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General meanings

Both in ordinary life and in philosophical discussions the term reason is of frequent occurrence in different significations.

Etymologically the word comes to us, through the French, from the Latin ratio , which is originally the functional noun of the verb reor , "I think" (i.e. I propose a res to my mind). According to Donaldson, res=h-ra-is , a derivative from hir=cheír (hand); hence res is "that which is handled", and means an object of thought, in accordance with that practical tendency of the Roman mind which treated all realities as palpable. Ratio , in opposition to res , denotes the mode or act of thinking; by extension it comes to designate on the one hand the faculty of thinking and on the other the formal element of thought, such as plan, account, ground, etc. This wide use of the word reason to denote the cognitive faculty (especially when dealing with intrinsic evidence, as opposed to authority) is still the commonest. The word has been used in this sense in a definition of the Vatican Council ( Denzinger , "Enchiridion", 11th ed., Freiburg, 1911, nn. 1785-6); but already in Aristotle we have a clear distinction between intellect ( voûs ), as the intuitive faculty, and reason ( lógos ), as the discursive or inferential faculty. This distinction was maintained by the Schoolmen . Yet since Kant , the word reason has been used to shelter a bewildering chaos of notions. Besides using reason ( Vernunft ) as distinguished from the faculties of conception ( Verstand ) and Judgment ( Urteilskraft ), Kant employed the word in a transcendental sense as the function of subsuming under the unity of the ideas the concepts and rules of the understanding. Subsequent German philosophers , as Schopenhauer complained, "tried, with shameless audacity, to smuggle in under this name an entirely spurious faculty of immediate, metaphysical so-called super-sensuous knowledge ".

Discursive thinking

In its general sense, therefore, reason may be attributed to God , and an angel may be called rational. But in its narrower meaning reason is man's differentia , at once his necessity and his privilege; that by which he is "a little less than the angels", and that by which he excels the brutes. Reasoning, as St. Thomas says, is a defect of intellect . True, in certain acts our mind functions as intellect ; there are immediate truths ( ámesa ) and first principles ( archaí ) which we intuit or grasp with our intellect ; and in such verities there can be no deception or error . On this point the Scholastic system may be said to be absolutely intellectualist or noocentric. The meanest intellect is, to use an expression of St. Augustine , capax Dei . Within a certain region our cognitive faculties are absolutely infallible. Yet the Scholastics also unanimously hold that man's specific mark is ratiocination or discursus . Some indeed, like St. Augustine (who was intent on his analogy between logos in man and in the Blessed Trinity ), insist on the intuitional aspect of our mental operations, and pass over the actual process as a whole. Yet none denied that in this life our knowledge is a thing of shreds and patches, laboriously woven from the threads of sense. It is only in patria , for instance, that God's existence will be to us as self-evident as the principle of contradiction is now. The beatific vision will, in fact, be not only as evident, but also as immediate as our present intuition of personal consciousness. But then we shall be on a level with the angels , who are subsistent intelligences or pure intuitives . An angel , in Scholastic philosophy , is practically the equivalent of noûs ( intellectus, intellegentia ) when used by such writers as Aristotle , Porphyry, Plotinus, or Pseudo-Dionysius , to denote not a faculty, but a species of being.

Opposed to this ideal intellection, so characteristic of Scholastic angelology, is our actual human experience, which is a gignómenon , a coming to be. Man is rational in the sense that he is a being who arrives at conclusions from premises. Our intellectual life is a process, a voyage of discovery; our knowledge is not a static ready-made whole; it is rather an organism instinct with life and growth. Each new conclusion becomes the basis of further inference. Hence, too, the word reason is used to signify a premise or ground of knowledge , as distinguished from a cause or real ground. So important is this distinction that one may say herein lies the nucleus of all philosophy. The task of the philosopher is to distinguish the a priori of logic form from the a priori of time; and that this task is a difficult one is testified by the existence of the many systems of psychologism and evolutionism. Reasoning, therefore, must be asserted to be a process sui generis . This is perhaps the best answer to give to the question, so much discussed by the old logicians , as to what kind of causative influence the premises exert on the conclusion. We can only say, they validate it, they are its warrant. For inference is not a mere succession in time; it is a nexus thought-of, not merely an association between thoughts. An irrational conclusion or a misleading association is as much a fact and a result as a correct conclusion; the existence of the latter is explained only by its logical parentage. Hence the futility of trying to account completely for the existence of a human thought--the conclusion of a train of reasoning--simply by the accompanying sense-data and psychological associations. The question of validity is prior to all problems of genesis; for rational knowledge can never be the product of irrational conditions.

Allowing then the indefinability of ratiocination, we may proceed to ask if inference is homogeneous; in other words, are there different forms of reasoning? This raises the difficult question as to whether deduction and induction are ultimately irreducible modes of reasoning. The issue is usually confused by a very narrow definition of the syllogism, which has to be fitted into the word-grooves prescribed by syntax. But if, developing Aristotle's thought, we regard a syllogism as the unit of reasoning, then we may define it as the inference of a relation between A and C from a relation of A to B compounded with a relation of B to C. As an illustration we might instance Mill's famous example of the village matron's inference. Mill calls it reasoning from particulars by analogy; but it can easily be seen to be a syllogism; this drug (A) cured my Lucy (B), who had the same sickness as this neighbour's child (C), and hence will cure this child (C). All reasoning seems to consist in such unit steps, and it seems misleading to talk of inference vi materiæ material and formal are relative terms.

Psychology of reasoning

There is an important sense, however, in which the epithet "material" has been applied to reasoning, to denote illation in which the relational formality has not yet been dissected out. The same laws of thought rule the philosopher's reasoning and the peasant's, but the latter's conclusion will only be fairly certain when its matter comes within his usual cognizance. A man can reason well about familiar matter; but, unless he has explicitly examined the illative process, he will hesitate and err when dealing with new subject-matter. The mistakes of inventors like Newton and Leibniz are very instructive on this point. We are all, then, as Newman put it, more or less departmental; we reason with unequal facility on different subjects. Does it follow that in such cases of concrete informal reasoning there is a rational surplusage of assurance over evidence? This does not seem so clear, and cannot be answered without some analysis. Long before the dawn of modern psychology , Aristotle emphasized the fact that we never think without having an accompanying sense-process, whether it be a visual image, or an auditory symbol or even the motor impression of a word. The Scholastics also admitted this, and indeed many urged the necessity of this conversio ad phantasmata as the explanation of our piecemeal ratiocinative mode of learning. But this is not equivalent to saying that all reasoning can be exactly formulated, crystallized, as it were, into words. Language, after all, is merely a conventional drapery of our thought, which is convenient for logical analysis and for communicating with others. But do we not in ordinary life often syllogize in sights and reason in sounds? Does not our mind in its inferences leap far ahead of the sluggish machinery of language? And which of us has ever succeeded in fully analyzing his most commonplace attitude or emotion? To account, then, for the major part of our existence we must admit something analogous to the Aristotelean phrónesis) whether we call it the illative sense, or the artistic reason, or implicit thought. The main thing to observe is that it is not a special faculty. It is our reason acting under disabilities of language rather than of thought; for, after all, evidence is for ourselves while demonstration has reference to the audience.

Reason and feeling

These experiences have, however, been interpreted in an anti-intellectualist sense. The Pragmatist school regards reasoning as completely determined by its relevance to purpose or interest. And, again, many philosophers ( Kant , the Modernists , and many Protestant theologians under the influence of Schleiermacher) have exaggerated the dualism between head and heart. In fact, a species of epistemological mysticism has been devised (cf. Gefüsqlaube, raisons du coeur, etc.). So far as this bears on the problem of reason, we may briefly state the case. It is true that our reason works purposively--that is, reason is selective of our subject-matter, but it is not creative or transforming. Nature is an ordered cosmos of which we form a part, so that every object in it has a "practical" bearing on our lives, is connected with our rational, sensitive, or natural appetency. The known is never completely out of resonance with our volitions and emotions. To affirm anything, or to reason about a subject, is at once to take up a position before it. This is especially true of moral and religious matter, and indeed the emotional genesis of ethical convictions has often been urged as a proof of their irrationality. But we should not forget that the liability to be influenced by emotional causes is not confined to ethical or religious reasoning. To put the case generally, we may ask: What precisely is meant by regarding feeling (or will) as forming with reason a co-ordinate source of knowledge ? (Cf. G.E. Moore "Principia Ethica", sec. 79-80.) It may be meant that to have a certain feeling towards a conclusion is the same as to have reasoned it; and this is true in the sense that the complex "feeling" may include ratiocination. But when I draw a conclusion, I do not mean that I prefer it or am affected by it. And the fact that the two things can be distinguished is fatal to the assumed co-ordination between emotion and reason. As St. Thomas urged against the pseudo-mystics and Augustinians of all ages, volition is possible only in so far as it includes cognition; and, we may add, emotion is a mode of experience, only inasmuch as it presupposes knowledge .

Again, it may be meant that, without certain experiences of feeling and willing we should not be able to draw certain ethical conclusions. This may be admitted as a psychological fact, viz. that there are many exercises of reason which we shall not correctly perform without an ethical habituation ( ethismiô tini, as Aristotle says). In this connection it is interesting to note that Cardinal Newman's object in writing the "Grammar of Assent" was "to show that a right moral state of mind germinates or even generates good intellectual principles". This is very far from countenancing the Kantian view of the practical reason. The School admits a practical reason or "synteresis" ( Gewissen, psychological conscience ), in the sense of a natural habit of moral Principles. But St. Thomas strenuously denies that it is specialis potentia ratione altior (a special faculty higher than reason).

Animals and reason

Finally, a word may be added on the so-called reason of animals. Man is called animal rationale; this expression stands for what Aristotle might call zôon logistikón . The word zôov (in German, Lebewesen ), which Aristotle applied even to God , does not mean "animal", but "living being". Is there then, any rational animal? Catholic philosophy attributes to animals a faculty ( vis æstimativa ) whose function, analogous to that of reason, might, for want of a better name, be called "estimation". Such a faculty also exists in man, but in a higher form, and was called by the Scholastics ratio particularis or vis cogitativa . Unless animals had this organic faculty, it is hard to see how they could apprehend those pragmatic relations (intentioned) such as utility, danger, etc., which are not objects of external sense. To this extent we may allow that the psychic life of brute animals is one of "meanings" and "values". In some way they apprehend aspects and relations. Otherwise such complex co-ordinations as those required for nest-architecture and food-quest would be inconceivable. The extreme views of Bethe, Uexküll, and others almost imply a return to Cartesian Mechanicism, and really refute themselves. The danger lies rather in the anthropomorphic exaggeration of the powers of the animal mind. Experience has shown how fatally easy it is to read human feelings and reasonings into the "mind" of one's favourite cat or pet lapdog. Continuous, patient observations, like those of Mrs. Mary Austin on sheep or of Professor Yerkes on the dancing-mouse, are worth any number of isolated anecdotes. It may be surely affirmed that there is not a single unambiguous record of animal ratiocination. Such experiments as those of Thorndike (on hungry cats shut up in a cage and forced to learn the way out to food) are easily explained by the gradual stereotyping of association between visual impression and motor response, to the exclusion of other random associations. That animals are incapable of rational valuation is confirmed by the recent observations of Forel, Plateau, and others, who have shown that bees (and probably all insects) have no memory of facts, but only of time and distance. Reason, therefore, is still the exclusive prerogative of man. (See DEDUCTION; INDUCTION; INSTINCT ; INTELLECT; INTUITION; KNOWLEDGE.)

About this page

APA citation. Rahilly, A. (1911). Reason. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/12673b.htm

MLA citation. Rahilly, Alfred. "Reason." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 12. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1911. <http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/12673b.htm>.

Transcription. This article was transcribed for New Advent by Rick McCarty.

Ecclesiastical approbation. Nihil Obstat. June 1, 1911. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York.

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Sacred Congregation of Studies

Decree of approval of some theses contained in the doctrine of st. thomas aquinas and proposed to the teachers of philosophy, july 27, 1914..

in English and Latin, translated by Hugh McDonald Edited and Substantially Revised by Br. Alexis Bugnolo

                                                                                                                                                                                          

The problem I have just been discussing - how we judge about sensible particulars - was much agitated in the Middle Ages; and in my solution of it I believe I am following Aquinas. Aquinas' expression for the relation of the 'intellectual' act of judgment to the context of sense-perception that gives it a particular reference was ' conversio ad phantasmata ', 'turning round towards the sense-appearances'. This metaphorical term is obviously a mere label, with negligible explanatory value; but it does not pretend to be more than a label. Aquinas has, in my opinion, at least rightly located the problem; the problem is not how we advance from judgments like this is before that to more general judgments, but contrariwise how a judgment inherently general can be tied down to referring to particular things.

The problem of singular propositions, in my view, still requires a decent explanation. But enough of that.

conversion ad phantasmata

Introduction: Double Intentionality

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  • Published: 14 December 2021
  • Volume 41 , pages 93–109, ( 2022 )

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  • Michela Summa 1 ,
  • Martin Klein 1 &
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Consider the following scenarios:

You are in a lab, and you see various tools you don’t recognize. Your friend who is studying biology tells you that what you see is a common glass burette; you look around and wonder whether the concept ‘glass burette’ might apply to some other object you see in the room.

Tired from work, you drive home, reminiscing about the sunset you saw as you walked along the beach during your vacation last summer.

You plan to bake a cake for the party you are hosting tomorrow, and you think about what you need to buy and when you can do your grocery shopping.

You react with fear when you meet a dog, but you then feel relieved because in fact it is only a puppy.

You go hiking with a friend and you talk about how much you are enjoying this time together after a long period of isolation.

These are experiences that, in their own ways, are directed at something or are about something . They are thus examples of different intentional acts. Typically, intentionality is described as a one-way relation between acts and their objects. On a closer look, however, we can see that the intentional relation in these examples is more complex than a simple one-way being-directed-at-an-object. In all of them, there are two intentional directions that can be recognized. For example, when you see a glass burette you are certainly intentionally directed at a glass burette. But when you consider how, on the basis of this perceptual act, you can intentionally turn to the concept that determines the object of this act as a glass burette, a two-way directedness comes to the fore: besides the intention directed at the perceived object, there is also an intention directed at the concept. In the case of memory, what you remember is certainly the sunset, but you are also aware that it was you who had that experience in the past, and the way you remember the sunset now is affected by how you previously experienced it; in other words, your memory is directed not only at the sunset, but also, implicitly, at how you experienced the sunset last summer and how it appeared to you then. While planning to bake a cake and then while baking it, your thoughts are primarily directed at the cake as the outcome and end of your action, but you are also implicitly intending the individual steps you have to take in order to arrive at a (hopefully satisfactory) result. Double intentional relations are also implied in certain emotional experiences, such as the feeling of appropriateness or inappropriateness of an emotion (e.g., after noticing that the dog you were afraid of is only a puppy, for most people it feels wrong to keep being afraid of it), or sentiments of approbation and blame: in all these cases, the emotion is intentionally directed toward another emotion, which is itself intentionally directed an an object. And finally, shared experiences also have a complex intentional structure: when you discuss with someone the shared experience of hiking together, you are intending the experience (in this case, the hiking), but you are intending it with the underlying awareness of the hiking experience not just as singularly yours, but also as a shared experience—thus as yours in the plural.

