Forming complex sentences in IELTS

IELTS writing focusUsing ‘tend to’, ‘that’ clauses and modals in IELTS writing and speaking.

Updated: Jan 2nd 2022

A good skill to learn in academic writing is to soften your language or use what is often called ‘hedging’. This is useful in Discussion essays when you write about others opinions and it is also needed to soften your language so that you don’t generalise too much. This shows that you have a wider range of vocabulary and you can form complex sentences.

This is also very useful in the speaking section when you want to display a wider range of vocabulary and it shows that you can talk naturally.


Living in cities is very stressful, big cities are too overcrowded.

This sentence is from an essay I marked. So how can we change this to make it sound less general?

One way of doing this is to add the phrase ‘Tends to be..’, ‘Can be…’ or  ‘In Many cases…’  Now let’s look at the same sentence without generalising.

In many cases, living in cities can be very stressful as big cities tend to be overcrowded.

Have a look at these other ways of avoiding generalisation in Writing task 2.

Another way to use ‘tend to’ is in the negative, for example, ‘Tend not to….’ or with 3rd person singular ‘Tends not to….’

Children these days tend not to do much exercise, as a result, obesity levels are rising.

Let’s practice.

Can you make sentences about these points below without being too general?

1. Politicians
2. Celebrities
3. Older people
4. the environment
5. Public transport
6. Cost of living
7. Married life

1. Politicians tend not to be very honest.
2. In many cases, celebrities tend to have a lot of personal problems.
3. Generally speaking, older people can be short-tempered.
4. Generally speaking, developing countries have a lot of issues with pollution
5. In the majority of cases, public transport is very efficient in big cities.
6. The cost of living can be rather expensive for many people.
7. In many instances, married life can be stressful.

Using adverbs of frequency to soften language.


  • It is often said that children should not be allowed to use social networking sites.
  • It is sometimes stated that the use of social networking sites has a negative effect on teenagers.
  • it is typically argued that social networking has a bad effect on young children’s minds.

Using modals and modal adjectives


  • It is sometimes stated that the use of social networking could harm teenagers.
  • it is typically argued that social networking may have a bad effect on young children’s minds.
  • Some people might argue that youngsters tend to be influenced more by their peers than their parents.
  • Some say it is probable that global cooling will become a much more serious issue in the next 20 years
  • It is clear that global cooling will become a much more serious issue in the next 20 years  (more certain)

Using ‘That’ clauses

These sentences are useful in a discussion essay when you are reflecting on peoples views. They are also necessary when constructing complex sentences in IELTS.

It could be argued that…
It is often assumed that….
There is a high probability that….
It is argued that…
It is often stated that….
Many people hold the view that…..

Paraphrasing a task question

‘Some people believe that it is good to share as much information as possible in scientific research, business and the academic world. Others believe that some information is too important or too valuable to be shared freely. Discuss both these views and give your own opinion’

This is how I would paraphrase this task question.

Some people hold the view that it is beneficial to share a lot of data especially in business, scientific research and academia, whereas others argue that certain information tends to be too important to share openly.

Any comments? Leave them below.


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