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IELTS Preparation Series 1, Episode 15: Sea floor


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0:00

Hello. I'm Margot Politis. Welcome to Study English, IELTS preparation.

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Today on Study English we're looking at adjectives. How do you use them, how do you order them,

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and how do you use them to compare and describe things?

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First, let's listen to some descriptions about the world under the sea, in the Gulf of Carpentaria,

0:36

off the north coast of Australia. It's quite an amazing place.

0:41

We know more about the surface of the moon or the surface of Mars, than we do about the

0:46

sea floor. The sea floor remains the last unexplored frontier. This is because it's

0:51

covered by this impenetrable ocean layer that we can't see through. The only way we can

0:57

see the sea floor is using sonar.

1:00

The largest reef they mapped is about 10 or so kilometres across. It's an oval-shaped

1:05

feature, so it covers around 100 square kilometres. Because of the fact that they are submerged

1:11

in 30m or so of water, the reefs are very hard to see. No one had realised that the

1:17

Gulf contained reefs just like the Great Barrier Reef.

1:21

Being able to describe things properly is an important communication skill.

1:26

You need adjectives for descriptions.

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They usually come before the nouns they are describing.

1:33

The red car.

1:35

But when you want to accurately describe something, you often need to use more than one adjective

1:40

in a row.

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What if the car is big, red, and made of plastic?

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We call it the big, red, plastic car.

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Notice that the adjectives are usually separated by commas.

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But why don't we call it the red, plastic, big car?

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How do you know which order to put the adjectives in?

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Well, for native speakers, it's just that it sounds right, but luckily, there are some

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rules.

2:10

It's called the royal order of adjectives.

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Let's have a look at it.

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First we have the determiner. That's articles: a, an,

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the, numbers, or the word that describes the amount of something.

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It can also be the owner, the person or thing who the noun belongs to.

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So determiners can be: a

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the many

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some or a name, like John's.

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So we have a car, many cars, John's car. The second type of adjective is opinion or

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observation. This tells you something about the quality of the noun:

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useful, cheap, ugly, beautiful.

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Then we have size, for example: enormous, tiny, huge

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followed by age. It could be old, modern,

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7-year-old. Then shape, perhaps oval, circular or flat.

3:20

A colour, like white, black or blue. Then we have adjectives that describe origin,

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where the noun is from, for example Thai, Indonesian, Australian.

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Followed by material, what the thing is made of, like copper,

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plastic or wooden. Lastly, is the qualifier. This is something

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that's an integral part of the noun. Examples might be a rocking chair,

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a wedding ring, an electric oven. There are of course a few exceptions to these

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rules, but it's important that you learn them, and practice them whenever you can.

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Have a look at these words, and see if you can turn them into a phrase:

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wooden square useful box

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Lily's Well, box is the noun, but what comes first?

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The determiner. Whose box is it? It's Lily's box.

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So Lily's comes first. Then that's followed by the observation: the

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box is useful. Then, the shape. It's square.

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Then, finally the material. It's a wooden box.

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So we have Lily's useful, square, wooden box. Good. Now let's listen to some strings of

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adjectives from the clip. The sea floor remains the last unexplored

4:53

frontier. This is because it's covered by this impenetrable ocean layer that we can't

4:58

see through. The largest reef they mapped is about 10 or so kilometres across.

5:03

He calls the sea floor, the last unexplored frontier.

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Let's look at that phrase. Frontier is the noun. The others are all describing

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the noun. First, we have the determiners 'the' and 'last'

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Last expresses a number, so it goes second. Then unexplored. That's an observation. It's

5:28

a quality of the frontier. OK. Now what about this impenetrable ocean

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layer? Well, layer is the noun. All the other words

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are adjectives. This is the determiner.

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Impenetrable is an observation. It describes a quality of the ocean layer.

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Ocean here is the qualifier. Almost part of the noun, it's not just a layer, it's an ocean

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layer. OK, now you try one.

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Look at these words. They form a phrase that he used:

6:09

largest, reef, the. Well, reef is the noun, so it comes last.

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'The' is a determiner, so it comes first. Largest describes the size, so that comes

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after the. So we have the largest reef.

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OK. There's another way adjectives can be used as well.

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They can stand alone. They describe nouns by following the verb, to be.

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When used in this way, adjectives are complements. Listen to one here:

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The Gulf of Carpentaria is very flat and featureless. The Gulf of Carpentaria is very flat and featureless.

6:55

In a phrase, this would be the very flat, featureless Gulf of Carpentaria.

7:02

But used as a complement, the phrase becomes a full sentence.

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The Gulf of Carpentaria is very flat and featureless. We can take the phrase the big red car and

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turn it into a sentence. The car is big, red and plastic.

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Notice that the order of adjectives still stays the same.

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Now, let's look at how you go about describing things. It's often necessary to focus on particular

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features, such as shape, size, dimension, weight, colour or texture.

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The more you have built up your vocabulary of adjectives, the better your ability to

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describe things accurately. So you might write up adjective lists according

7:48

to groups. To describe shapes we can say:

7:53

circular, triangular, rectangular, spherical, but we just say square.

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It's also possible to describe something by saying it's like something common.

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So we can say something is egg-shaped, or kidney-shaped.

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Listen: The largest reef they mapped is about 10 or

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so kilometres across. It's an oval-shaped feature, so it covers around 100 square kilometres.

8:23

When you're writing, you should always aim to make your descriptions as accurate as you

8:27

can. But sometimes you can't be exact, and you

8:31

need just describe something approximately. The largest reef they mapped is about 10 or

8:37

so kilometres across. It's an oval-shaped feature, so it covers around 100 square kilometres.

8:43

Because of the fact that they are submerged in 30m or so of water, they reefs are very

8:48

hard to see. Dr Harris uses the words about, around, or

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so with numbers. About 10 kilometres or so.

9:00

Around 100 square kilometres. 30 metres or so.

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Notice that the phrase 'or so', always comes after the number, but the others all come

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before. You might also hear people say around about.

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In formal language, we'd probably say approximately. These are all signs that the amount is not

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exact. And now, it's around about time for me to

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go. I'll see you next time for more Study English.

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Bye bye.

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