IELTS Writing, Task 1, Task 2, Uncategorized

Using past verb forms ( simple and progressive)

The IELTS Band 7 descriptor states the need for candidates to show both a wide variety of structures but also accuracy in the use of these structures. A basic understanding of how to use past verb forms is assumed in this article but I think it is worthwhile to point out the following:
 
Simple Past
  1. Use of the past tense indicates that there is no connection with the present.
I lived in Italy six years ago
 
  1. The past form can be used to describe a single event and a habitual one.
I played tennis yesterday
I played tennis when I was a student.
 
  1. The simple past form is used to convey definite past meaning.
‘Definite time’ refers to a specific time point or period which is either directly stated or implied by the context.
A: I went to Paris at the weekend (definite time = the weekend)
B: Did you have a good time there? (definite time = the weekend)
 
  1. The past tense form is used to express hypothetical meaning.
If I studied harder, I could get an A grade.
 
  1. The past tense is used to convey indirectness and is therefore considered more polite when making requests.
I wondered if you’d take me to the station.
 
Progressive aspect

  1. The progressive can be used to show that the action is not completed.
 Compare the following:
I was reading a good book last week v. I read a good book last week
The former sentence suggests that the reader has not finished the book, unlike the latter.
 
  1. The progressive is used to form a time frame around an action in a simple form.

Contrast the following:
When he got to work, he had a meeting.
When he got to work, his colleagues were having a meeting.
The former describes a sequence, the latter indicates that he got to work during the meeting.
 
  1. The progressive form is more likely to be used when we don’t know or are not interested in communicating the starting or finishing point of an activity.
I was playing tennis yesterday afternoon.
This sentence tells us how the subject spent a certain period of the afternoon.
 
  1. The meaning of the progressive verb can vary depending on the type of verb it is.
  2. a) verbs that refer to events of short or no duration.
He shook his head v He was shaking his head
The former refers to a single shake of the head, while the latter indicates a repeated action.
  1. b) verbs describing a transition from one state to another
The train arrived v The train was arriving
The former indicates that an action has finished, the latter is used to show the train was in the process of arriving.
 
  1. Verbs of involuntary perception and those describing mental states do not use the progressive form. Instead, can/could is used.
I could hear every note he played  (not: I was hearing every note he played)
I knew quite a lot about that company ( not: I was knowing quite a lot about that company)
 
  1. Verbs describing a state do not take the progressive form. (Such verbs can often be paraphrased with ‘be’ or ‘have’.)
I belonged to the tennis club when I was a student ( not:  I was belonging to the  tennis club when I was a student)
  1. With verbs of bodily sensation, either form can be used when referring to a temporary state.
I felt hungry 
OR
I was feeling hungry
 
If you are serious about taking your IELTS writing to the next level, sign up for your FREE 3 part IELTS writing video course that takes you through both task 1 and task 2. The video lessons are led by our highly experienced UK native IELTS teacher, Katherine. We also provide you with exercises to test your understanding!

Sign up your FREE IELTS writing video course by clicking here!

Task 1

In Task 1, you will need to use past forms when the chart refers to specific time periods.
Uses can include:
  1. a) Indicating a rise or fall in level;
While the consumer price index showed a slow and steady increase from 1979 to 2009, the same cannot be said for the price of carbonated, or soft drinks
In contrast, there was a marked difference in the price of fresh fruits and vegetables, which rose dramatically  throughout this period
  1. b) Indicating no change in level
Sales remained constant for the first half of the decade.
  1. c) The past perfect is needed if you want to show change from one past time to another, usually with the use of ‘by’.
However, by 2008 the price had increased by more than 300%.
  1. D) Making a comparison/contrast
Comparing the two tables, it is clear that in 2010 Fairtrade tea sales ranged from 1.8-4 million euros in these five countries, while pineapple sales also mostly clustered between 1.6 and 3 million euros
 
Task 2

The past tense can be used in task 2 essays in various ways:
  1. a) To describe a past situation or event often in order to contrast with the current situation.
In the past, students had little opportunity to study abroad, unlike the present.
  1. b) To give a real example, personal or general, to support a point
When I used to work in an office, I always found that the most tiring part of the day was the traveling, so I very much welcome the opportunity to work at home.
  1. c) To put forward possibilities
If we had better local transport facilities, it is likely that the number of private cars in city centres would significantly fall.
I believe that if we as voters pressured our governments to make multinational companies more responsible…, we could have the benefits of globalisation without its disadvantages.
 
Exercises
 
Exercise 1

Complete the sentences with the following pairs of words (one verb needs to be put in the passive form).
 
conduct / give
look / go
plan / give
contain / have
 
  1. The study showed that most of the employees who ………… to leave ……..as their main reason poor communication between staff and management.
  2. Pictures taken at the accident scene showed that the driver …….. down at his mobile phone when he ……. into the back of the other vehicle.
 
Exercise 2

Correct the following if necessary.
  1. When I commuted to work last week, I was spending three hours traveling on the train every day.
  2. When I used to commute to work, I was spending three hours traveling on the train every day.
  3. He worked hard all his life.

Answers to Exercises

Exercise 1
 
  1. The study showed that most of the employees who were planning* to leave gave as their main reason poor communication between staff and management.
* ‘planned’ also possible.
 
  1. Pictures taken at the accident scene showed that the driver was looking down at his mobile phone when he went into the back of the other vehicle.
 
 Exercise 2

  1. When I commuted to work last week, I was spending three hours traveling on the train every day.
(temporary situation – simple form could also be used here)
  1. When I used to commute to work, I spent three hours traveling on the train every day
(permanent situation)
  1. He worked hard all his life.
(permanent situation)
The key words to remember for the simple past are ‘definite’ and ‘finished’, while for the progressive form they are  ‘temporary’. and ‘incomplete’.
 

If you are serious about taking your IELTS writing to the next level, sign up for your FREE 3 part IELTS writing video course that takes you through both task 1 and task 2. The video lessons are led by our highly experienced UK native IELTS teacher, Katherine. We also provide you with exercises to test your understanding!

Sign up your FREE IELTS writing video course by clicking here!

Don’t forget to COMMENT and SHARE with friends and classmates who are doing the IELTS exam also. J