As these examples show, a simple view of intentionality as one-way object-directedness is inadequate to describe many intentional experiences. A deeper understanding of the complex structures of different kinds of intentional experience is required. The concept of intentionality is assigned a central role in phenomenology and in the philosophy of mind. But it can only play such a role if it helps elucidate the complexities found in concrete experiences of the world, of ourselves, and of others.

The aim of this special issue is to address different topoi of complex intentional structures and to elaborate on concepts that allow us to properly describe and understand these complexities by focusing on how two intentions can be connected and interwoven in a single act. While references to double intentionality are to be found in both classic and contemporary work in phenomenology and the philosophy of mind, there is still a need for a closer analysis of the structures of double intentionality and of the acts displaying a double intentionality.

It is noteworthy that, when they mention double intentionality, some authors in phenomenology and more generally in twentieth-century philosophy seem to have medieval approaches to intentionality in mind, or at the very least we can say that there are references to distinctions that are characteristic of medieval theories of intentionality, such as those between first and second intentions, between intentio prima and secunda , and between intentio recta and obliqua . Footnote 1 However, these references are usually not systematically developed, and so questions arise as to whether and how research on intentionality might benefit from a joint reassessment of contemporary and medieval work on double intentionality.

These references are not the only motive for focusing the inquiry into double intentionality on contemporary philosophy of mind, phenomenology, and medieval philosophy. Underlying this orientation is the hypothesis that the results obtained in these different traditions of thought on the structures of intentionality in general, and of double intentionality in particular, can be mutually enlightening in several respects. More specifically, the articles in this volume show that contemporary and medieval theories of intentionality can fruitfully contribute to research on double intentionality regarding at least three issues: (i) the relation between object intentionality and self-experience, both as immediate self-awareness and as memory-based self-consciousness; (ii) the relation between intentions directed toward objects and toward different kinds of concept; and (iii) the intentional relations involved in both action and emotions.

In this introductory essay, after presenting in the first section some crucial aspects of how intentionality is understood across the medieval and the Brentanian-phenomenological traditions, we will devote the three subsequent sections to each of the just-mentioned issues. While the plurality and complexity of the various theoretical approaches prevent us from making an exhaustive survey of all debates on the topic of double intentionality, we aim to situate the results of the individual papers published in this issue within a broader discussion, in order to provide a more encompassing view of the variety of phenomena that display a double intentional structure.

1 Intentionality Across Traditions

The discussion of double intentionality presupposes a specific understanding of the concept of intentionality. The term is broadly understood in contemporary philosophy as referring to the distinctive feature of mental acts: their directedness at something or their aboutness (see Brentano 1995 , pp. 59 f.; Crane 1998 ; Jacob 2014 ; Siewert 2017 ; Müller and Summa 2018 ). Such an understanding of intentionality is generally associated with Franz Brentano, whose account of the mind, controversially discussed, deeply influenced research in phenomenology and the philosophy of mind, and contributed to the establishment of psychology as a science. However, Brentano does not use the general concept of intentionality in his Psychology from an Empirical Standpoint as he does in some manuscripts, but speaks rather of the “intentional inexistence” (Brentano 1995 , p. 68) of an object in the corresponding act. The prefix ‘in’ in the term ‘inexistence’ should be understood as designating a part-whole relation, according to which “[e]very mental phenomenon includes something as object within itself” (Brentano 1995 , p. 68).

Brentano elaborates on the concept of intentional inexistence by drawing on the medieval discussions of intentio (Marras 1977 ; Runggaldier 1989 ; Jacquette 2004 ; Perler 2004 ; Moran 2013 ; Mc Donnell 2015 ; Müller and Summa 2018 ). His understanding of intentional inexistence, however, is narrower than the medieval and scholastic understanding of intentio . In fact, for medieval philosophers, the term intentio generally denotes a tendency ( in aliquid/aliud tendere ), Footnote 2 the striving of something for something (else), or the directedness of something toward something else. The concept of intentio thus alternatively applies to everything exhibiting a tendency, to the means by which tendency comes about, and to what is intended by the tendency. On such a broad understanding, intentio is not exclusive to mental states and does not define their mark (King 2010 ; Klima 2013 , 2015 ; Zupko 2015 ); rather, according to the medieval thinkers, every entity that tends toward something else can be said to have an intention. It is not only acts of willing, understanding and perceptions, but also sensible and intelligibile species (i.e., those representational devices that emitted from intelligible and perceptible objects to cognizers make cognition possible) that are called intentions. Even natural entities can be conceived as intentional: for instance, fire is typically described as having the tendency to burn anything combustible, and it is thus intentional in this broad sense. This extended scope of the term intentio derives from the transmission of Arabic texts into the Latin-speaking intellectual community in the twelfth century, specifically from a variety of Arabic terms that could be rendered in English as meaning , concept , or sense , but also as respect , purpose , which were all translated into Latin as intentio. Footnote 3

Brentano’s claim that “intentional inexistence” is the mark of the mental, then, takes up only one specific meaning among the variety of meanings the concept of intentio had for medieval thinkers. In support of Brentano’s interpretation, however, it should be noted that he himself was aware of this restriction, as testified by the fact that in his Psychology from an Empirical Standpoint he does not use the medieval term intentio or the German Intention , but refers only to the medieval notion of an intra-mental object or content at which the mind is directed. Footnote 4 This is precisely what medieval thinkers consider to be the mark of the mental (de Rijk 2005 , pp. 27–29; Amerini 2011b ).

This special issue concentrates only on intentionality as a characteristic feature of mental acts. With this focus in mind, a constitutive feature of the medieval understanding of intentionality helps illuminate the framework within which a theory of double intentionality should be embedded and sheds light on both Brentano’s concept of intentionality and the phenomenological concept of intentionality: that is, intentionality is a relation .

The idea that ‘intentionality’ denotes a relation can already be seen in the first extensive treatises on intentions written in the fourteenth century. Notably, Hervaeus Natalis (d. 1323), in his treatise On Second Intentions —which has been called the “baptismal certificate of intentionality” (Knebel 2009 )—uses intentionalitas describe the relation that an object, in being cognized, has with the cognizing subject (Doyle 2009 ). Footnote 5 In a similar vein, Brentano uses the general term Intentionalität in some manuscripts from the 1870s that discuss various kinds of relation. Accordingly, applying ‘intentionality’ to the description of the mental implies conceiving of mental activities themselves as essentially relational (Rollinger 2010 , p. 24; 2011 , p. 263; Taieb 2018 ). Relationality is also the main feature of intentionality according to Husserl’s phenomenology, and this characterization is maintained in post-Husserlian phenomenology. In fact, phenomenology builds on the idea of a necessary correlation between subject and object as well as between the subject and the world as the horizon of meaningful givenness (e.g., Husserl 1960 ; 1970 , pp. 151–152, 159–160; 1983 ; pp. 211–212).

Against the background of a shared understanding of intentionality as a relation, different approaches to the nature of such a relation have been developed. One of the main issues marking the distinction between different theories of intentionality concerns representationalism. To state it briefly, representationalist accounts of the mind contend that intentional acts are directed at immanent objects or contents, which function as mental representations of external objects, whereas non-representationalist accounts hold that acts directly intend what medieval philosophers call extramental objects and phenomenologists call transcendent objects . In order to understand the importance of this divide, we must take a closer look at the concepts of intentional object content , and act .

Objectum , as a technical term for what is presented to the mind, is a concept that evolved in the late thirteenth century (see Dewan 1981 ; Knebel 1998 ; Kobusch 1987 ). Within medieval debates, it is generally assumed that if an object is to be cognized, it cannot be entirely different from that by which it is cognized, that is, the mind. Accordingly, the object and the cognizing mind, on the medieval standard view, must be to a certain extent homogeneous and have some affinity to each other. If they were completely heterogeneous, the argument goes, it would be impossible to explain how the mind could have access to what would be, formally speaking, a completely separate ontological realm, namely, the world of things. The form of the cognized object must therefore be homogeneous with the mind; it is in precisely this sense that we should also understand the claim that the intended object is ‘in’ the mind. Once this inner representation is postulated, however, the question as to the relation between the object represented in the mind and the extramental thing arises and often remains unsolved (Perler 2004 ; de Rijk 2005 ; Anisi et al. 2020 ).

This representationalist view of the medieval scholastics, despite any differences in the broader account of mind and cognition, which are related to the cultural and philosophical milieu in which it was developed, is largely shared by Brentano. Drawing from Aristotle’s theory of perception and from the scholastics, but within the framework of a psychology concentrating on mental states rather than positing the soul as an immaterial substance, Brentano understands intentional inexistence literally. The sound one hears, for instance, is included within one’s act of hearing, the figure one sees is included as a part of one’s act of seeing, etc. Brentano assumes—at least in Psychology from an Empirical Standpoint —that the intentional relation is actually a relation between mental states and an immanent object (Simons 1995 ). Against this background, cognition can only rely on inner representation, in which further mental states of judging, desiring, and feeling are grounded.

While recognizing the debt to their master, Husserl and other Brentano scholars like Meinong emphasize that the account in the Psychology is based on a somewhat misleading conflation of the concepts of content and object . Such ambiguity makes it difficult to understand whether the discussion of intentional inexistence is a psychological claim about the directedness of mental acts, an ontological claim about intramental objects or contents, or a claim about the correlation between a mental state and an object (Schreiber 2021 ).

Insisting on the need to disambiguate the concepts of content and object, Husserl arrives at a non-representationalist theory of intentionality. Husserl ( 2001b , pp. 94–95) considers intentionality to be the distinguishing feature not of every mental phenomenon but only of conscious acts , and argues that sensible contents like a sound sensation or a color sensation are not to be conceived of as immanent objects that somehow represent external objects. Rather, they are non-intentional but still conscious components of acts, and need to be apprehended as objectual features. Sensible contents—which Husserl also calls “real” ( reell ) or “descriptive”—are to be distinguished from transcendent or extramental objects: while the former are parts of the act, the latter are not. On this account, it would be wrong to say that cognition of extramental objects requires a mental representation or a mental image that is homogeneous with the mind (Husserl 2001b , pp. 125–126, 335–336). Rather than postulating inner representations, Husserl argues that the experience and cognition of unitary transcendent objects is possible thanks to the mind’s capacity to synthesize the different modes of appearance of objects—that is, the “matter” of the act, or the intentional content (Husserl 2001b , pp. 112–113)—into a unity. Cognition arises on the basis of such a synthesis of the modes of appearance of the object in connection with the relevant categorial formations that make predication possible. Such a non-representationalist view becomes more and more prominent in post-Husserlian phenomenology, notably in Maurice Merleau-Ponty’s ( 2005 ) examplary analyses of perception.

The distinction between representationalist and non-representationalist accounts of the mind impinges on the discussion of double intentionality. While the question for representationalist approaches is to clarify how the structure of representation could entail two different intentional directions—and thus possibly a duplication of the intentional object—non-representationalist views do not have this problem but are confronted with the need to develop descriptions that would be appropriate for the complex articulation of non-representational consciousness.

2 Object-Awareness and Self-Awareness: Consciousness and Memory

One area of research in which the inquiry into double intentionality has had particular resonance is the relation between consciousness of something and self-consciousness broadly construed. Perceiving, desiring, thinking about, and having a feeling about an object x are intentional acts in that they are directed at x or entail the awareness of x —but not only x , for when performing an intentional act one is also aware of this very act. In perceiving a tree, one is not only intentionally directed at the tree: one is also aware in a specific way of one’s own perceiving. Several medieval thinkers, Brentano, Husserl, and many post-Husserlian phenomenologists all share this basic assumption and are interested in investigating the specific features of object -awareness and self -awareness, as well as how they are related.

2.1 Consciousness and Self-Consciousness

What is self-awareness, and how does it relate to object-awareness? With regard to this question, the main divide in the philosophy of mind across different traditions can be traced back to the distinction between two-level and one-level accounts of self-awareness. Two-level accounts contend that self-awareness comes about by means of an act of reflection directed at intentional acts. Accordingly, two levels are involved in the constitution of self-awareness: an intentional act that is directed at an internal or external object, and a reflective, or higher-order intentional act that is directed at the intentional act of the first level. By contrast, one-level accounts contend that self-awareness and object-awareness are integrated in one and the same level of consciousness: when we are intentionally directed at an object x , we are aware of both x and the consciousness in which x is given. Proponents of one-level accounts typically also endorse the stronger claim that all intentional consciousness involves self-awareness. The distinction between one-level and two-level accounts of self-consciousness provides a helpful perspective in comparing the theories of double intentionality in medieval thinkers, Brentano, and the subsequent phenomenological tradition.

2.1.1 Medieval Approaches to the Act-Object Relation

Although the term consciousness was not used by medieval philosophers, Footnote 6 they developed an extensive discussion that touches on precisely the issues mentioned above. They generally put those questions in terms of cognition , which includes sensations, perceptions, and understandings. Sometimes they formulate these questions more specifically in terms of the knowledge that people can have about themselves and their own mental states (Perler and Schierbaum 2014 ; Klein 2019 , pp. 311–337).

Medieval philosophers generally agree that the mind can reflect on its own act. The problem, however, is not so much whether such reflection is possible, but rather whether it is necessary for self-consciousness. Maintaining that self-reflection is necessary for self-consciousness would amount to defending a two-level theory of self-consciousness: at one level we are aware of the object, and at a second level we are aware of our own acts (and inferentially of ourselves). Footnote 7 To be aware of a stone is an act of perceiving the stone, and to be aware of one’s own perception of the stone is equally construed as a perception, one of intramentally perceiving one’s own act of perceiving the stone (Yrjönsuuri 2007 ).

There are at least two interconnected problems with such an account, both related to the status of the reflecting act. If we assume that consciousness of acts can be realized only via reflection, then we are faced with this alternative: the act of reflection itself either becomes conscious through a further act of reflection, or it does not become conscious at all. If one endorses the former view, there will be an infinite regress of reflecting acts. Conversely, if one maintains that another reflecting act is not required, one must accept the existence of mental states of which a subject is totally unaware, namely, the ultimate reflecting act.

Regarding the threat of an infinite regress, we can find two paradigmatic solutions in the Middle Ages. The first one is formulated by Thomas Aquinas, who acknowledges the regress but denies that this is a problem. Reflection, in fact, is an activity of the intellect, which is an immaterial human faculty with a distinct ontological status and as such is able to infinitely reflect upon its own acts. Footnote 8 The second solution can be found in the writings of William of Ockham. Ockham acknowledges that the regress is metaphysically conceivable but denies that it is psychologically realizable. Accordingly, it is not a concrete threat: the mind would simply stop reflecting once it has reached a certain number of reflective acts. He argues that it is not the case that the mind is caused necessarily to produce reflective acts. Our seeing a stone does not automatically produce acts of reflection; instead, reflection is something which we voluntarily decide to bring about or not. Footnote 9 On this account, not every act needs to be self-aware; in fact, every mental act that is self-aware is accompanied by one that is not. Ockham’s account thus avoids the infinite regress problem, but is confronted with the problem of assuming that there are some mental acts that are entirely unconscious.

