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Undertake – IELTS word of the day

Today’s word from the Academic Word List is



This is another key word you wan to be able to use in your academic writing. Why is it so important? It’s an alternative to do or make, and has some very common collocations you want to be able to use.

Forms of the word

The two most common forms of the word are

  • undertake (be careful with the irregular forms undertook and undertaken)
  • undertaking (a noun)

A more idiomatic alternative for speaking

Undertake is an academic word that we use most in writing. There is, though, a useful synonym that you can use more in speaking: carry out. I would stress that it is not a rule that one is used in writing and the other speaking, it is just more common that way.

A piece of grammar in use

Undertake is used with either a noun or a verb. If it is used with another verb it means to promise strongly and is used with the log infinitive (to + verb):

He undertook to provide help to people in need.

Some common collocations for undertake

If you read through these words that undertake is used with, you should see why it is used so often in academic writing:

task/project  – They were unwillingly to undertake the task until they knew what it would involve.

work – The work he undertook was of a uniformly high standard.

study/survey/analysis – It would be sensible to undertake a study of how children interact with strangers.

investigation – The police undertook an investigation into the causes of the incident.

Some common collocations for undertaking

Undertaking the noun is  a strong promise

He gave his undertaking that he would never repeat his behaviour.

A footnote on undertaker

Much the least common form of the word but one you may come across is undertaker. This is the name of the job of the person who is responsible for funeral arrangements.


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2 Responses to Undertake – IELTS word of the day

  1. Pablo March 12, 2014 at 9:00 am #

    Hi. Just a heads up that you have a small typo where you describe an undertaker. I think you meant name not male.

    Thanks for all your effort. Your work has been invaluable with my students.

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