Relative Pronouns in Task 1 are commonly misunderstood, and are therefore commonly misused or, more often than not, simply left out. The key to knowing how or when to use a relative pronoun is dependent on whether or not the writer understands the structure of a sentence at its most basic. Simply put, a sentence is comprised of two parts: the subject and the predicate. The subject part of the sentence is everything before the verb, so naturally the predicate part of the sentence is everything after and including the verb.
For example: The number of tourists fluctuated over a ten year period.
Once we identify the verb (“fluctuated”) we can surmise that everything before the verb is the subject part of the sentence (“the number of tourists…”) and everything after and including the verb is the predicate part of the sentence (“…fluctuated over a ten year period”).
Simple enough. However, in many cases the subject in Task 1 is more specific than just “the number of tourists”. Perhaps the number of tourists is being specific to a few locations, such as tourists in Vietnam, or Thailand, or Singapore.
This is often where mistakes happen with relative pronouns.
Consider this grammatically incorrect sentence: “The number of tourist went to Thailand fluctuated over a ten year period.”
The problem in this sentence is that the student is quite careful with the verb tense, but unaware that there are now two acting verbs in that sentence (“went” and “fluctuated”). If the student were to be asked where the verb in that sentence is, perhaps they would choose “went”. Or perhaps they would choose “fluctuated”. The student may yet even choose both “went” and “fluctuated”, which is completely confusing given that, at its most basic, there can only be two parts of a sentence, the subject and the predicate (remember: the subject and the predicate parts of the sentence are split at the verb).
The key to relative pronouns is to identify the acting verb in the sentence. Once students identify that “fluctuated” is the acting verb (the word that describes the action of the subject) then they will realize that “went” is being used to clarify the subject, so a relative pronoun is necessary in that case.
“The number of tourists who went to Thailand fluctuated over a ten year period”
IELTS Trainer Mr. Tony Giusti