Medieval proponents of one-level accounts of self-consciousness tried in various ways to overcome both problems. Peter John Olivi argues against the view that the subject’s awareness of its own mental act comes about only through a distinct reflective act. Footnote 10 Though he does not deny that it is possible for the mind to elicit a distinct reflective mental act which is directed both at an act and at the object of that act, he thinks that a subject must already be implicitly aware of the direct act itself, without a further mental episode of explicit reflection. Accordingly, Olivi has been interpreted as a proponent of a pre-reflective self-awareness (Brower-Toland 2013 ). To make pre-reflective self-awareness plausible, he suggests resorting to a metaphor of sense perception: in having mental states, the soul immediately feels them, similar to how the sense of touch immediately feels heat or the like. The soul cannot have mental acts without immediately experiencing itself. Footnote 11

One generation after Olivi, further elaborations of the one-level account are to be found in the writings of Walter Chatton and Durand of St. Pourçain. As Charles Girard shows in his contribution to this issue, Chatton takes pre-reflective self-awareness to be a genuine form of reception that is exclusive to “a living subject” that “receives its own act.” Footnote 12 Durand on the other hand argues that pre-reflective self-awareness is intrinsic to the act that is directed at the object itself: it is “in relation to the principal object and through the same act” that “I cognize a rose and that I cognize that I cognize a rose.” Footnote 13 A mental act, according to Durand, is directed at the principal object and at the same time at itself; on Girard’s reading, this implies that the act is a secondary object of cognition (see also Hartman 2021 ). As Girard further suggests, Chatton’s and Durand’s accounts can be seen as precursors of Brentano’s account of self-consciousness.

2.1.2 Self-Consciousness and Object-Directedness in Brentano

Although it has been argued that Brentano’s theory ultimately supports a higher-order theory of self-consciousness (Rosenthal 1997 ), he is now usually read as proposing a one-level account of consciousness and self-consciousness (see Thomasson 2002 ; Zahavi 2004 ; Frank 2015 ). In fact, Brentano claims that mental acts are structurally characterized by a double intentional relation, and thus that there is no need to posit a further act of reflection: they are directed at their objects as primary objects, and at themselves as secondary objects. Brentano also calls this self-directedness “accompanying” or “incidental” consciousness, thereby indicating that it is not to be understood as a higher-order reflective act. For instance, when we hear a sound, “[w]e can say that the sound is the primary object of the act of hearing, and that the act of hearing itself is the secondary object” (Brentano 1995 , p. 98). The act of hearing is directed “toward the sound in the most proper sense of the term, and because of this it seems to apprehend itself incidentally and as something additional” (Brentano 1995 , p. 98). ‘Incidentally’ ( nebenbei or en parergo in the Greek text of Aristotle, on whom Brentano draws) does not mean here that this self-consciousness may or may not be occurring, but rather that being conscious of the hearing is dependent on the act of hearing. Footnote 14 But whenever we have an intentional experience directed at something, like hearing a sound, the accompanying self-consciousness is also given. This has two important consequences. First, the idea of an unconscious consciousness or act is ruled out. Secondly—and this marks the difference of Brentano’s view from higher-order theories of self-consciousness—incidental self-consciousness is not to be confused with inner “observation” ( Beobachtung ): while inner observation is indeed a further act, which may or may not occur (Brentano 1995 , p. 22), the performance of every act is necessarily accompanied by incidental self-consciousness.

Brentano’s view has been widely discussed in the literature. Footnote 15 In particular, it has been shown that his one-level theory avoids some of the problems faced by higher-order theories of self-consciousness, notably, the threat of infinite regress (Brentano 1995 , pp. 93–94). There is, however, another concern with Brentano’s account of the double intentionality of object-consciousness and self-consciousness, namely, the problem of the duplication of the primary object. This problem is discussed in Andrea Marchesi’s contribution to this volume: if the sound is the primary object or content of the act of hearing, then it should also be the indirect content of the self-consciousness of the act of hearing. Are we then to admit that there is a duplication of the intentional object? And is this theoretically plausible? Marchesi claims that these problems are eliminated at the root if we more rigorously consider acts as mereological units, and he investigates the relations between the act as a whole and its parts.

2.1.3 Self-Consciousness as Non-Objectual Consciousness in Phenomenology

Like Brentano, Husserl too defends a one-level account of self-awareness; unlike Brentano, he does not conceive of self-awareness as a specific kind of object-awareness. Husserl’s position emerges precisely from his understanding of double intentionality ( doppelte Intentionalität ) and self-awareness in relation to the phenomenology of time-consciousness. The core of Husserl’s mature view is that the stream of consciousness appears to itself together with its experiential contents (Husserl 1991 , pp. 77–78, 370–371, 379–360). When perceiving a temporal object—for example, when hearing a melody—one’s awareness of one’s own act of hearing is not to be understood as an object-awareness, but rather as the immediate and non-reflective awareness of an ongoing temporal process in which both the melody and the acts are constituted.

Husserl still defends a one-level account of self-consciousness, without however claiming that we are aware of our own acts as secondary objects . He suggests that in every act, the consciousness of the object involves a pre-reflective and non-objectual awareness of oneself as experiencing the object (see Bernet 1985 ; Zahavi 1998 , 1999 , 2002 ; Kortooms 2002 ). On this understanding, we can still speak of double intentionality, but we also need to distinguish between an objectual and a non-objectual intentionality; in his analyses of time-consciousness, Husserl calls them transverse intentionality ( Querintentionalität ) and longitudinal intentionality ( Längsintentionalität ) respectively (Husserl 1991 , pp. 84–85, 379–380). Footnote 16 While transverse intentionality is directed at the temporal object, longitudinal intentionality is directed at the experiential process or flow. The two intentionalities are considered to be “inseparably united” and to require one another “like the two sides of the same thing” (Husserl 1991 , p. 87). According to this view, the very same flow of temporal consciousness that intentionally constitutes temporal objects also constitutes itself as temporal; the awareness of the object is accompanied by self-awareness, which “does not require a second flow” but “constitutes itself as a phenomenon in itself” (Husserl 1991 , p. 88).

Husserl’s notion of a pre-reflective and sui generis non-objectual self-awareness can be seen as a “silent consensus” (Wiesing 2020 , p. 55) among all the phenomenologists that followed Husserl, although thinkers such as Gurwitsch ( 1966 ), Henry ( 1973 ), Sartre ( 1956 , 2004 ), and Merleau-Ponty ( 2005 ) developed their own phenomenological accounts of self-awareness.

The connection between the temporality of experience and the relation between consciousness and self-consciousness highlight how important it is on the one hand to consider intentional life as a process, and on the other hand to distinguish the different levels of the constitution of self-consciousness. This becomes clearer if we reassess what has been said so far about double intentionality and self-consciousness in relation with the double intentionality that is specific to acts of memory.

2.2.1 Memory and Self-Consciousness in Medieval Philosophy

Medieval philosophers consider memory against the backdrop of two traditions: on the one hand, that of Aristotle and Arabic thinkers, according to whom memory concerns the reactivation of sensory representations of an object experienced in the past which have been stored in the inner sense; on the other hand, that of Augustine, who also discusses purely intellectual memory. Both traditions emphasize that memory is closely linked with a person’s self-awareness. When Augustine says that in the context of learning, “I also remember that I have remembered”, Footnote 17 he is claiming that the object of our memory is not only the previously acquired understanding of something but also the fact that we have acquired knowledge and the manner in which we have done so. Thus, when a person remembers something, she is not only aware of a past object but also of herself as the one who once experienced something and the one who is now reactivating those past experiences (Müller 2015 , p. 95). Similarly, Aristotle ( 1984 ) remarks that one cannot remember without being aware that one remembers ( De mem. , 452b26–27; cf. Nikulin 2015 , p. 64).

Both traditions raise the problem of what the precise content and structure of memory is. For instance, when we remember a sunset we saw while on holiday last year, do we remember the sunset which we saw or do we rather remember ourselves experiencing it? Thomas Aquinas, following the first path, wants to explain how it is possible that we can have access to objects of past cognitions. Regarding sensory memory, he claims that we reactivate representations that were once acquired from an object and stored in (the organ of) the inner sense. However, we do not make them into the object of our recollective act; rather, previously acquired representations serve as vehicles through which we re-present the object we have seen in the past (Perler 2020 , pp. 247–249).

To highlight the past mental state rather than its object as what is primarily remembered implies a special focus on the relation between memory and self-awareness. We can see this more clearly in John Duns Scotus who, one generation after Aquinas, elaborates on the problem of how the intellect can think of past mental acts, that is, how memory is primarily of our acts rather than of their object. Memory is possible of every cognition that was accompanied by what Scotus calls an “intuitive act”, through which one was originally aware of the cognition. This accompanying act is stored in the intellect alone and serves as a cognitive vehicle for an occurrent act of recollection ( recordatio ) through which the past act becomes accessible for the subject. Thus, only mental acts that were consciously experienced when they occurred can be recollected, and therefore those recollected acts must be conceived of as ours (Cross 2014 , pp. 57–63).

Scotus’s inward turn to past experience leads him to conceive of the recollected mental act as what he calls the “proximate object” of memory, and the object of the past cognition as the “remote object”. Dominik Perler shows in his contribution to this volume how one generation later, Scotus’s confrère William of Ockham took up and further developed Scotus’s account of memory as being about two objects. According to Ockham’s mature theory of the intentional structure of memory, a person remembers directly her past act—what Ockham calls the “partial object”—and indirectly also the object of this act, called the “complex object”. Perler analyzes the cognitive mechanism behind memory and pays special attention to the problem of what it means to remember a past cognitive act—an act which strictly speaking is gone and cannot be brought back by the mind as numerically the same act.

In this respect, Perler shows that an analysis of the structure of acts of recollection only in terms of their objects is not sufficient to account for the intentionality of memory. For how does the mind conceive of re-presented acts or remembered things precisely as past , unlike, say, the current imagination of some object? Medieval philosophers handle this problem by saying that past acts and their objects are somehow timestamped (Cory 2012 ). Again, Augustine seems to play a major role in the background. According to his doctrine of the distentio animae , the soul, in an occurrent mental episode of recollection, stretches itself out to a past moment which it has experienced. This means that the soul must be able to connect its present self with its past existence. In memory, it is not the case that we just remember some past event or object; rather, we intend them as being experienced by us in the past, so that it is me who remembers that I saw a sunset last summer.

2.2.2 Remembering and Re-Presenting in Brentano and Husserl

Brentano addresses the topic of the double intentionality of memory in the Appendix to his Psychology from an Empirical Standpoint (Brentano 1995 , pp. 214–215). He does so in the context of a more general reassessment of intentions directed at relations rather than at objects. The gist of his argument is that we should not confuse the double intentionality of inner perception (see above, Sect.  2.1 ) with the double intentionality of inner observation. In the latter, we have a double intentionality not only in the sense of an interweaving of self-awareness and object-awareness (which is something that characterizes all acts), but also in the interplay of direct and indirect intentionality, or of intentio recta and obliqua (Brentano 1995 , pp. 219–220; cf. Dewalque 2014 ). It should be noted that this kind of double intentionality extends beyond recollection and pertains to all acts of re-presentation as well as to all consciousness of relations (Brentano 1995 , p. 220). In the case of recollection, when we remember the sunset we experienced last summer on the beach, we have a direct intention toward our past experience of the sunset—like an inner observation of our past experience, in which our past experience is the direct object—and an indirect intention toward the sunset itself. The remembered object is thus an intentional object given modo obliquo , or as mediated by the direct “observation” of our past experience.

In this respect too, Husserl takes up some of Brentano’s insights, but also revises the general account. Husserl partly agrees that we need to account for the double intentionality of acts of recollection, as well as other re-presentations such as phantasy, expectation, etc. (see Husserl 1991 , p. 55; Marbach 1993 ; de Warren 2016 ). However, the recollection of a sunset we saw on the beach last summer cannot be rendered as a present intention directed to our previous act, which itself was directed to the sunset. Instead, Husserl suggests that the double intentionality of re-presentation does not entail any kind of nesting of direct and indirect consciousness. When we remember the sunset, we still intend the sunset as our direct object, but we re-present the sunset in a specific modality, namely, as we experienced it last summer . Our previous experience marks the mode of givenness of the remembered object when we intend it in recollection, without turning it into an indirect object. Thus, our own previous experience is not necessarily the object of explicit or attentive recollection: we can just remember the sunset, and thereby be aware that we were perceiving it at some point in the past. This does not rule out that we could turn our attention to our own previous act of perception and so make it the object of recollection. Only in this latter case the structure would be similar to the one Brentano describes. What Husserl rejects, in other words, is that there is necessarily a mediated relation to the object of recollection—that is, that in order to remember the sunset, it is necessary to make the previous act of perception the object of our recollection.

Accordingly, Husserl’s account of the double intentionality of memory is also to be understood in a different way. First, given that double intentionality in general is what temporally qualifies self-awareness, we should consider precisely how this qualification applies to memory as a re-presentation directed at the past. In recollection, as we have seen, we have awareness of an object that is marked, as it were, as having been experienced in the past. Secondly, as to self-awareness, in a present act of recollection we are not only implicitly aware that we are now recollecting (as we are aware of the actual performance of every act); we are also aware that we perceived the object in the past . This is revealed by the double “attitude” we can take toward acts of re-presentation (and specifically of recollection) in phenomenological reflection. Given their simulating character, recollections (like all other re-presentations) allow a double focus: a focus on the present act of recollection, or a focus on the past, plunging into it and living in the re-presented world as if it were actual (Husserl 2005 , p. 672). Footnote 18 These two attitudes also amount to two intentions that we can have in our present focusing on our memories, and they can be understood in the light of different kinds of attentional focus.

3 Intending Objects and Intending Concepts: First and Second Intentions

Within the theory of knowledge and the theory of meaning, the inquiry into the structures of double intentionality is relevant insofar as it brings to the fore the relation between intending objects and intending concepts. The distinction between different kinds of conceptual intentions is at the core of medieval theories of intentionality. Though phenomenology formulates these issues within a different framework, some remarkable convergences concern precisely the double intentionality involved in conceptual cognition and the theory of meaning.

3.1 Prima Intentio and Secunda Intentio in Medieval Philosophy

The distinction between prima intentio and secunda intentio originates in medieval theories of meaning. A first intention is a concept such as tree , human being , or cup , while a second intention is a concept derived from first intentions, such as genus , species , or subject . Through these higher-order, or formal concepts, things of first intention are conceived in a certain way: a tree can be conceived of as a species, as part of a genus, or as a part of a proposition.

