Useful phrases for IELTS

In sharp/stark contrast

When we want to compare two ideas or situations, and show that they are opposites or that they are completely different from each other, we can use ‘in contrast’. When we want to make this idea even stronger, we can use ‘in sharp contrast’. We use ‘in stark contrast’ to make the contrast as strong as possible and to indicate that one of the situations or ideas being compared is morally wrong or that we fundamentally disagree with it.

As you will see from EXAMPLES below, we can use the noun ‘contrast’ without ‘in’ sometimes.


Sales of vacuum cleaners remained relatively high during the period in question. However, in contrast, the number of washing machines purchased was comparatively low.

Listening to the radio has become a far less popular activity for the younger generation over recent years. In contrast, the percentage of retired individuals who still enjoy this pastime is exceedingly high.

City-dwellers often enjoy a degree of economic prosperity, but suffer from stress and anxiety as a result of the way they are forced to live. This is in sharp contrast to the situation in the countryside where the standard of living tends to be relatively low but the quality of life is higher.

The statistical information clearly demonstrates a sharp contrast between average summer temperatures and those for winter months.

There is a stark contrast between the wages paid to leading sports-stars and those which essential workers in the public sector receive.

Impoverished migrants often live in temporary, poor-quality accommodation which lacks basic amenities such as running water and a power supply. This is in stark contrast to the lives of the fabulously rich, who often live just a few kilometers away. They own luxurious mansions with extensive grounds, swimming pools and stables.

There is a stark contrast between the ways we treat different animals. While pets are pampered and treated with love and affection, other creatures such as pigs are slaughtered mercilessly butchered and eaten.


Economic prosperity = wealth; a good standard of living

The public sector = controlled by the state; the part of an economy which the government runs, organizes or has responsibility for; the opposite of ‘the private sector’

Impoverished = very poor

Fabulously = very; extremely; so much that it is nearly impossible to believe or imagine

Mansions = large and expensive houses which are usually found in the countryside

Stables = buildings where horses live and are looked after

Pampered = (especially for pets) looked after incredibly well; given everything necessary for a very comfortable life; given a life of luxury

Slaughtered = killed with violence or killed in order to be eaten

Mercilessly = without compassion, emotion or feeling; heartlessly

Butchered = (especially for meat) cut up into pieces which can be cooked and eaten