How to generalize in English
Addressing general questions
Here’s a little test. Which sentence(s) can be used to generalize?
a) University is a place to study.
b) Universities are places to study.
c) The university is a place to study.
d) A university is a place to study.
Cars are essential means of today’s transportation.
Nurses are more likely to retire sooner than doctors.
Just use the simple form of the word:
Water is found almost everywhere on the planet.
Coffee grows in hot places.
Note: uncountable nouns act like a singular countable noun, so the verb “is” fits here.
Note: Do not use definite article “the” as the meaning will change.
[The] customers are always right.
Everyone enjoys listening to music.
No one can tolerate harsh weather conditions in Antarctica.
Nobody has ever set foot on Mars.
Note: These words act like a singular countable noun.
Generally, you cannot get a good job without enough education.
In general, women tend to talk about their feelings more than men.
By and large, charities do not pay federal tax.
Note: Use a comma after all these adverbs.
Yes! You can generalize using adjectives. Follow this formula:
the + adjective
Take a look at these examples:
The rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer.
Out with the old, in with the new
People should help the desperate and the destitute.
Note 1: Use this structure only about well-known groups of people.
Note 2: This structure acts like a plural countable noun.
Yet another surprise: singular nouns can be used to generalize too:
the + singular countable noun
Here are some examples:
The wheel has revolutionized human transportation.
The horse is an elegant animal. (the horse = horses)
Schools should concentrate more on the child and less on exams.
The city can be intolerable for migrants, especially the unskilled.
Note 1: This structure is common for the names of scientific instruments and inventions, and musical instruments..
Note 2: This structure acts exactly like a singular countable noun.
a) University is a place to study. (This is not general. It defines the word “university”.)
b) Universities are places to study. (This means universities in general.)
c) The university is a place to study. (This means universities in general.)
d) A university is a place to study. (This means any university [out of many] can be a place to learn something.)
The correct answers are B and C.
About the Author
CEO and Co-founder of Juice Academy
Looking for a complete online IELTS course with international IELTS experts?