Like the term intentio , the distinction between intentio prima and intentio secunda goes back to the transmission of Arabic philosophy into the Latin tradition. Avicenna distinguishes between “first intelligible meanings” and “secondary intelligible meanings”, translated by Dominicus Gundissalinus as intentiones intellectae primo and intentiones intellectae secundo respectively. Footnote 19 Avicenna makes this distinction in order to clarify the proper subject matter of logic: logic is concerned not with real entities such as dogs and their properties, but rather with concepts and their properties. Concepts get these properties because the mind uses them in various ways by, for instance, classifying them or connecting them to propositions (Street and Germann 2013 ).

The distinction between first and second intentions prompted Latin authors of the Middle Ages to discuss problems of epistemology, psychology, and logic in the broad sense. What is the relation between first and second intentions and the thing of which they are intentions? What are the cognitive structures that underlie the formation of first and second intentions on the basis of our sensory experience of real things?

With a few exceptions, medieval authors tend to agree in considering the formation of concepts an operation of the intellect. Unlike the senses, which work through bodily organs and can only perceive particulars, the intellect is an immaterial faculty and yields general knowledge (Klein 2019 ). Such general knowledge presupposes the capacity to abstract from the sensory content that is received by the faculty of imagination (in the form of phantasms) and ultimately to form a concept that represents particulars in a general way: this human being as an instance of the concept human being or this red as an instance of the concept red . Some authors, such as Thomas Aquinas, further emphasize that when constructing these concepts, intellectual thinking is always processed in association with phantasms. Especially when a concept is applied to particulars, the intellect is said to “reflect” on the phantasm from which the concept is abstracted (Menn 2012 , pp. 65–67; Cory 2013 ). According to Aquinas, then, the intellect is dependent on the phantasmata in two ways. First, cognition does not rely on general concepts alone, for instance human being ; rather, when we attribute to human beings the property of being mortal, we need to imagine a particular human being, such as Socrates. In this sense, in understanding, the intellect works together with the imagination. Secondly, we cognize particulars only through phantasms associated with the concept; for instance, when we point to Socrates and say that he is currently sitting. By itself, the intellect is not capable of recognizing singular things; therefore, it must resort to the phantasmata that represent singular things ( conversio ad phantasmata ).

On the basis of the acquired concepts, or first intentions of things, such as human being , the mind can build further concepts. These are second intentions; for example, the mind can recognize that there are different ways of conceptualizing things, such as living being , animal , and human being . Recognizing these different kinds of conceptualizations, the mind forms classificatory concepts, such as species and genus . Furthermore, the mind can investigate the role of concepts in propositions and thus form the concepts subject and predicate . A controversial issue—notably discussed by Thomas Aquinas, Radulphus Brito, and Hervaeus Natalis—is whether second intentions are constituted only by comparing extramental things with each other, or whether an intramental comparison of the corresponding concepts is required. If the former is the case, then the intellect depends on the work of the imagination, since without phantasms it would not be able to compare individuals. If the latter is the case, then forming second intentions involves some sort of mental reflection through which the mind refers to itself. In both cases, second intentions are grounded in first intentions.

Another point of debate is whether first and second intentions mean only the concepts of things or also the things themselves. This controversy stems from the ambiguity of the term intentio , which some authors use only for concepts, and others also use for the things of which we have concepts, precisely to the extent that we have concepts of them. Authors endorsing the latter view typically conceive of intentions as a matter of correlation between things and our understandings of them (Pinborg 1974 ; Pini 2002 , ch. 2 and 3; de Rijk 2005 ; Amerini 2011a ).

An important author who defends the claim that first and second intentions should be understood in connection with the things to which concepts refer is Hervaeus Natalis. Hervaeus contends that a mental act forming a concept directed at an extramental thing is a necessary but not sufficient condition for the thing to be cognized. If the mind’s intention—its tending toward something—does not conform with that at which it is directed, cognition remains empty. There is a further necessary formal requirement for the realization of cognition, consisting in the backward relation from an object to the mental act. But how does this relation come about if not through an act of cognition? Fabrizio Amerini’s contribution to this special issue focuses on how Hervaeus, elaborating on Thomas Aquinas’s account of double intentions, understands this requirement in a non-circular way. Both Hervaeus and Aquinas also emphasize the foundational relations between first and second intentions: both first and second intentions are ultimately grounded in real things, and as Amerini shows, second intentions, which are based on the comparison of the things understood through first intentions, are also founded on first intentions.

3.2 The Phenomenology of Intentions Directed at Objects and at Concepts

That Brentano was at least indirectly familiar with the distinction between first and second intentions can be assumed on the basis of his education, which was influenced by nineteenth-century neo-scholasticism (Cesalli and Taieb 2018 ; Binder 2019 , pp. 36–64). In his contribution to this volume, Hamid Taieb shows that in hitherto unpublished manuscripts, Brentano used the medieval distinction between first and second intention to clarify the relations between an object, its presentation, and the content of that presentation. Taieb shows the extent to which Brentano’s conception undermines our cognitive access to extramental reality. Furthermore, he shows that Brentano’s conception of first and second intentions is similar to medieval accounts according to which first intentions designate what is primarily conceived—that is, things themselves—whereas second intentions are derivative modes of conceiving those things.

Husserl’s texts, by contrast, do not suggest that he was familiar with the complex medieval debates about first and second intentions. However, the phenomenological analyses of concept formation and idealization display some significant convergences with the medieval discussions. Simplifying a rather complex theory Footnote 20 —involving discussions of material and formal ontology, as well as formal apophantics and the theory of meaning—we can say that a double intention characterizes acts that are responsible for (i) the formation of general concepts and (ii) the formation of formal concepts. Husserl emphasizes the importance of not conflating the intentional processes underlying generalization and formalization (Husserl 1969 , pp. 48–49; 1983 , pp. 26–27), and investigates the structures of double intentionality pertaining to both processes. In both cases, what we intend is a category—a material one in generalization and a formal one in formalization. Also, a categorial intuition, that is, the act through which categories are cognized, has the structure of a double intention: the intention of the complex act directed at the category is founded on the intention of a straightforward act directed at individuals (Husserl 2001b , pp. 271–272).

(i) Generalization is the process through which material concepts or categories, also called “species” in the Logical Investigations , are formed. An example of a material concept is red . The intention directed at species can only be founded on the intention directed at singular objects. Thus, for example, we can intend a red object in a straightforward act such as a perception, and thereby mean precisely this individual red object; but we can also intend the redness of the object, that is to say, the red in specie, “the single identical Red” (Husserl 2001a , p. 237). This is a “novel conscious manner”—or an intention grounded in the intention directed at the individual—“through which precisely the Species, and not the individual, becomes our object” (Husserl 2001a , p. 237). Starting from the apprehension of this red in specie, we can proceed to further levels of generalizing intentions and build further material concepts, such as carmine red , scarlet red , red , color , etc. We can recognize here a foundational relation between what we can call a first, or straightforward, intention directed at the individual, and a second, or idealizing, intention directed at the species. On the basis of this latter intention further levels of generality can be built. Idealization and generalization are double intentions that maintain the material content. Accordingly, the intentional structure is comparable to the relation in medieval philosophy between phantasmata and first intentions.

(ii) Formalization is the process through which are intended formal categories, that is, categories that are devoid of any material content. Pure forms include categories such as object in general , something , subject , predicate , conjunction , disjunction , genus , species , etc. Formal categories can be ontological or apophantic; in both cases, according to Husserl, they can be intended and cognized thanks to a kind of abstraction from all the material content, or an abstracting operation that isolates the form by considering it as the form of all possible content, but not of any specific or concrete content (see Husserl 1969 , pp. 48–49; 1983 , pp. 26–27). The formal category object in general can be filled by anything that can be taken as objectual being. The category subject can be filled by any concept that can grammatically function as a subject of a judgment, etc. In this case too, we have a double intentional structure, for the abstracting intention directed at the form is grounded in the straightforward intention directed at concrete individuals. There is a complex process of abstraction in which the individual is co-intended while the form is abstracted. This can accordingly be considered analogous to the relation between first and second intentions.

4 Action and Emotion

Acts with a double intentional structure can be identified not only in the sphere of cognition, but also in that of emotion, volition, and action. Notably, double intentionality also characterizes the sharing of these kinds of experience with other persons. In the following, we briefly introduce some of the issues in these domains that can be fruitfully addressed by identifying a double intentional structure.

4.1 Means, Ways, and Ends in Action

4.1.1 medieval approaches to intention and action.

Thomas Aquinas represents a clear example of a medieval account of double intentionality for the theory of action (Müller 2018 ). He devotes an entire chapter of the Summa theologiae to practical intentions ( ST I-II, q. 12), where he holds that the term intentio is properly applied to mental acts by means of which we want to do something—that is, acts of the power of the human will—rather than cognitive acts, such as perceptions or understandings. This captures well the way in which we use the term intention in ordinary language today. Aquinas’s conception of action involves two main elements: (i) the end for the sake of which a person acts—a person must want something to accomplish it and has reasons to strive for it; (ii) the means she takes to reach the intended end—she needs to deliberate about and take the proper steps to arrive at what she desires. Aquinas thinks that there must therefore be two intentions involved in an action. Footnote 21

Does this mean that intentional action requires two mental acts? Or are the intention directed at the ultimate end, which Aquinas also calls prima intentio , Footnote 22 and the intention directed at the intermediary ends part of one and the same mental act? He conceives of these intentions as teleologically interrelated: the ultimate end is the reason for performing the intermediate actions, and thus the intermediate goals are subordinated to the ultimate end. Accordingly, both the intermediate goals and the ultimate ends are intended in one and the same act of intention.

Aquinas speaks of an intention directed at two ends as an act of the human will. But his theory of action is also closely connected with the moral value of an intention from an ethical point of view. Footnote 23 The question for medieval theologians like Aquinas is whether the intention, as an act of the will alone, is morally qualifiable or whether the circumstances of such an intention, such as the time and the place in which an action takes place, should also be counted as morally good or bad ( ST I-II, q. 7). Every human action is accompanied by particular circumstances, and although they are not the action itself, they are related to the action and “touch” it, some of them more than others.

The question of what belongs to the circumstances of an act and what does not is crucial for John Duns Scotus and William Ockham with regard to the individuation of acts of the will. Both agree with Aquinas on the double intentionality of intentions in human actions. Consequently, they consider “being good” and “being bad” to be intrinsic properties of acts of willing. As Sonja Schierbaum shows in her contribution to this issue, Scotus’s and Ockham’s conceptions of action differ insofar as Scotus considers also the particular embodied actions resulting from an act of the will to have an intrinsic moral quality, whereas Ockham thinks that only interior acts of willing are intrinsically good or bad. On Ockham’s account, all circumstances, including the end and the judgment of right reason, are partial objects of these acts.

4.1.2 Goal-Orientedness and Execution in the Phenomenology of Action

In phenomenological theories of action, double intentionality helps to clarify both how goal-oriented action arises and how intention and execution are related. As to the genesis of action, the general idea is that we should not analyze goal-directed actions in terms of behavior plus intention , but rather consider how the very intention to reach a goal is shaped on the basis of an instinctual kind of agency that is intentional in the broad sense of indeterminate directedness (Husserl 1989 , 2020b ; Merleau-Ponty 1963 ). Footnote 24 The formation of a goal-directed intention presupposes an attentional turn, which makes explicit and determines the open tending-toward as a being-directed at a goal or an object (see Summa and Mertens 2018 ). Accordingly, double intentionality makes up the structure of acting to the extent that every intention explicitly directed at a goal presupposes and takes up within itself an implicit instinctual intention as a tending-toward (Husserl 2020b , pp. 67–68, 87–88, 99–100; cf. Spano 2021 ).

The relation between intending and executing is tied to this dynamic of shaping explicit intentions out of an indeterminate tending-toward. This structure of the relation between intention and execution holds for both straightforward actions (i.e., actions that are not composed of other actions, but rather occur in one go, like raising one’s hand to grasp a cigar) and for complex actions (which are instead composed of partial actions, or Teilhandlungen , like buying a cake for the coffee break) (Husserl 2020b , pp. 6–7). Only in the latter case can we properly speak of a means-end relation: we want to buy the cake, and to this end we have to stand up, take our wallet, and go to the bakery before it closes. Yet in both cases we can speak of a relation between the aim of the action and the ways ( Wege ) of accomplishing it, mainly consisting in a bodily executive “doing” ( Tun ), which is intentional in a broad sense (Husserl 2020b , pp. 38–39). Thus, in both straightforward and complex actions, there is an interweaving of two intentions: one directed at the goal that is to be reached, and another directed at the ways (and possibly the means).

The articulation of intending and executing through partial and total intentions was reformulated with explicit reference to the paradigm of double intentionality by Hans Reiner ( 1927 ), who focuses on the relation between total unitary action and its partial moments (see Erhard 2019 ). What the action of buying the cake explicitly intends is something that transcends the action itself, for example, possessing the cake in order to be able to share it with others at a party or to enjoy it during the coffee break. But in another sense, we can say that when we intend to eat cake, this also involves intending to go to the bakery and not, for example, intending to bike home right away. If we intended to bike home instead of going to the bakery, and still claimed that the aim of our voluntary action was to buy a cake at the bakery, then there would clearly be something wrong with coordinating the two intentionalities: the intention directed at the end and the intention directed at the ways or the means for executing the action are not mutually fitted. In complex actions, double intentionality is tied to the moment of resolution ( Entschluss ), which expresses the willing of the total action. Here the genesis of action also plays a role, for the willing, which is rooted in a pre-voluntary and open drive, is what gives unity to the total action.

4.2 Emotional Experience

4.2.1 the formal object: medieval and contemporary approaches.

The term intentio plays a crucial role in the medieval theory of emotions. Take the famous example from Avicenna of the sheep that flees at the sight of a wolf. It seems clear that the sheep flees because it is afraid of the wolf. But how can we explain how the sheep’s feeling of fear comes about? Avicenna holds that when the sheep sees a wolf, it receives not only the various sensible features of the wolf, but also what Avicenna calls ma’ânî , rendered in the Latin West as intentiones : certain connotational attributes, in this case the dangerousness of the wolf (see Hasse 2000 ). Questions as to what exactly such a connotational attribute might be and how it is transmitted from the wolf and received by the sheep were extensively debated in the Middle Ages (Perler 2012 ; Oelze 2018 ). Regardless of what exactly the ontological status of an intention like that of dangerousness is and how the underlying psychological mechanism is to be understood, such an intentio is supposed to provide an explanation of the emotion of fear.

