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Do you make this common grammar mistake?


Today we’re going to talk about a common grammar mistake that students often make on the IELTS exam. Look at the following three sentences. Which one is wrong? Why?

The weather really influences my mood.
The weather really influences to my mood.
The bad weather really has an influence on my mood.
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2 is incorrect. Did you get it right?

The problem has to do with the preposition. Prepositions are the little words that show relationships between other words: on, with, for, of, beside, between, etc. There are a lot of them!

In sentence 2, the preposition is the word to. A lot of students use the word to together with the word influence: something influences to something else. Although this error is very common, it’s still an error. Let’s find out why.

Look at the three sentences again.

The weather really influences my mood.
The weather really influences to my mood.
The bad weather really has an influence on my mood.
influence is one of many words that can be used as both a noun and a verb. Which one is it in each sentence?

In sentence 1 and 2, influence is a verb. In sentence 3, it’s a noun. We can tell because it has the article an before it (an influence).

When we use influence as a verb, there’s no preposition after it: influences + something. This is why sentence a is correct and sentence 2 is not.

However, when we use influence as a noun, there is a preposition after it. But it’s not to. Look back at sentence 3. Which preposition is it? The preposition is on. In fact, it’s part of a larger phrase: have + an influence + on + something.

This happens with lots of different words. Let’s look at some more examples. Can you find the wrong sentence in each set?

A

More people in developing countries need to have access to the Internet.
Students can access to the Internet to do research.
Thanks to smartphones, we can access the Internet from almost anywhere.
B

The growing crime rate affects society very badly.
This proposal will have a positive effect on people’s well-being.
Fast food is affecting to people’s health negatively.
C

People living in remote regions lack of basic human needs.
Many opponents of this solution lack understanding of the root causes of the problem.
There is a lack of concern among local people regarding littering.
D

Violent video games can influence to children badly.
Parents need to have a positive influence on their children.
Advertising can influence our spending habits significantly.
E

Many people support this proposal because it could increase employment.
Support for alternatives to public education has been growing lately.
People who support to arts spending claim that the arts enrich our lives.
 

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OK, here are the answers. Remember, this is the wrong sentence in each group.

A2, B3, C1, D1, E3

Did you get them all?

The key word in each sentence are access, affect/effect*, lack, influence, and support. These are common academic words, and highly useful in both the Writing and Speaking sections of the IELTS exam.

So when you use them, remember:

When you use these words as verbs, there’s no preposition.

                 access the Internet

                  affect society

                  lack understanding

                  influence our habits

                  support this proposal

When you use these words as nouns, they do use a preposition.

                 have access to the Internet

                  have a positive effect on society

                  a lack of concern

                  have a positive influence on their children

                  support for alternatives

This will help you avoid some common mistakes on the IELTS exam!