact with their teams in three European offices of the same company.

Summarize the information by selecting and reporting the main features, and make comparisons where relevant.

Write at least 150 words.

Exercise 1

It is very important that the statistics which you give are accurate. Are the following statements accurate or inaccurate?

1. The most popular means of communication in all three countries was the intranet messaging system.
2. In Spain, the percentage of workers who preferred the intranet messaging system stood at 30%.
3. 32% and 30% of workers in the German and French offices respectively preferred the intranet messaging system.
4. 15% of Spanish workers preferred phone calls.
5. 10% of French workers preferred e-mail as a means of communication at work.



Answer Explanations

  1. This is an accurate statement. The most important feature of the data is that intranet messaging was the most popular means of communication.
  2. The correct statistic is 33%
  3. This is an accurate statement. Notice that the writer uses the adverb ‘respectively’ to connect 32% with German and 30% with French.
  4. The candidate read the information about e-mails rather than phone calls. This error would reduce his/her score for task achievement.
  5. This is accurate. Notice that the writer makes a good collocation ‘means of communication’ a synonym of ‘method of communication’.

Language Note: Prepositional Phrases

Notice how a common way to form a data subject is to use percentage + of + noun.

of is an example of a preposition. Other common prepositions are in, on, at.

Example:

10% of French workers preferred e-mail as a means of communication at work.

 

10%

of French workers

percentage

prepositional phrase: preposition + (adjective + ) noun

Let’s practice writing prepositional phrases.

Exercise 2

Complete the following sentences with an accurate percentage and prepositional phrase (preposition + adjective + noun). As in the IELTS test, pay attention to capital letters and spelling.

1. % of Spanish workers preferred instant messenger apps. (Spain)
2.17% favoured speaking face-to-face. (Germany)
3.Only liked communication through e-mail. (Germany)
4. said that they preferred to communicate face-to-face. (France)
5.While preferred instant messaging apps, preferred this means of communication. (France...Germany)
6.France was unlike the other two countries because preferred to communicate by phone whereas only liked this method. (France...Spain)

Language Note: Complex Noun Phrases with Prepositional Phrases and Relative Clauses

Now that we understand what a prepositional phrase is, let’s combine it with a relative clause (who…, that…, which,…) to make complex sentences that will impress the examiner.

Study the sentence below.

In Spain, the percentage of workers who preferred the intranet messaging system stood at 33%. 

This bold phrase is the subject of the sentence. It is also a complex noun phrase. It can be simplified with referencing to:

 

In Spain, it stood at 33%. (pronoun)

or

In Spain, the percentage stood at 33%. (noun)

or

 In Spain, the percentage of workers stood at 33%. (prepositional noun phrase)

or

In Spain, the percentage of workers who preferred the intranet messaging system stood at 33%. (complex noun phrase)

 

Each step adds a level of detail. Let’s look at the sentence again.

In Spain, the percentage of workers who preferred the intranet messaging system stood at 33%.

A complex noun phrase such as this has a head noun, which is the most important noun in the whole phrase.
The most important noun, the head, in this noun phrase is percentage. All of the other information is modifying (adding extra information to) the noun percentage. Each piece of information which is added to the head noun answers a question to make the noun phrase more detailed. See the table below.

The percentage –>
The percentage of what?
The percentage of workers –>
The percentage of which workers?
The percentage of workers who preferred the intranet messaging system  

The extra information is added by a prepositional phrase and a relative clause after the head verb.

(the) percentage

of workers

who preferred the intranet messaging system

head noun

prepositional phrase

relative clause

Relative clauses are attached to the noun by using a relative pronoun

If the noun you are describing is a person or group of people use: who
If the noun you are describing is a thing (such as a company) or group of things use: which / that

After the relative noun use a verb. In our example above, the verb ‘preferred’ is used: who preferred the intranet messaging service.

Notice below that the main verb in the sentence is the verb stood (at): In Spain, the percentage of workers who preferred the intranet messaging system stood at 33%.

Let’s practice what we have learned.

Exercise 3

Arrange the following words into complex nouns in order to complete each sentence.

a pass   ·  of students   ·  who received  
Click or touch a word above
1.The number has increased every year from 1990.
Click or touch a word above
2.The rose over the period.
Click or touch a word above
3. is predicted to fall further by 2025.
of   ·  people   ·  as pets   ·  kept cats   ·  The proportion   ·  who  
Click or touch a word above
4. remained roughly stable.
people earned   ·  The amount   ·  of   ·  which   ·  money  
Click or touch a word above
5. fluctuated depending on the type of work which they did.
The quantity   ·  toxic chemicals   ·  are in   ·  the North Atlantic Ocean   ·  which   ·  of  
Click or touch a word above
6. increased steadily over the ten years covered by the research.
in farming   ·  water   ·  of   ·  The amount   ·  is used   ·  which  
Click or touch a word above
7. has increased since the first year of the study.
The share   ·  who   ·  athletes   ·  won   ·  of   ·  more than   ·  one medal  
Click or touch a word above
8. increased at the last Olympics.

Using the ways of forming complex noun phrases which you have learnt in this class will increase your band score for…

  • Task achievement: as you will more accurately describe the data
  • Lexical resource: as complex noun phrases are a type of vocabulary
  • Grammatical range and accuracy: as relative clauses are complex grammar which you receive more points for.

 

Make sure you practice them when you next need to describe data. When you are ready, let’s move on to the end of module test.