A common way of explaining particular emotions (e.g., fear, anger, joy) is to say that each emotion has a formal object on account of which an emotion is cognitively evaluable; for example, fear is directed at an object which is evaluated as bad or threatening, whereas joy is directed at an object which is evaluated as good or useful. Emotions can thus be classified and investigated according to their formal objects (Perler 2018 ). However, in Aquinas feelings or emotions are not considered as always having just one simple formal object. Again, we can see a double intentionality at work, namely, with respect to a double object underlying the emotional response. Aquinas holds that emotions such as joy and sorrow can be conceived as being directed at a simple object when the appetitive power simply adheres to something good, as when we enjoy drinking wine. Love and hate typically have a complex object at which they are directed: in loving someone we wish them something good, and both the beloved persons and what we wish them are considered under the aspect of good, while in hating someone we wish them something bad, and both the hated persons and what we wish them are considered under the aspect of evil. Anger, on the other hand, is directed both at something bad, namely, the actions of someone who has harmed us, and at something good, namely, the vengeance we seek ( ST  I-II, q. 46, art. 2).

The formal object approach has also inspired modern philosophers, notably raising the following two questions Footnote 25 : (i) How is it possible to conceive of the relation between particular objects and the formal object of an emotion? (ii) How is it possible to assess emotions on account of their formal object? In their contribution to this issue, Tricia Magalotti and Uriah Kriegel take up these questions by elaborating on the formal object approach in order to account for the epistemology of emotions. Regarding the first question, they propose to conceive of emotions as having both an intentional object, which an emotion represents, and an intentional mode or attitude, which frames how the object is represented in an emotional state. Regarding the second question, they show that emotions, unlike belief, do not have truth as their formal object; however, they still are epistemically assessable insofar as they are “constitutively evidence-responsive”.

4.2.2 Indirect Emotions and Shared Emotions as Phenomenological Case Studies

Brentano claims that every intentional act either is a representation or is grounded in a representation, arguing that emotional and volitional acts and judgments presuppose the representation of their object. Footnote 26 To fear a wolf, and thus to grasp it as something dangerous and to be avoided, requires that one have a representation of it. In 1874 Brentano had argued that all presentations are accompanied by emotions, but he later held that there are presentations which occur without an accompanying feeling (Brentano 1995 , pp. 207–208, 215).

Brentano’s approach to the foundational relation between representations on the one hand and emotional and volitional acts on the other was criticized by Husserl. The gist of the critique consists in the rejection of the assumptions that emotional and volitional acts are founded on acts of representation. Departing from Brentano’s terminology, Husserl resorts instead to a distinction between objectivating and non-objectivating acts (see Melle 1990 ). He argues that the concept of representation needs to be disambiguated; in particular, we need to distinguish between the act and what Husserl calls the intentional matter of representation. While denying that non-objectivating acts are founded on the representational acts , Husserl argues that we should consider non-objectivating acts as founded on the intentional matter of a representation, that is, on the object of a representation in its specific mode of appearance (Husserl 2001b , pp. 128–129).

Accordingly, for Husserl the paradigm of double intentionality understood on the basis of the relation to a formal object seems not to be applicable to the analysis of direct emotions. My fear of a wolf is directed at the wolf immediately experienced as dangerous; what this act presupposes is thus the givenness of the wolf as dangerous. The fear of the wolf, on Husserl’s description, does not involve a directedness to a formal object dangerousness but consists in a directedness to the particular object that is a wolf in a specific mode of appearance as dangerous. The wolf is thus the only object in Husserl’s understanding of the fear of the wolf. However, if we extend the remarks on double intentionality in the directedness to objects and concepts (see Sect.  3.2 . above), a parallel with the theory of the formal object—and therefore also with the epistemic approach proposed by Magalotti and Kriegel—may be consistent with Husserl’s view on emotions. Just as when we see a red object we can focus our attention on the red in specie in the same way, when we perceive a dangerous object we can turn our attention to the dangerousness in specie . In both cases, we would perform an “ideational abstraction” ( ideierende Abstraktion ), which entails a relation to both the particular object and the general concept (Husserl 2001a , pp. 145, 308–309).

The paradigm of double intentionality plays a more substantial role when it comes to Husserl’s phenomenology of indirect emotions such as approval ( Billigung ) (Husserl 2020a , pp. 261–319). For instance, if we approve of our anger at someone, we have an emotional intentionality that is directed at another emotion, which in turn has a direct object. The intentionality of approval has a double character to the extent that it involves a stance—which is not itself cognitive but emotional—regarding one’s own emotions, and thus also encompasses the intentional structure of the original direct emotions.

Emotional acts are in most contexts characterized by their intersubjective and social character. A closer assessment of how the paradigm of double intentionality can be fruitfully applied to the analysis of specifically intersubjective and social emotions, such as shame, pride, envy, etc., is certainly desirable. At least implicitly, several studies suggest that these emotions have a double intentional structure. Footnote 27 Another issue, partially related to this one, concerns collective emotions. In this regard, as Alessandro Salice emphasizes in his contribution, a problem connected with the broader issue of the relation between object-consciousness and self-consciousness arises (see Sect.  2 above). Salice argues that, in collective emotions, we are pre-reflectively self-aware in a way that differs from individual experiences. Pre-reflective self-awareness in the experience of shared emotions is articulated in a more complex way insofar as it includes the awareness of ourselves not only as individuals, but also as we , that is, as members of a group. Accordingly, a phenomenological theory of collective emotions should be based on the double intentional relation between our self-awareness as group members and our shared object-directedness.

5 Concluding Remarks

This introduction has brought to the fore the plurality of facets of the theoretical models of double intentionality. This plurality is due partly to the scope of the various models and partly to their historical and theoretical embeddedness. The individual domains of inquiry that require an analysis of double intentionality, as well as the different theoretical approaches, display some shared structures. In some respects, however, individual theories remain constitutively distinct and irreducible to a common denominator. A synoptic perspective on double intentionality through the lens of phenomenology and medieval philosophy has the merit of bringing to light precisely this plurality of research fields while providing a preliminary systematization of the theoretical models of double intentionality and of the fields to which they apply. It remains an exciting task for future research to delve into the specifics of the structure of double intentionality in each area, to probe the validity of individual theories of double intentionality, to develop new ones, and to assess the impact of these theories for inquiry into experience and cognition.

See, for instance, Brentano ( 1995 , pp. 78–79, 211–212), Hartmann ( 1985 , pp. 46–47), Recanati ( 2000 ), Sowa ( 2007 ), and Moran ( 2013 ).

Aquinas claims that the term intention is properly applied to appetitions or strivings and only in a figurative sense to cognitions; see ST I-II, q. 12, art. 1 (Thomas Aquinas 1891 , p. 94). Hervaeus Natalis claims in one passage that there are intentions of willing and understanding but he leaves it at this without dealing with the will in the remainder of the text; see DSI , q. 1, art. 1 (Hervaeus Natalis 2008 , p. 332). With explicit reference to Avicenna’s conception of logic (see the next section), Henry of Ghent interprets intentions as concepts and their referentiality; see Quodl. V, q. 6 (Henry of Ghent 1518 , fol. 161rL).

The conceptual history of intentio is yet to be written for this stage of transmission from Arabic into Latin. An important source is recently the entry for intentio in the Arabic and Latin Glossary (Hasse 2021 ).

See, notably, the annotation in Brentano ( 1995 , pp. 68, 140).

For an extensive discussion of Natalis’s theory of intentionality, with particular reference to the distinction between first and second intentions, see Amerini’s paper in this special issue. Brentano knew of Hervaeus and the existence of his treatise (Brentano 1867 , p. 570), if only through contemporary compendia on the history of philosophy (Hedwig 1978 , pp. 73–74; Werle 1982 ).

It is only in early modern philosophy that the medieval Latin term conscientia comes to designate consciousness; in medieval philosophy conscientia rather means conscience. See Eardley ( 2021 ).

Recall that a similar psychological process lies behind the formation of second intentions as described in the previous section: the intellect forms second intentions when it considers first intentional content by reflecting on first intentional acts.

See ST I, q. 87, art. 3, ad 2 (Thomas Aquinas 1889 , p. 361b). See also Pasnau ( 2002 , ch. 11), Putallaz ( 1991 ), and Cory ( 2013 ).

See Quodl. I, q. 14 and II, q. 12 (William of Ockham 1980 , pp. 80 and 166–167). See also Brower-Toland ( 2012 , 2014 ) and Michon ( 2007 ).

In Sent. II , q. 79 (Peter John Olivi 1926 , p. 164), trans. Brower-Toland ( 2013 , p. 157).

In Sent. II , q. 76 (Peter John Olivi 1926 , p. 146).

Rep. et Lect. super Sent. , prol. q. 2, art. 5 (Walter Chatton 1989 , p. 121).

De lib. arb. , q. 3 (Durand of St. Pourçain 1962 , p. 497).

See Brentano ( 1995 , p. 215); cf. Aristotle ( 1984 ) Met. XII.9, 1074b35: “Evidently, knowledge and perception and opinion and understanding have always something else as their object, and themselves only en parergo ” (trans. Ross).

E.g., Hossack ( 2002 ), Thomasson ( 2002 ), Jacquette ( 2004 ), Zahavi ( 2004 ), Textor ( 2006 ), Kriegel ( 2016 ), Soldati ( 2017 ), and Marchesi ( 2019 )

See also Bernet ( 1985 ), Zahavi ( 1999 , pp. 74–75), De Warren ( 2009 , pp. 172–173), and Summa ( 2014 , pp. 111–112).

Conf. 10.20 (Augustine 1990 , p. 165).

In order to describe this double intentional structure, Husserl ( 2006 , pp. 74–75) refers to a complex account of a double phenomenological reduction, which we cannot here discuss in detail: reduction “to” the recollection and reduction “in” the recollection.

See, Kitâb al-Shifâ’ , al-Ilâhiyyât [ Metaphysics ] I, cap. 2 (Avicenna 2005 , p. 7). See also Kitâb al-Shifâ’, al-Madkhal [ Isagoge ] (Avicenna 1952 , p. 15). Engl. trans. in Street and Germann ( 2013 ). A similar distinction can be already found in al-Farabi (Gyekye 1971 ; Oschman 2018 ).

See, e.g., Jansen ( 2017 ), Lohmar ( 1998 , 2005 , 2008 ), De Santis ( 2021 ), and Sowa ( 2007 , 2021 ).

ST I-II, q. 12, art. 3, co. (Thomas Aquinas 1891 , p. 95b): “For intention is not only of the ultimate end, as has been said, but also of an intermediary end. Now one intends at the same time, both the proximate and the last end ; as the preparation of medicine and health.”.

ST I-II, q. 1, art. 6, ad 3 (Thomas Aquinas 1891 , p. 14b); ST II-II, q. 83, art. 13, co. ( 1897 , p. 206a).

As Müller ( 2018 ) argues, this does not prevent us from conceptually distinguishing practical intentionality from the ethical implications of the theory of action.

This kind of pre-voluntary agency can be considered to correspond to behavior, if the latter is not reduced to the mere conception of stimulus/response, but rather is considered intentional in the broad sense of having some kind of open directedness. See Merleau-Ponty ( 1963 ).

See, notably, Kenny ( 1963 ), who makes explicit reference to Brentano and Aquinas, as well as de Sousa ( 1987 ), Goldie ( 2000 ), and Prinz ( 2004 ).

Brentano ( 1995 ) subsumes emotional and volitional states equally under the third class of psychic phenomena of love and hate or sentimental relation ( Gemütsbeziehung ). He cites Aristotle and Aquinas in support of this view.

See, e.g., Fuchs ( 2002 ), Rinofner-Kreidl ( 2009 , 2014 ), Salice and Montes Sánchez ( 2016 ), and Zahavi ( 2014 , 2020 ).

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Acknowledgements

We would like to thank the editors of Topoi, our contributors, and reviewers for their smooth collaboration. We are grateful to Lukas Beckmann and Nargis Silva for their support in the editing of some of the manuscripts. Specials thanks to Jörn Müller, Karl Mertens, and Ian Drummond for helpful comments on earlier versions of this paper.

Open Access funding enabled and organized by Projekt DEAL. This work is part of the project Modes of Intentionality: A Historical-Systematic Analysis (Dep. of Philosophy) funded by the University of Würzburg.

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Summa, M., Klein, M. & Schmidt, P. Introduction: Double Intentionality. Topoi 41 , 93–109 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11245-021-09786-7

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conversion ad phantasmata

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The Physiology of Phantasmata in Aristotle: between Sensation and Digestion

In this article, I foreground the physiology of phantasia in Aristotle, which has been comparatively understudied. In the first section, I offer a new interpretation of the relationship between aisthēmata (sense perceptions) and phantasmata , based on passages in the De Anima and the Parva Naturalia , and for a nuanced understanding of their respective substrates in the body, which I argue to be connate pneuma and blood. In the second section, I draw out the ramifications of this physiological presence of phantasmata in the blood and compare the integration of phantasmata into a person or animal’s experiential history with the process of digestion. Both processes, I contend, require internalization of foreign elements as well as their optimal organization; more strikingly, both processes occur in the same substance, in the same location, and, perhaps, at the same time.

Acknowledgements

I am grateful for the helpful feedback of my anonymous reviewers, as well as comments on previous drafts by the NYU Ancient Philosophy Work in Progress group, particularly Marko Malink and Jessica Moss, by Péter Lautner, and especially by Victor Caston, whose generous feedback informed the shape of the current form of the paper. I would also like to thank Gisela Striker, in whose seminar I first had the pleasure of reading the Parva Naturalia and came up with the initial seed of this idea long ago. Any shortcomings remain, of course, my own.

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When and Why Understanding Needs Phantasmata: A Moderate Interpretation of Aristotle's De Memoria and De Anima on the Role of Images in Intellectual Activities

Profile image of Caleb Cohoe

I examine the passages where Aristotle maintains that intellectual activity employs φαντάσματα (images) and argue that he requires awareness of the relevant images. This, together with Aristotle's claims about the universality of understanding, gives us reason to reject the interpretation of Michael Wedin and Victor Caston, on which φαντάσματα serve as the material basis for thinking. I develop a new interpretation by unpacking the comparison Aristotle makes to the role of diagrams in doing geometry. In theoretical understanding of mathematical and natural beings, we usually need to employ appropriate φαντάσματα in order to grasp explanatory connections. Aristotle does not, however, commit himself to thinking that images are required for exercising all theoretical understanding. Understanding immaterial things, in particular, may not involve employing φαντάσματα. Thus the connection that Aristotle makes between images and understanding does not rule out the possibility that human intellectual activity could occur apart from the body.

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I argue that Aristotle's science of the soul only covers sublunary living things. Aristotle cannot properly ascribe ψυχή to unmoved movers since they do not have any capacities that are distinct from their activities or any matter to be structured. Heavenly bodies do not have souls in the way that mortal living things do, because their matter is not subject to alteration or generation. These beings do not fit into the hierarchy of soul powers that Aristotle relies on to provide unity to ψυχή. Their living consists in their activities, not in having a capacity for activity.

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I reconstruct Aristotle’s reasons for thinking that the intellect cannot have a bodily organ. I present Aristotle’s account of the aboutness or intentionality of cognitive states, both perceptual and intellectual. On my interpretation, Aristotle’s account is based around the notion of cognitive powers taking on forms in a special preservative way. Based on this account, Aristotle argues that no physical structure could enable a bodily part or combination of bodily parts to produce or determine the full range of forms that the human intellect can understand. For Aristotle, cognitive powers with bodily organs are always spatiotemporally limited, but the understanding is not. Aristotle claims that our understanding applies to all instances of the thing understood wherever and whenever they exist. On Aristotle’s own account the intellect in its nature is only “potential,” it does not actually possess any form. Thus nothing prevents it from possessing all forms.

