In speaking and in writing, we try to avoid repeating words, phrases or clauses. We use substitute forms to do this. Knowledge of these forms will improve the quality of your essays as they help in avoiding repetition. This will help to make your writing style more similar to an educated native speaker’s and thus make it more likely you can achieve a level 7 or above.
Types of Substitution
We can use many different words and phrases in substitution, including words such as ‘both’, ‘either’, ‘some’ (indefinite quantifying pronouns), ‘do’ and ‘so’.
a) Personal (I, me, you, him, it, they, etc.) Personal pronouns are used in place of noun phrases, usually to refer back to people and things already mentioned. Possessive pronouns ( mine, yours etc) are used in a similar way Examples: I can speak Japanese quite well. I ‘ve been learning it for several years. To ensure that our sales staff speak to customers in an appropriate way, management has made the decision to send them on a training course next week b) Indefinite quantifying pronouns These include words like little, many, enough none Examples: There were two choices on the menu but I didn’t like either. The company spent a lot of money for the staff trip but only a few signed up to go.
Substituting with do
Do, do so, do it, do the same are used to substitute for a verb and whatever accompanies it (complement): Examples: None of the team understood the problem at first, but they did after a few days. I always a have a shower before breakfast and my wife does the same.
Substituting with so and such
So is often used as an adjective, an object clause, and with reporting verbs Such is used to mean ‘this or that kind’ Examples: The service has always been bad and it is so today. Many people believe that we need to recycle more, and I think so too. The local authority spent over $5 million on a new logo. Everyone agreed that such extravagance could not be justified.
One, some, ones
These are used to substitute for countable nouns: Examples: They looked at several houses but couldn’t find one they both liked. The spiders you want to avoid to the small red ones.
This, that, these, those as pronouns
We normally use this, that, these and those as pronouns to refer to things or ideas: Examples: The college decided to hire more part-timers. The full-time staff were not happy with that. How can we save money? Where should we invest? Where can we get financial advice from? These are some of the questions we need to address. In formal contexts, especially in academic style, we use that of/those of: Example: The fossil has a similar shape and size to that of a horse
Ellipsis is used when we omit words or phrases which can be understood from the context. Examples: She went to the office and worked all day. (she is ellipted in the second clause). I would like to move to a larger house but I can’t afford to (move to a larger house is ellipted).
Verb-noun/ noun-verb transformations
We can be avoiding repetition a verb or noun in a following sentence by replacing the verb with its noun equivalent and vice-versa. This is a useful device when trying to paraphrase an essay title ( We will look at this more closely in a later article) Example: Many people today assume that famine could no longer happen in the developed world. However, I am not so sure that this is a valid assumption. We can use substitution to refer backwards or forwards. Forward substitution is far less common than backward substitution If you need it, I’ll send you the list of contacts. (forward substitution). If you need the list of contacts, I’ll send it to you. (backward substitution).
Synonyms can also be used in avoiding unnecessary repetition. These can also include more general terms. Example: My favourite sports are soccer and rugby. I played both these team games at school.
Exercise 1 The following passage comes from a textbook for children explaining what ‘temperature’ and ‘thermometers’ are. Decide which of the alternative sentences is most appropriate for producing a coherent text.
Temperature and Thermometers
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Answers to Exercises
The following passage comes from a textbook for children explaining what ‘temperature’ and ‘thermometers’ are.
Decide which of the alternative sentences is most appropriate for producing a coherent text.
A kettle placed over a fire gets hot.
Although there is no change in the appearance of the kettle, something has obviously happened to it.
Because of the heat, the atoms that make up the kettle vibrate more energetically than when the kettle is cold. For heat is simply a form of energy. Heat energy has flowed from the fire into the kettle. When the kettle is taken off the fire it cools because heat energy flows from the kettle to its surroundings.
Heat will naturally flow from a hot object to one that is colder. The hotness of an object is indicated by its temperature.
Transform the second sentence in each of the following using the noun form of the verb in bold.
1. We need to approach this problem in a completely different way. Unless our approach is more careful, we will continue to fail to find a solution.
2. A failure to vote might be interpreted as a lack of interest. However, this interpretation for low turn-out is not the only one
3. Students have reacted angrily to the changes in the syllabus. Their negative reaction is because they had been given no prior warning.
4. The employees were asked to respond to the company’s suggestions by the end of the week. However, only a few responses had been received by the deadline.