When we want to describe things which happened at an earlier time, we can use the ADVERB ‘in the past’ or the NOUN ‘the past’. However, there are a few more complex options:


This phrase can be used with a SIMPLE PAST or USED TO to describe a situation which has changed quite recently or something which happened not long ago. Because it includes the word ‘recent’, some people use this phrase with a PERFECT tense, but because this phrase refers to a past time/moment, I wouldn’t recommend using it with PERFECT verb forms.


1. In the recent past, attitudes towards religion were very different in my country.

2. In the recent past, compulsory military service was abolished.

3. It tends to shock young people to hear that in the relatively recent past smartphones did not exist.


This phrase can also be used with a SIMPLE PAST or USED TO to describe a situation which has changed quite recently. In most cases, it has a very similar meaning to ‘in the recent past’. I would recommend not using it with a PERFECT verb form.


1. In the not too distant past, people tended to communicate through letters and phone calls.

2. In the not too distant past, most people in this country used to work a regular eight-hour day.

3. Although our parents were brought up in the not too distant past, their experiences of life are entirely different from ours.


This phrase can be used with a SIMPLE PAST or USED TO to describe a situation which is different from the way it was a long time ago.


1. In the distant past, most individuals rarely travelled outside their own community.

2. In the distant past, even educated scholars used to believe the world to be the centre of the universe.

3. Although attitudes in the distant past may have been radically different from the ones many of us hold today, that does not necessarily mean they were wrong.


This phrase can be used with a SIMPLE PAST or USED TO to describe a situation which is different from the way it was a long time ago. ‘The dim and distant past’ is a time which we do not understand very well because it was such a long time ago.


1. In the dim and distant past, before the development of modern societies, people probably lived in small family groups as hunter-gatherers.

2. In the dim and distant past, only the elite in society had the opportunity to study.


We can also use these phrases with CONDITIONAL structures to describe things which did not happen in the past and the results of those things, which could not happen.


1. Even in the recent past, parents would have been shocked if their adolescent children had stayed out until the early hours of the morning. These days mothers and fathers in many cultures seem to find this acceptable.

2. In the not too distant past, the idea that we would all be walking around with smartphones would have seemed preposterous.

3. If, in the distant past, humans had understood the causes of life-threatening diseases, many lives could have been saved.


We can use 'The recent past' or 'The not too distant past' without 'in' (as a NOUN PHRASE). 'The recent past' can be used with a PERFECT verb form but ‘the not too distant past’ is usually used with a SIMPLE PAST form.


1. The recent past has witnessed/seen an exponential increase in the number of automobile users.

2. The not too distant past witnessed/saw so much horror and destruction.


Updated: Oct 15, 2018

In IELTS Speaking, you have very little time to impress the IELTS examiner so you need to try and use less common/idiomatic language. Often it is language that is too informal for IELTS Writing, but excellent for IELTS Speaking.

A stronger version of bored to tears is bored to death.

For example:

I'm not a massive fan of Shakespeare. I had to study it at school and I was bored to death.

The last book I read was for my economics course, I can't remember the name, but I do remember I was bored to tears.

I'm not really into romantic comedies, the one I watched with my girlfriend and I was bored to death.

IELTS Speaking - Complex Language - Idiom - Lexical Resource


Updated: Feb 15, 2019

All of the language highlighted in bold will impress the IELTS examiner and convince her or him to give you a high grade for Lexical Resource.

In many developing countries, the standard of living in cities is much higher than in the countryside. What difficulties might a country face because of this situation? How can these difficulties be solved?

There is little doubt that economic growth has led to a surge in living standards and levels of prosperity, particularly in urban areas. Millions of villagers have flooded into the world’s major mega-cities. The gap between the wealthier urban areas and poorer rural areas can be problematic. It is absolutely essential that governments address this gap and implement policies which will reduce it. Otherwise, we are likely to face a crisis in the near future.

One of the most serious consequences of urban growth and rural stagnation is social and demographic instability. Those living in villages and areas of low population density probably work in the farming sector and experience low wages and poverty. They may be attracted to migrate to large metropolitan areas. As a result, cities will become overcrowded and the countryside will be sparsely populated. This could lead to high levels of unemployment and dissatisfaction in the cities and a countryside without enough manual workers to maintain the agricultural sector. It is, of course, agriculture which feeds the entire population.

There are a number of policies which governments and those in authority can bring in to counteract this problem. Incentives can be offered to those living in the countryside. Agricultural workers ought to be paid to remain in their villages and the farming sector can be subsidised. If new employment opportunities can be generated in rural areas, young people in particular are less likely to want to relocate.

In addition, governments can try to educate inhabitants of the countryside about the perils of moving to centres of mass population. Citizens living in villages often have an unrealistic perception of life in the city, believing that the streets are paved with gold, that there are ample employment opportunities and that they will flourish and thrive. This view often differs markedly from the reality.

Overall, the issue of the huge disparity between urban and rural areas needs addressing. Unless action is taken, social and political instability is quite likely. It would be wise for all governments to take this issue seriously and try to come up with proposals to improve the situation.


stagnation = lack of activity, growth, or development

counteract = act against (something) in order to reduce its force or neutralize it

ample = many

disparity = a great difference

thrive = prosper, flourish

Make sure that you avoid using the word 'people' over and over again in your answers. Note how many different ways it has been expressed in this essay: manual workers; those living in villages; villagers; agricultural workers; citizens...