Síntesis – Revista de filosofía (1), 2018

Diego Zucca

In this paper I provide a global reading of Aristotle's De Anima III 4 aimed at unveiling the rigorous argumentative structure of the chapter, which I show to exhibit the typical Aristotelian pattern of philosophical inquiry: a setting of the agenda of basic questions to be answered; a dialectical path to the position of a hypothesis; a derivation from it of relevant individu-ating features of the object, some of which are already manifest and are accounted for as derivable from the hypothesis; and the emergence of aporiai that prima facie seem to invalidate the hypothesis but eventually allow for a deeper understanding of it. I attempt to reveal the speculative progression of the chapter by initially regarding the Actuality Principle as underlying his Assimilation Model of cognition (S cognizes F iff S's cognitive principle becomes F due to a cognized object O that is F in actuality). Aristotle derives Unmixedness from not having limits of scope (Unlimitedness Assumption), which is a manifest feature of νοῦς, from Unmixedness he derives Separability (these entail-ments are clarified through the first aporia), from Separability Spontaneity and from Spontaneity Self-thinkability of νοῦς (clarified through the second aporia). Although I examine the whole chapter, I focus specifically on the theoretical and methodological value of introducing and addressing the two aporiai.

British Journal for the History of Philosophy

John Sellars

This paper examines Pomponazzi’s arguments against Averroes in his De Immortalitate Animae, focusing on the question whether thought is possible without a body. The first part of the paper will sketch the history of the problem, namely the interpretation of Aristotle’s remarks about the intellect in De Anima 3.4-5, touching on Alexander, Themistius, and Averroes. The second part will focus on Pomponazzi’s response to Averroes, including his use of arguments by Aquinas. It will conclude by suggesting that Pomponazzi’s discussion stands as the first properly modern account of Aristotle’s psychology.

klaus corcilius

Comment on the sixth chapter of Aristotle's De Motu Animalium from the 2011 Symposium Aristotelicum in Munich. Contains discussions of the character and scope of the theory of animal locomotion, desire, phantasia, and the teleology of animal locomotion as compared to the teleology with which the first unmoved mover imparts motion to the first heaven.

Blake Hestir

The prevailing view among scholars is that Aristotle’s remarks on truth at Metaphysics Γ 7, 1011b26–27 express a correspondence conception of truth. However, although Aristotle thinks that truth depends on the world, his conception of truth does not require that either (a) there be some truthmaker such as a fact or a state of affairs that obtains to which truthbearers correspond, or (b) there be a some universal dependence relation that holds between truths and ontological entities. Aristotle’s conception of truth is more minimal. I focus on Aristotle’s semantic views and their relation to his ontology and psychology.

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When and Why Understanding Needs Phantasmata : A Moderate Interpretation of Aristotle’s De Memoria and De Anima on the Role of Images in Intellectual Activities

I offer a new interpretation of the passages where Aristotle maintains that intellectual activity employs φαντάσµατα (images). In theoretical understanding of mathematical and natural beings, we usually need to consciously employ appropriate φαντάσµατα in order to grasp explanatory connections. Aristotle does not, however, commit himself to thinking that images are required for exercising all theoretical understanding: understanding immaterial things, in particular, may not involve φαντάσµατα. Thus the connection that Aristotle makes between images and understanding does not rule out the possibility that human intellectual activity could occur apart from the body.

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J. Barnes (ed) , The Complete Works of Aristotle , ( Princeton 1984 ) Revised Oxford Translation .

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Beare J. I. & Ross G. R. T. , The Parva Naturalia , ( Oxford 1908 ).

Bloch E. , Aristotle on Memory and Recollection: Text, Translation, Interpretation, and Reception in Western Scholasticism , ( Leiden/Boston 2008 ).

Bronstein D. , ' ‘The Origin and Aim of Posterior Analytics II.19’ ' ( 2012 ) 57 Phronesis : 29 - 62 .

Burnyeat M. , ' ‘Plato on Why Mathematics is Good for the Soul’ ', in T. Smiley (ed) , Mathematics and Necessity: Essays in the History of Philosophy , ( Oxford 2000 ) 1 - 81 .

Burnyeat M. , Aristotle’s Divine Intellect , ( Milwaukee, WI 2008 ).

Caston V. , ' ‘Why Aristotle Needs Imagination’ ' ( 1996 ) 41 Phronesis : 20 - 55 .

Caston V. , ' ‘Aristotle and the Problem of Intentionality’ ' ( 1998 ) 58 Philosophy and Phenomenological Research : 249 - 298 .

Caston V. , ' ‘Phantasia and Thought’ ', in G. Anagnostopoulos (ed) , A Companion to Aristotle , ( Chichester/Malden, MA 2009 ) 322 - 334 .

Charles D. , Aristotle on Meaning and Essence , ( Oxford 2000 ).

Charlton W. , ' ‘Aristotle on the Place of the Mind in Nature’ ', in A. Gotthelf & J. G. Lennox (eds) , Philosophical Issues in Aristotle’s Biology , ( Cambridge 1987 ) 408 - 23 .

Charlton C. , [Philoponus], On Aristotle On the soul 3.1-8 , ( London/Ithaca, NY 2000 ).

Cohoe C. , ' ‘Why the Intellect Cannot Have a Bodily Organ: De Anima 3.4’ ' ( 2013 ) 58 Phronesis : 347 - 377 .

Cohoe C. , ' ‘Nous in Aristotle’s De Anima ’ ' ( 2014 ) 9 Philosophy Compass : 594 - 604 .

Coope U. , Time for Aristotle: Physics IV.10-14 , ( Oxford 2005 ).

Corcilius K. , ' ‘How are Episodes of Thought Initiated According to Aristotle?’ ', in G. Van Riel & P. Destrée (eds) , Ancient Perspective on Aristotle’s De Anima , ( Leuven 2009 ) 1 - 17 .

Corkum P. , ' ‘Aristotle on Ontological Dependence’ ' ( 2008 ) 53 Phronesis : 65 - 92 .

Corkum P. , ' ‘Attention, Perception, and Thought in Aristotle’ ' ( 2010 ) 49 Dialogue : 199 - 222 .

Davidson H. A. , Alfarabi, Avicenna, and Averroes, on Intellect. Their Cosmologies, Theories of the Active Intellect, and Theories of Human Intellect , ( New York 1992 ).

Frede D. , ' ‘The Cognitive Role of Phantasia in Aristotle’ ', in M. C. Nussbaum & A. O. Rorty (eds) , Essays on Aristotle’s De Anima , ( Oxford 1992 ) 279 - 295 .

Frede M. , ' ‘La theorie aristotelicienne de l’intellect agent’ ', in G. Romeyer Dherbey (ed) , Corps et Âme: Sur le De Anima d’Aristote , ( Paris 1996 ) 377 - 390 .

Gallop D. , Aristotle on Sleep and Dreams: A Text and Translation with Introduction, Notes, and Glossary , ( Peterborough, Ont./Lewiston, NY 1990 ).

Geach P. , ' ‘Good and Evil’ ' ( 1956 ) 17 Analysis : 32 - 42 .

Hamlyn D. W. , Aristotle, De Anima, Books II and III (with passages from Book I) , ( Oxford 1993 ) Translated with introduction and notes. With a report on recent work and a revised bibliography by Christopher Shields. .

Heath T. L. , Euclid: The Thirteen Books of The Elements , ( New York 1956 ).

R. D. Hicks (ed) , Aristotle, De Anima , ( Cambridge 1907 ).

A. Jannone (ed) , De l’âme , ( Paris 1966 ) With translation and notes by E. Barbotin. Paris .

Johansen T. K. , The Powers of Aristotle’s Soul , ( Oxford 2012 ).

Kelsey S. , ' ‘Empty Words’ ', in D. Ebrey (ed) , Theory and Practice in Aristotle’s Natural Science , ( Cambridge 2015 ) 199 - 216 .

Lorenz H. , The Brute Within: Appetitive Desire in Plato and Aristotle , ( Oxford 2006 ).

Macbeth D. , ' ‘Diagrammatic Reasoning in Euclid’s Elements ’ ', in B. Van Kerkhove , J. De Vuyst & J. P. Van Bendegem (eds) , Philosophical Perspectives on Mathematical Practice , ( London 2010 ) 235 - 67 .

Manders K. , ' ‘The Euclidean diagram’ ', in P. Mancosu (ed) , Philosophy of Mathematical Practice , ( Oxford 2008 ) 112 - 183 [First circulated as a manuscript in 1995.] .

McGinnis J. & Reisman D. C. , Classical Arabic Philosophy: An Anthology of Sources , ( Indianapolis 2007 ).

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Netz R. , ' ‘Greek Mathematical Diagrams: Their Use and Their Meaning’ ' ( 1998 ) 18 For the Learning of Mathematics : 33 - 39 .

Polansky R. M. , Aristotle’s De Anima , ( New York 2007 ).

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Taylor R. C. , ' Averroes (Ibn Rushd) of Cordova: Long Commentary on The De Anima of Aristotle ', ( New Haven 2009 ).

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Wedin M. V. , Mind and Imagination in Aristotle , ( New Haven 1988 ).

E.g. Caston 1998 and 2009; Polansky 2007 , 487-9 ; Wedin 1988; Modrak 1987, 122-3; 130-1.

Dorothea Frede, 1992 , 290-1 , suggests this possibility but does not firmly commit herself to it.

E.g. M. Frede 1996 , 106-7 ; Polansky 2007, 498-9; Caston 2009, 327.

E.g. Hicks 1907 , 537-8 . In support of his interpretation, Hicks notes that Aristotle appears to make a fully general claim in a later passage ( da 3.8, 432a5). However, the fact that Aristotle may make a broader claim in other passages does not force us to interpret his claim here as an unrestricted one. The context strongly suggests that the range of Aristotle’s claim is limited to practical understanding. Aristotle is presenting an analogy between the ways in which perception and understanding give rise to action, to avoiding or pursuing something. Polansky agrees with my more restrictive interpretation (Polansky 2007, 485).

I follow Jannone 1966 , Ross 1961 and Themistius in reading ταῦτα, which is found in Ha, rather than τἆλλα which is found in the other manuscripts. If one wishes to retain τἆλλα the sentence could be translated along the lines suggested by J. A. Smith (modified in Barnes 1984): ‘neither these [primary thoughts] nor even our other thoughts are images.’ This would give a similar meaning to my reading, although it would clearly extend Aristotle’s claims to all νοήµατα.

Polansky 2007 , 495 n. 3. This usage also fits with the etymological sense of πρᾶγµα as something that is done or happens. For example, in da 2.5 Aristotle criticizes theories that compose the soul out of elements, tacitly assuming that like is known by like, by pointing out that this position requires putting the πράγµατα in the soul (ὥσπερ ἂν εἰ τὴν ψυχὴν τὰ πράγµατα τιθέντες, 409b27-8). This, Aristotle argues, is ridiculous because the full range of material or composite things cannot, as such, be present in the soul. He does not however think the presence of forms or immaterial things in the soul is ridiculous, since this is in fact central to his own views on cognition (e.g. 3.4, 430a4-5). Thus there is a good case for thinking that Aristotle is using πράγµατα in 1.5 to refer not to all beings, but just to material or composite things, the sorts of things that could not, as such, be present in the soul. Admittedly, Aristotle does sometimes use πρᾶγµα to refer to all things (cf. da 3.4, 429b22; 3.5, 430a20; 3.7, 431a2). That fact does not rule out this interpretation, as there are a number of cases in which Aristotle sometimes uses a term with a broader reference and sometimes with a stricter. For example, Aristotle sometimes includes the imagination under the heading of νοῦς (cf. da 3.3, 427b-428a5; 3.7, 431b2-9; 3.10, 433a9-14; De Motu Animalium 6, 700b17-22), but usually restricts the scope of νοῦς to properly intellectual activity.

Cf. Johansen 2012 , 236-7 .

Caston 2009 , 325 . Since Caston does not approve of translating φαντασία as ‘imagination’ or φαντάσµατα as ‘images’, I will mostly leave these terms untranslated when discussing his views.

Caston 2009 , 325 . Caston is here summarizing Wedin’s position, which he also endorses.

Wedin 1988 , 203 . Cf. da 2.5, 417b22-8; APo. 1.31, 87b29-33. See Cohoe 2013, 372-5 for further discussion of this passage and the contrast between universal understanding and spatiotemporally limited perception.

Wedin 1988 , 208 .

Polansky 2007 , 491 says: ‘We think the forms in the phantasmata just because of some intermediary connection that stimulates us to think, as when picturing a lyre we think of a person.’ He also speaks of phantasmata as giving rise to thought, leading us to think, and getting us to think (2007, 493). For his discussion see Polansky 2007, 489-93, 498-500.

Cf. D. Frede 1995 , 291-2 .

This diagram is taken from Euclid , Elements 1 . 32. I agree with Heath (1956, i. 321) that Aristotle’s use of ἀνῆκτο indicates that the procedure and diagram he employs is the same as Euclid’s, not the Pythagorean proof handed down by Eudemus and reported by Proclus.

Manders 2008 . I think Manders’ interpretation of how Euclidean proofs work is closer to Aristotle’s philosophy of mathematics than the stronger position advocated by Reviel Netz, on which, in ancient geometry, ‘part of the content is supplied by the diagram, and not solely by the text. The diagram is not just a pedagogic aid, it is a necessary, logical component’ (Netz 1998, 34). While I think that Aristotle would agree with Netz in maintaining that the diagram is a necessary component of understanding, not just a pedagogical device, Aristotle would deny that the diagram supplies the content. The diagram helps one to grasp universal explanatory connections but is not itself the object of understanding.

Cf. discussion of these cases in Kelsey 2015 .

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Phantasmata

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how to write problem and solution essay ielts

IELTS Preparation with Liz: Free IELTS Tips and Lessons, 2023

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IELTS Problem Solution Essay Model Answer

Below is an IELTS model answer for the IELTS problem solution essay in writing task 2. There are five types of essays in IELTS writing task 2 and the “solution” type essay is a common one. However, make sure you follow the instructions. You need to know the difference between “what are the causes?” and “what problems does this cause?”.  The first requires causes and the second requires problems.

Problem Solution Essay Instructions

The instructions for problem solution questions are often paraphrased in different ways. Below you can see a few examples:

  • What are the problems to this and how can it be solved?
  • What problems are caused by this? What solutions would you recommend?
  • What problems arise from this situation? What measures can be taken to deal with it?
  • What problems does this cause? What can be done to deal with this situation?

