This lesson shows you some useful impersonal vocabulary – this can be useful in discussion type essays when you are talking about other people’s opinions.
The general idea – avoid the personal pronoun
The idea is that you don’t use “I” unless you are emphasising the fact that this is your personal opinion.
These impersonal phrases can often be replaced by short one or two word alternatives: such as “possibly”. I suggest that you try and use some of these impersonal phrases and some of the plainer alternatives – that way you should get some good variety in your writing.
The impersonal IT
One strategy you can think about is using IT phrases to start your sentences when you are about to give an opinion. This has two effects:
- it makes what you say sound more intelligent/plausible
- it gives you some ready-made English to use that is grammatically complex
- you don’t always need to say “Some people say”
The impersonal THERE
Another alternative is to use a THERE phrase to be more impersonal. This works for the same reasons as IT does and nearly all these phrases are also for giving opinions:
ONE and WE
This one is slightly trickier. Personally, I rarely use either of these structures but some people do. So here are a few:
How to practise
Learning phrases is a very efficient way to learn a language. Indeed, we tend not to use words by themselves but groups of words when we speak or write. What you need to do is to experiment and try using these phrases for yourself in your writing. This is what I would suggest:
- look at some of your old discussion essays and find the opinions in them – rewrite those opinions with some of these phrases
- look at some sample IELTS essay questions and practise writing YOUR opinions about them using some of these phrases in one or two sentences
Be a proper academic
If you are taking IELTS in order to study at university, you should not just be studying exam English. Why not take a look at some university sites? Many of these have lots of help for academic writing. I suggest you start with