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In contrast or On the contrary?

To get a high score in the IELTS writing test, you need to use linking words to structure your essay, report or letter clearly. But you have to make sure that you use ‘linkers’ appropriately and in the right context.

“On the contrary” and “In contrast” are easily confused! Here’s the difference:

On the contrary is used to show opposition to a previous statement.
In contrast is used to show a difference to a previous statement.

Here are a couple of examples:

1) Some say that children don’t read books anymore. On the contrary, they read more now than ever before. (indicates the first statement is not true)
2) Young kids like using tablets. In contrast, older kids prefer books. (introduces a contrast between different things)

Note; “in contrast” could be replaced by “however” or “whereas” and “on the contrary” could be replaced by “but, in fact”

In the IELTS speaking test, it would be better to use “whereas” and “but, in fact” which are less formal than “in contrast” and “on the contrary” and therefore more common in spoken English:

Q: Are shopping centres more convenient than markets?
A: Well…markets are often quite small and outdoors, whereas shopping centres have everything under one roof, so for me, they are definitely more convenient.

Q: How popular is online shopping?
A: Not everyone likes it in my city because they think it is more expensive. But, in (actual) fact, it is cheaper and a lot quicker.

Both “on the contrary” and “in contrast” can be used in Part 2 of the IELTS writing test for contrasting ideas in essays, where you are often required to present arguments “for” and “against” a given statement.

Lower level IELTS candidates usually write a “for” paragraph followed by an “against” one, but a higher level candidate will present “for” and “against” arguments within the same paragraph using appropriate “linkers” to connect them.

Look at these sentences from a Task 2 essay on the advantages and disadvantages of the internet:

1) Many students use free online dictionaries to find the definitions of words. In contrast, a paper dictionary is expensive.
2) A lot of people think they can download new films legally. On the contrary, it is illegal.

 

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