You can find some essay questions for solution essays and problem solution essays on this page: Solution Essay Questions  and you can find over 100 essay questions to practice: 100 Essay Questions for IELTS

IELTS Problem Solution Essay Question

An increasing number of professionals, such as doctors and teachers, are leaving their own poorer countries to work in developed countries. What problems does this cause? What can be done to deal with this situation?

Model IELTS Essay: Problems and Solutions

More and more professionals from developing or underdeveloped countries are choosing to live and work in richer countries. As a result, poorer countries will struggle to develop but this can be tackled by offering more incentives to stay and better living conditions.

The main problem faced by poorer countries due to the brain-drain, in fields such as medicine and education, is that they will struggle to develop and find it difficult to improve their economy as well as living conditions. One of the main ways that a developing country can better themselves is through the skills and dedication of their professionals which is negated when they choose to take their skills to benefit another country. Consequently, less developed countries will not be able to offer their citizens high levels of education or health care, and this in turn will hinder their ability to compete on a global scale, to entice investors and ultimately to stop the poverty cycle.

One effective solution to deal with professionals leaving their country is for their government to encourage them to stay by offering better work conditions. This can be done by increasing wages and investing in state-of-the-art equipment and training to tempt doctors and teachers to continue working there. Another possible answer is for  poorer countries to offer better standards of living, more tolerance and a positive future as a way to entice their professionals back to their own country after they have completed their training abroad. However, these solutions are financially demanding which means poorer governments may have to look to developed countries for aid in order to implement these changes.

In conclusion, poorer countries are unable to develop due to the brain-drain which can only be tackled by enticing professionals to remain in their country of origin through better conditions.

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Question Prompt: A rise in the standard of living in a country often only seems to benefit cities rather than rural areas. What problems can this cause? How might these problems be reduced?

One-sided rise of living standards in cities as opposed to poor and underdeveloped rural areas can create conflicts and conflagrations between communities, but equal distribution of funds for developing both urban and rustic landscapes and infrastructures can solve these issues.

Better education, income or living conditions, which can only be seen in city areas create inequality between the urban dwellers and those residing in pastoral grounds. Consequently, it leads to resentment and hatred against each other, creating ground to bear infighting between people. Therefore, civil war and rebellions will arise if social equality is not achieved between residents of different regions. For example, the French revolution in the Renaissance era occurred because of the growing divide between the rich aristocrats in the urban areas and the poor common people in the outskirts of France.

One of the effective solutions to tackle this problem is to implement equal wealth distribution policies amongst different jurisdictional areas in a nation. In other words, the resources and wealth of a country should be equally divided, regardless of whether it is urban or rural. Only then, the quality of life in both of the regions will be improved together at the same time, without an evident disparity. For instance, the Malaysian government equally divides the capital for investments in the construction of buildings amongst 13 states of the republic, modernising them equally at the same time.

In conclusion, war and political divide between cities and the countryside can result as a consequence of unequal living standards, while establishment of policies advocating fair distribution of resources will shorten the gap of disparaging living standards.

As the professionals, such as doctors and teachers leave their own poor nations with lower incomes to seek jobs in the first world countries with better living standards, the essential institutions in their home countries cease to function. However, with better incentives, these skilled workers may be enticed to return to their countries of origin.

The first and foremost problem arises from the professionals moving to richer countries is the resultant shortage of labour and lack of skilled employees. As a result, the departments and establishments run by these professionals are no longer able to operate, and are closed down. Consequently, the residents of these underdeveloped nations struggle to find services and providers for their day-to-day activities. For example, many third world nations in SouthEast Asia have inefficient health care services with a shortage of competent medical professionals, compared to their counterparts in Europe despite producing millions of doctors, nurses every year.

One possible solution to this issue is to offer enticements to persuade the much needed skilled service providers to stay in the country. In other words, if employee benefits are enhanced by giving a higher pay, free living, better pension schemes or cheaper health care, they will be willing to settle down in the areas they were trained. In addition, these countries will also attract foreign workers to come and replace those who are still willing to leave due to other reasons, such as personal preferences or weather. For instance, many poor African countries pay these highly sought after professionals attractive wages and salaries, which are three-times higher than that of the minimum pay in the country.

In conclusion, many poor countries have been significantly experiencing an emigration of professionals, creating a shortage of the services provided by them, whereas raising the standard of living of these professionals can convince them to work for their own countries.

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It has been universally accepted that problem of professionals are migrating from own poorer countries is escalating at an alarming rate. The problem is bringing a state of depression among the masses and in economy too. There are plethora of reasons of the same and its possible solutions can be suggested too which are discussed as follows.

In regards to the problem, the major reason which can be stated is inflation. dozens of professionals when they pass from institutions they start to find a good job, but due to inflation if they get a reasonable job then they cannot fulfill even basic needs for their family members. that is the point where they start thinking of migrating to developed countries. Another problematic cause is those professionals who fail to achieve a better job and then they select a crime path. Government should take a stand on this point and focus on the employment sector and how to create ease in the job market for the professionals who really can be a valuable asset for our country’s growth and economy. Seeing the problem with a brighter mind, many solutions can be helpful to this menace. One of the solutions is whenever they are passing out from university Government should offer paid internship program via an aptitude test. To conclude, solving a global issue is not easy but with the efforts of the Government, control can be taken over the problem with the aforementioned suggested measures. I believe that government should come forward to mitigate this problem.

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For a IELTS solution essay if the instructions ask to write solutions but does not mention to write about problems/causes then I assume I only write about solutions only?

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That is correct. You follow the instructions precisely and don’t change them. An essay question about solutions only will be an essay based on solutions only.

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Thank you ma’am this was really helpful

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Hi miss Liz. what are the differences between “what are the reasons” and “what are the problems” in problem-solution essay. I mean that in which way should I answer these questions?

“Reasons” are similar to causes. It’s an explanation for why something is happening. “Problems” are negative effects.

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I kindly hope evaluating my essay answer, even merely a score prediction. =============================================== Undoubtedly, the prosperity of the developed countries increasingly attracts highly qualified individuals to immigrate and forsake their struggling people regardless of the severe issues they may cause such as the decreased quality of health and education; besides, economic recession. Those issues will be illustrated and addressed separately.

Firstly, to efficiently handle the migration issue, we have to be aware of two of its fundamental impacts. Brain drain has been a direct immigration impact. Consequently, an absence of physicians leading to a high number of patients; furthermore, a reduced number of educators causing unqualified post-graduates. However, the predicted and indirect result from immigration is a heavy burden affecting the economy of the third world because they have been forced to hire foreigners from the developed countries to establish some hospitals and universities to fill the gap caused by the vocational immigrants. Therefore, the shortage of doctors and teachers and the economic problems are the essential issues aroused from immigration. That should be quickly treated by governments.

Secondly, after understanding the results of immigration toward economically developed countries, I am convinced that the best solution to tackle this situation is that the authorities of the suffered states should closely observe any ambitious and clever pupil and foster him. In other words, they have to establish specialized schools that receive every high IQ scored student and seriously teach him all types of contemporary sciences. In addition, continuous communications should be done to any high qualified immigrant to make him believe that he is immensely demanded and respected among his hometown and has a responsibility to be involved and serve his people, who fostered and taught him before his success, whenever he is wanted. Based on that, high-quality education and tightly connection with immigrants will markedly mitigate the impact of the brain drain phenomena.

In conclusion, the challenges the developing countries have been recently facing for decades could be addressed within few years if those countries considered the risk of low health care and poor education aroused from migration. I believe that a pivotal role could be achieved by the administrators of those poor countries by education and conducting with the qualified immigrants.

Sorry I don’t offer marking or feedback.

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Hey miss, I’ve been trying to improve my writing but unfortunately, due to not getting feedback I’m not sure whether am i writing correct or not. I just wrote a problem solution essay can you pls give me feedback it will helped me alot. Q : Nowadays, more and more younger people needs to compete with older people for the same jobs. What problems does this cause? What would you suggest as a solution.

Currently, many youngsters are facing competition with elderly people for similar kind of jobs. This essay will suggests, the major problem that causes is Higher unemployment amongst young employees, and proposing a retirement age on old employees as a viable solution.

Due to rising competition, youngsters struggles alot in finding jobs. Due to not having enough experience, they fail in getting jobs and this leads to poverty. Inspite of, due to lack of jobs, they are deprived of paying their living expenses. For instance, majority of the people who are of aged 40-60, are working more rather than young people.

Therefore, authorities should implement a law on those employees who are of aged ( 40-70 respectively). Those of them who just crossed the age of 40, must gets retired as well as government should take care of their living expenses. Moreover, giving them social benefits and ensuring that no worker will gets employed after the age of 40, will automatically eliminate the escalating competition among both young workers and old workers. For example, if older people stopped working than young people can get more chances in showing their skills and boosting the economy.

In conclusion, by preventing elderly people from working will gives a positive impact and the rivalry among them wil be finished

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Hi Liz, Is this a problem solution essay or direct question essay? “Nowadays the increasing number of garbage is a real concern .why is this happening? what can be done to resolve it?”

Be careful with labelling what type of essay something is. Each teacher labels essays differently and IELTS labels them differently again. There are clearly two direct questions. However, I teach them under causes/solution essays.

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Hi Liz, can I bring some information not related to the question to make the lengthen my essay

You will be marked down for padding out your essay with information that is not 100% relevant to the question. This is why you need to prepare lots of ideas for topics so that your essays can contain relevant, highly focused points.

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I love your tips and it is quite easy to understand. But I have a question in the below question it does not ask for causes. In such situations do we need to write the causes as well?

In many developing countries, there is a problem with declining quality of air and water from both industry and construction. What measures could be taken to prevent this?

You should only ever follow instructions. If you are asked for only solutions, you will give only solutions. For marking criteria of Task Response is not just about the ideas you use, it is also about how you fulfil the instructions – always write a focused, relevant essay 🙂

Thank you! Liz. Appreciate your answer.

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Hey Liz, can you tell.me is this a proper way to paraphrase (intro) this question in task 2 Some cities create housing areas by providing taller buildings.others create housing by building houses one a wider area of land what solution is better? My ans: as a result of rapidly increasing population the demand for housing has increased . I believe that creating housing through high rise buildings is better than constructing houses on a wider area of land.

It’s fine.

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Thank you so much dear LIZ, you are a blessing After watching your videos I can do my writing in a very efficient way, I can control over time so easily, hope I can make it it in my test. I highly appreciated all the tips you advise us in your videos.

I’m so glad my lessons are helping you. Good luck in your test !! 🙂

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Hi Liz It is a wonderful site !! What if I label an essay differently from my examiner. 🙃 How many points do tend to loose?

There are no labels that the examiner follows. Only teacher give labels in order to help explain and teach.

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Hi Liz, One question contains this at the end, ‘… why do you think that is? What could be done to encourage more people to take interest in the arts?’ Is this also a course+ solution essay?? Looking forward a response

Yes, it asks for causes and solutions. It is common for IELTS to paraphrase instructions.

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Dear Li, I will be taking the IELTS General Training test next week. I’d like to know if the problem/solution or cause/solution essays are only for Academic Test takers or GT candidates should also expect them in the test.

The question types are the same for both tests. This applies to both writing task 2 and the reading test.

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Thank You dear Liz

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Thank You for your helps

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The question prompt usually says “What are the problems due to this phenomenon?” and “What are the solutions to this problems?”. In this case, are we supposed to write two problems and two solutions or one problem and one solution? I ask this because question says problems and solutions, which is plural but if we write two problems and solutions than we will have to write about 350 to 400 words to fully develop those ideas to get higher task achievement scores. This will mean that completing task in 40 minutes will be tough. What do you suggest in this case? Is writing one problem and a solution answering all parts of the task? Looking forward to your response. Thanks

The page above gives you a model essay for exactly that type of essay. Read through it and learn how to write it using a reasonable word count.

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Hello Liz. Can you share with me the link to your video lessons where you explain “cause and solution essay”? Looking forward your response. Thanks.

I don’t have a video for that essay question yet. Sorry.

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Hi Liz, Firstly wanted to thank for the info you’re providing!

I just have one question about the solution essay. When they just ask to provide the solution in the essay (not mentioning cause or problems) how do we structure the two BP’s? One solution each body BP?

I can’t see any examples about this on your website!

Thanks in advance,

Who said you could only have two body paragraphs? It is fine to have three. The number of body paragraphs will depend on the number of solutions you have.

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Thanks a lot for you effort

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Dear Liz, For a problem solution essay, can I follow the following structure to get higher bands? 1- Intro 2- Body paragraph 1 (problem + solution) 3- Body paragraph 2 (problem + solution) 4- Conclusion

It is a standard, correct structure to use. There are many reasons to get a higher score based on the 4 marking criteria – that only will not help you.

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Thank you so much.

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Can you please tell where could I find your problem solution essay video lesson … shall be thankful

I haven’t made that lesson yet.

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Thank you for the essay. I observed that this essay does not consist of any examples in both the body paragraphs. Does that mean we have to only include examples in opinion essays? or we can afford to not mention examples in writing task 2 and still get a good band score?

Thank you for your help in advance.

You give examples when you want. Some teachers teach students always to give examples because it is an easy way to explain ideas. But it isn’t a requirement. Ideas can be developed in many ways.

Understood. Thank you.

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Thank you for this model answer. But, I have a feeling that the solution could be more fully developed. Please clear my doubt dear teacher.

You don’t get marks for a longer essay and this essay is long enough. Developing solutions further would not increase your score.

The official criteria is very confusing which states that not developing ideas could lower your writing score. What should I do teacher? Ielts is so confusing.

I think you need to consider what the requirements are. An essay is under 300 words (about 290). This means the intro is about 40 or 50, the conclusion about 30. So, you are left with about 105 or 110 words per body paragraph (for two body paragraphs). This means to get band 9, those words are enough. Just be logical. An underdeveloped body paragraph contains one or two sentences – no more. Try to work within the requirements. See my advanced lessons for training: https://elizabethferguson.podia.com/

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Hi Liz!i want to pay 24$.can i do through bank.i face face problem in my visa card.

The payments are processed by paypal using either a debit or credit card. All lessons are bought individually.

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Thank you Liz Your free training is doing a good work in me, I actually need to extend time for my IELTS test.

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Thank you Liz for your brilliant ideas and tips!!

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Dear liz Pls let me know GT task 2 questions are similar to academic task 2 questions? As I need GT task 2 questions to practice please give me some details about it?

Yes, they are similar. GT questions are sometimes easier.

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Hello mam please I’d like to ask who marks ielts exam papers? Are they sent to british council uk or marked in country where its taken? Just to clear a doubt please. Thanks mam.

This has recently changed. Before the writing was marked by examiners in the city where you did your test. Now the papers are sent to a central location abroad where examiners will mark them.

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Hi Liz, Since when did they start sending the writing papers to be assessed at central location. Does this mean we can’t apply for remark anymore?

Of course, you can apply for a remark. All remarks are checked by a senior examiner. The change in system has NO influence on candidates, on your score or on your remarking.

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Liz can you please explain use of articles in particular ‘the’? I feel like I miss them before abstract nouns. Is there any lesson/video I could watch? I’m desperate for your help!

