Prepositions in IELTS Task 1 Writing

OK, let’s take a look at a few prepositions, and a really easy way to remember how to use them.

  1. to / from

In task 1, you will use “to” if you are talking about change. So, if something goes up or down, we use “to”. Look at the example:

The number of people rose to 800,000 in 2011.

So, we use “to” for changes, and we use it to describe the second number – the number at the end of the increase / decrease.

We also use “to” with “from” – like from 400,000 to 800,000 – again, we are talking about the end number. If we want to talk about the start number, we use “from”.

2. by

We use “by” similarly to “to”, so when we talk about change. This time, however, we are thinking about the difference between point A and point B. Here’s another example:

Number of people, 2001 = 55

Number of people, 2005 = 60

The number of people rose by 5 from 2001 to 2005.

So, we also use “by” for changes as well, but to talk about difference.

3. at

We use “at” to talk about numbers that haven’t changed over time. Look at this example:

The number remained steady at 25 for about five years.

So, “at” is used in the opposite situation to “to”.

4. with

We use “with” when we just want to talk about one number, at one time, with no changes. Here’s an example:

The highest number was in the 16-25 age group, with 500,000.


So, here’s the simple way to remember:

to – change, second number
from – change, first number
by – change, difference between first and last

at – no change over time

with – one number, no movement in time

Good luck!



Making Plans and Predictions

Making Plans

What is the difference between “will” and “going to”? Or the difference between “going to” and present continuous? I’ve drawn a picture that I think shows these differences clearly – click on and save the picture to see it in a larger size.


So, what does this picture tell us?

  1. “will” is used to talk about future events that we haven’t planned yet. We haven’t planned them because this is the first time we’ve been told about them, or the first time we’ve thought about them. Two examples:
  • “I’ll help you with those books” – I’ve seen someone having trouble so I’ve offered to help
  • “I’ll come with you” – I’ve just been told a friend is going on holiday and I’ve decided I want to come.

Of course, we could use “might” or “may” if we’re less sure about the decision.

2.   “going to” is used when a plan has been made, but the future event is still quite far away in time (see example) – so we usually make the time very clear (“I’m going to see Harry Potter at the cinema next Saturday”) – this means I’ve already bought a ticket, so I made the plan some time before I said this.

3.   Present Continuous is used when the event is planned and is really soon. We often use this to talk about events that are happening on the same day. Remember, we must specify time, because if we don’t then the listener will understand that we are talking about something happening now! Example:

  • “I’m seeing Harry Potter later” – I know that this is soon, and therefore unlikely to change
  • “I’m seeing Harry Potter” – This is happening now, so you’re talking to me while the film is on

4.   We also use Present Simple to talk about future events. In this case they are happening very soon, they are extremely unlikely to change, and they are usually actions / events that we can not control. For this reason, we often talk about schedules (transport, for example) because they are on a timetable and being controlled by other people. Example:

  • “The train leaves from Platform 6 at 7:30pm” – this train will leave with or without me!

So, you can see that as you read down the page on my picture, you become more sure about the event as it gets closer to happening (have a look at the arrow).


OK, now lets look at how we can make a similar picture for making predictions



Again, there is an arrow showing that as the event gets closer, you become more sure of your prediction. So, “going to” is a prediction we make when the event is almost happening, or is almost 100% certain. Example:

  • “Manchester City are going to win” – I say this after 45 minutes of the match, when Manchester City are already winning!
  • “Manchester City will definitely win” – I say this before the match, so it’s a prediction made with less evidence.

Notice that we can’t use present continuous / present simple to make predictions!

I hope this helps you! As always, email / comment with any questions!