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 to avoid unnecessary 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’
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
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 avoid repeating 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 to avoid unnecessary repetition. These can also include more general terms.
- My favorite sports are soccer and rugby.
- I played both these team games at school.
- Verbs are often more powerful than noun phrases
- Using noun phrases instead of verbs is known as nominalization.
- The downturn in the economy caused the company’s problems (verb)
- The downturn in the economy was the cause of the company’s problems.(nominalization)
- Watch out for nouns that end in -ion, -tion, -ence, -ancy, -ant. You can often change them into verbs.
- take into consideration — consider
- under take an analysis of — analyse
- Some nominalizations are useful, but others make our writing unnecessarily wordy. An example of a useful nominalization is:
- The discovery is a breakthrough.
- Some nominalizations that don’t work well, but are easy to fix are:
When the nominalization follows a verb with little specific meaning.
- We undertook an investigation.
- We investigated.
When the nominalization follows There is or There are.
- There was a committee agreement.
- The committee agreed.
When the nominalization is the subject of an ‘empty’ verb.
- Our discussion concerned a bonus.
- We discussed a bonus.