In the IELTS Writing test, you need to talk about the causes of various developments and consider the possible effects. Depending on the topic, this could be
- the effect they have already had
- the effect they are having
- the effect they might have in the future
Even if the question is not specifically a “Cause and effect” essay, you will have to discuss the implications or consequences of your points and suggestions.
For example, if you argue that ‘sugary drinks should be banned from schools’, you should explain why and say what impact this might have.
This lesson will help you use language related to cause and effect, using a real text as a source of examples.
The vocabulary of cause and effect
This newspaper article (Should public transport be free?) contains a number of language items which can help you make your writing more formal (scroll down to find a list of ’cause and effect’ collocations’).
Keep a note of these features as you’re reading, and it will help you to use this formal, discursive style in your IELTS Writing Task 2.
1. The verbs of cause and effect
- It ‘fosters + noun’
- It ‘encourages people to + verb’
- ‘It benefits those on low incomes’
- ‘It eases traffic’
- ‘It reduces air pollution’
- ‘It boosts the economy’
2. The language of EMPHASIS
- ‘It was walkers who got on the buses’ (compare ‘Walkers got on the buses’)
3. NOUN forms (nominalisation)
- ‘Making it easy to move around fosters commercial activity‘.
- ‘car use dropped/public transport use increased’
- ‘the old, the young, the unemployed’ (this is more formal/academic than saying ‘old people, young people, unemployed people’)
5. The language of change
- ‘marginally decreased’
- ‘increased dramatically’
- ‘dropped by a staggering 40%’
6. Linking words
- ‘While car use decreased, distance travelled went up’
- ‘as well as those on a low income’
7. Present Participle (-ing) linking words
‘Free public transport should encourage people to leave their cars at home, easing traffic congestion and reducing air pollution’.
8. Formal, academic language:
- ‘However, there is no indication that employment opportunities improved as a result, according to the study‘.
Here are the exact phrases taken from the text:
‘it’s good for cities because MAKING it easy for people to move around FOSTERS commercial activity.’
‘it also ENCOURAGES higher income groups to spend money in local restaurants, cafes and shops.’
‘it didn’t really ENCOURAGE many people to stop driving.’
‘IT WAS walkers WHO hopped on buses, as the number of trips made on foot DROPPED by a STAGGERING 40%.’
‘WHILE the share of car use MARGINALLY decreased, the average distance travelled by car actually went up.’
‘Public transport use increased dramatically AMONG the old and the young, and those on a very low income, AS WELL AS those out of employment and education.
‘However, there is no indication that employment opportunities improved as a result, according to the study.’
How to describe effects
Here are some verbs that express effects (I’ve put them in the past tense but this depends on the context):
- This led to… (a rise in crime).
- This resulted in (higher levels of obesity)
- This affected (those on fixed incomes).
- This meant that (we no longer had to rely on newspapers).
- This caused (several problems)
- This had a _____ effect on _________.
- This revitalised (the economy/the area).
- This transformed/revolutionised (the way we do business).
- This facilitated (the process).
- This enabled (women to gain important social positions).
- This allowed (us to communicate more easily).
See this lesson (The difference between affect and effect) for more ways of describing positive and negative effects.
Common collocations for cause and effect essays
- It builds/ sustains/ maintains (relationships)
- It liberates/empowers (women)
- It hinders/impedes (progress)
- It hampers/obstructs (development)
- It limits/restricts (freedom)
- It reduces (habitat loss)
- It accelerates/reverses (global warming).
- It minimises/eliminates/eradicates (human error)
- It eases (tension),
- It stifles (creativity).
- It ensures (equal opportunities).
- It maintains (harmony).
- It encourages/promotes (diversity)
- It stimulates (growth/the economy)
- It generates (income)
- It facilitates (learning).
- It triggers (unrest/a recession).
- It sours (relations between countries)
- It strengthened (food production)
- It raises incomes (yes it was plural where I saw it! Normally it’s uncountable/singular)
- It perpetuates the myth/stereotypes
- It prolongs the agony.
- It delays the inevitable/ the onset of Alzheimer’s
- It provokes a response.
- It instils values in children
- (School uniforms) instil discipline, a sense of self-worth and equality ….but the evidence that they help foster equality is not so clear-cut.
- To address/alleviate poverty
- To ensure sufficient food for all
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