My website is based on IELTS exam technique. You will need to find an English language website. See this page for some links: https://ieltsliz.com/useful-websites-and-resources-for-ielts/ or use google.

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Thank you very much, Liz. You have been very helpful.

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Thank you very much madam

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Hello Liz, thanks for sharing your knowledge with us, “poor mortals”. If you were an examiner, would you give which band for this problem solution essay you made as a model? Would it be band 9, indeed? If so, I’m very confident I got the right structure to build it. Thanks a lot!

Yes, it would be a band 9. It addresses the task fully with relevant, well developed ideas. Signposts and linking are used flexibly. Paragraphing is logical. Vocab and grammar are flexible and also error free. The real aim for a high score is keeping your English language error free – don’t take risks.

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Thank you liz. It was long awaited. I also purchased your other writing videos. They are great. Your way of explaining is very good and easy to understand.

I’m really glad my advanced writing task 2 lessons were useful. I tried to pack them with as many flexible techniques as I could 🙂

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For Writing Task 1 and 2, can extra sheet be given?

If you have filled the answer sheet, you can raise your hand and ask for another. However, the answer sheets are the right length for the writing required.

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I knew that I need two sheets because I practised on them before therefore I ask for them at the beginning of writing part. I’ve obtained them without any problem.

You will not be given them at the start of the writing part. You must first full the answer sheets provided. Always remember that your aim is to write under 300 words for task 2 and under 200 for task 1.

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Thank you Liz for your prompt response .

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Thanx alot mam liz. This is very helpful eassy of solution and problem. Can we use this eassy words for every eassy of solution and problem.

I don’t understand your question. Are you talking about memorising the essay? You definitely can’t memorise it but you can learn vocabulary from it.

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What is the paraphrase of financially demanding?

Thanks for whole essay . It is really nice answer for problem and solution type of essay. My problem is I could not copy your sample essay and paste it into word doc. Could you please tell me how it can be done? I know it is a silly question. I prefer read them rather on the paper than on computer. . Thank you

Unfortunately, you’ll have to type the essay into your laptop to copy it. It will do you good to test your English accuracy 🙂

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Splendid😊😊 Thanks liz Is lure equal tempt??

It has a similar meaning but I wouldn’t use it in this context. You need to be very careful with synonyms. Although they have similar meaning, they might not all be suitable for the same topics or contexts.

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thanks for the answer to this essay. But one thing I want to clarify is that “brain-drain” is an informal word. So can we use it in writing ? thanks & regards,

It is not an informal word – it’s fine to use.

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Thanks alot Liz.. I have LWR on Dec. 2nd and this has help alot.

Good luck!! See my last minute tips: https://ieltsliz.com/ielts-exam-tips-on-the-day/

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Is conclusion word not used in introduction and conclusion of task 2.

Sorry I don’t understand this comment at all. The linking words “In conclusion” are used to start the conclusion of the essay above.

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Thanks liz .. Your ielts tips are really helpful.

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Hi Liz Thank you very much for your efforts writing the wonderful essay, Can I ask you there is a repeatation of (entice) is there any exact synynom for entice or it is ok to repeat it?? Thanks

It’s fine and natural for some words to be repeated. As long as you show paraphrasing skills that’s all that is needed. Your aim isn’t change all words, all the time.

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Good morning Liz, thanks. ☺

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I watched your videos on all modules and I would like to sincerely thank you for your guidance and support. Your videos and tips are very much helpful, after watching your videos my preparation style and concepts on each modules are changed completely.

Thank you so much for your support.

You’re welcome 🙂

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Thank You Liz for your update Currently, I’m preparing my IELTS test and all tips in your website really helps me

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How to Plan & Write IELTS Problem Solution Essays

IELTS problem solution essays are the most challenging essay type for many people. The way they are worded can vary hugely which can make it difficult to understand how you should answer the question.

Generally, you’ll be asked to write about both the problem, or cause, and the solution to a specific issue. Sometimes, however, you will only be required to write about possible solutions.

The 3 essay types:

  • Problem and solution
  • Cause and solution
  • Just the solution

Hence, it’s essential that you analyse the question carefully, which I’ll show you how to do in this lesson. I’m also going to demonstrate step-by-step how to plan and write IELTS problem solution essays.

Here’s what we’ll be covering:

  • Identifying IELTS problem solution essays 
  • 6 Common mistakes
  • Essay structure
  • How to plan
  • How to write an introduction
  • How to write main body paragraphs
  • How to write a conclusion

Want  to watch and listen to this lesson?

Click on this video.

Click the links to see lessons on each of these Task 2 essay writing topics. 

Once you understand the process, practice on past questions. Take your time at first and gradually speed up until you can plan and write an essay of at least 250 words in the 40 minutes allowed in the exam.

The Question

Here are two typical IELTS problem solution essay questions. They consist of a statement followed by the question or instruction.

1. One problem faced by almost every large city is traffic congestion.

What do you think the causes are? What solutions can you suggest?

2. Since the beginning of the 20th century, the number of endangered species has increased significantly and we have witnessed more mass extinctions in this period than in any other period of time.

  • State some reasons for this and provide possible solutions.

These are some examples of different ways in which questions can be phrased. The first half of the questions relate to the problem or cause, the second half to the solution.

What issues does this cause and how can they be addressed?

What are some resulting social problems and how can we deal with them?

  • What problems arise from this and how can they be tackled?

Why is this? How might it be remedied?

What are the reasons for this, and how can the situation be improved?

Why is this happening, and what measures can be taken to tackle this problem?

And here are a few questions where you only have to write about the solution.

How can this situation be improved?

What solutions can you suggest to deal with this problem?

How can this problem be solved?

What measures could be taken to prevent this?

It’s important that you are able to recognise the common synonyms, words and phrases used in problem solution questions. Here are the key words and their synonyms used in the questions above.

  • Problem  – issues, resulting, situation
  • Cause  – reasons, why
  • Solution  – deal with, addressed, tackled, remedied, improved, measures taken, solved, prevent

Before we move on to some common mistakes, I want to quickly explain the difference between a problem and a cause. Read the following examples.

Problem – I've missed the last bus home after visiting my friend for the evening.

Cause – I misread the timetable and thought the bus left at 22.45 when it actually left at 22.35.

The ‘cause’ is the reason for the ‘problem’.  We’ll be looking at question analysis in more detail in a minute.

6 Common Mistakes

These six errors are common in IELTS problem solution essays.

  • Confusing problem and causes questions.
  • Having too many ideas.
  • Not developing your ideas.
  • Not developing both sides of the argument equally.
  • Not linking the problems and solutions.
  • Not being specific enough.

It is common for an essay to consist of a list of problems and solutions without any of them being expanded on or linked to each other. Sometimes, a student will focus on just the problem or only the solution which leads to an unbalanced essay. Both these issues will result in a low score for task achievement.

You must choose just one or two problems and pick solutions directly linked to them. Explain them and give examples.

Another serious error is to write generally about the topic. You need to be very specific with your ideas. Analysing the question properly is essential to avoiding this mistake. I’ll show you how to do this.

Essay Structure

Now let’s look at a simple structure you can use to write IELTS problem solution essays. It’s not the only possible structure but it’s the one I recommend because it’s easy to learn and will enable you to quickly plan and write a high-level essay.

1)  Introduction

  • Paraphrase the question
  • State 1 key problem/cause and related solution

2)  Main body paragraph 1 – Problem or Cause

  • Topic sentence – state the problem or cause
  • Explanation – give detail explaining the problem or cause
  • Example – give an example

3)  Main body paragraph 2 – Solution

  • Topic sentence – state the solution
  • Explanation – give detail explaining the solution

4)  Conclusion

  • Summarise the key points 

This structure will give us a well-balanced essay with 4 paragraphs.

One Problem/Cause & Solution or Two?

Most questions will state problems, causes and solutions in the plural, that is, more than one. However, it is acceptable to write about just one.

This will give you an essay of just over the minimum 250 words. To write about two problems/causes and solutions will require you to write between 350 and 400 words which are a lot to plan and write in the 40 minutes allowed.

It is better to fully develop one problem/cause and solution than ending up with one idea missing an explanation or an example because you run out of time.

The step-by-step essay structure I’m going to show you includes one problem and solution but you can write about two if you feel able to or more comfortable doing so.

How To Plan IELTS Problem Solution Essays

Here’s the question we’re going to be answering in our model essay followed by the 3 steps of the planning process.

One problem faced by almost every large city is traffic congestion.

What do you think the causes are? What solutions can you sugge st?

  • Analyse the question
  • Generate ideas
  • Identify vocabulary

# 1  Analyse the question

This is an essential step in the planning process and will ensure that you answer the question fully. It’s quick and easy to do. You just need to identify 3 different types of words:

1. Topic words

2.  Other keywords

3.  Instruction words

Topics words are the ones that identify the general subject of the question and will be found in the statement part of the question.

One problem faced by almost every large city is traffic congestion .

So, this question is about ‘ traffic congestion’ .

Many people will do this first step of the process and then write about the topic in general. This is a serious mistake and leads to low marks for task achievement.

What we need to do now that we know the general topic, is to understand exactly what aspect of traffic congestion we're being asked to write about.

The  other keywords  in the question tell you the specific topic you must write about. 

By highlighting these words, it’s easy to see that you are being asked to write about the problem of traffic congestion in large cities. Your essay must only include ideas relevant to these ideas.

The instruction words are the question itself. These tell you the type of IELTS problem solution essay you must write. This is a ‘causes and solutions’ question.

# 2  Generate ideas

The next task is to generate some ideas to write about.

There are several different ways to think up ideas. I cover them fully on the  IELTS Essay Planning  page.

We’re going to use the ‘friends technique’. This is the method I prefer as it allows you to take a step back from the stress of the exam situation and think more calmly.

Here’s how it works. Imagine that you are chatting with a friend over a cup of coffee and they ask you this question. What are the first thoughts to come into your head? Plan your essay around these ideas.

Doing this will help you to come up with simple answers in everyday language rather than straining your brain to think of amazing ideas using high-level language, which isn’t necessary.

You might want to try this yourself before reading on for my ideas.

Here are my ideas:

  • Too many cars on the roads – increasing numbers of people own cars, more convenient than buses & trains
  • Inadequate public transport – crowded, old & dirty
  • Poor road layout
  • Rush hour traffic – most people travel to & from work at the same times each day
  • Car sharing, park-and-ride scheme, congestion charge
  • Improve public transport – more frequent and better quality
  • Improve infrastructure – bus lanes, cycle lanes will make it safer for people to cycle
  • Flexible working hours

For each cause you think of, immediately write down a possible solution. This you will ensure that the problems and solutions you think of are linked.

You don’t need to spend long on this as you only need one or two ideas.

I’ve got more far more ideas here than I need as I spent more time thinking about it that I would in the real exam. I’m going to pick just one cause to develop in the essay and one or two solutions.

My advice on making your selection is to choose ideas you can quickly think of an example to illustrate.

Here are my choices:

Cause  – Too many cars on the roads.  Why? – increasing numbers of people own cars, more convenient than buses & trains

Solution  – Park-and-ride schemes

We’re almost ready to start writing our IELTS problem solution essay but first, we have one more task to do.

# 3  Vocabulary

During the planning stage, quickly jot down some vocabulary that comes to mind as you decide which cause and solution you are going to write about, especially synonyms of key words. This will save you having to stop and think of the right language while you’re writing. For example:

  • traffic jam
  • heavy traffic
  • private transport
  • infrastructure

With that done, we can focus on the first paragraph of the essay – the introduction.

How To Write an Introduction

Good  introductions to IELTS problem solution essays have a simple 2 part structure:

  • State 1 key problem/cause and related solution/s (outline sentence)
  • Have 2-3 sentences
  • Be 40-60 words long
  • Take 5 minutes to write

1)  Paraphrase the question

Start your introduction by paraphrasing the question.

Question: One problem faced by almost every large city is traffic congestion.

                  What do you think the causes are? What solutions can you suggest?

Paraphrased question:  

O ne of the most serious issues facing the majority of large urban areas is traffic jams.  

Note my use of synonyms to replace key words in the question statement. You don’t have to replace every key word but do so where possible whilst ensuring that your language sounds natural.

2)  Outline statement

Now we need to add an  outline statement  where we outline the two main points that we’ll cover in the rest of the essay, that is, the cause and the solution I chose earlier. Here they are again.

Cause  – Too many cars on the roads.  Why? – increasing numbers of people own cars, more convenient than buses & trains

And, this is one way to develop them into an outline sentence.

Outline statement:

The main reason for this is that there are too many private cars on the roads these days and a viable solution is to introduce more park-and-ride schemes.

So, let’s bring the two elements of our introduction together.

     Introduction

how to write problem and solution essay ielts

This introduction achieves three important functions:

  • It shows the examiner that you understand the question.
  • It acts as a guide to the examiner as to what your essay is about.
  • It also helps to keep you focused and on track as you write.

The two ideas in your introduction will become your two main body paragraphs.

Main body paragraph 1  –  Too many cars on the roads  

Main body paragraph 2  –  Park-and-ride schemes

How To Write Main Body Paragraphs

Main body paragraphs in IELTS problem solution essays should contain 3 things:

  • Topic sentence – outline the main idea
  • Explanation – explain it and g ive more detail

Main Body Paragraph 1

The  topic sentence  summarises the main idea of the paragraph. That’s all it needs to do so it doesn’t have to be complicated.

It plays an important role in ensuring that your ideas flow logically from one to another. It does this by acting as a signpost for what is to come next, that is, what the paragraph will be about.

If you maintain a clear development of ideas throughout your essay, you will get high marks for task achievement and cohesion and coherence.

We’ll now take the idea for our first main body paragraph and create our topic sentence.

Obviously, we’re going to write about the cause of the problem first.

Main body paragraph 1  –  Too many cars on the roads 

Topic sentence:  

The number of people owning cars increases year on year, with most families now having more than one car. 

Next, we must write an  explanation sentence  that develops the idea.

Explanation sentence: 

Most people like the convenience of travelling at the time they want to rather than being restricted to public transport timetables, so they prefer to drive themselves around rather than taking the bus or train. This is despite the fact that they frequently have to sit in long traffic queues as they near the city centre.

Finally, we add an  example  to support our main point. If you can’t think of a real example, it’s fine to make one up, as long as it’s believable. The examiner isn’t going to check your facts. Alternative, you could add another piece of information to support your idea.

Example sentence:

Whenever I have to attend a meeting in the city, I always drive because it means that I can leave home when I want to rather than getting stressed about getting to the station in time to catch the train.

That’s the 3 parts of our first main body paragraph complete. Here’s the finished paragraph.

how to write problem and solution essay ielts

We now follow the same process for our second main body paragraph.

Main Body Paragraph 2

Main idea 2  –   Park-and-ride schemes

First, we write the  topic sentence  to summarise the main idea. 

Topic sentence:

A solution that is proving successful in many areas is park-and-ride schemes.

Now for the  explanation sentence  where we expand on this idea.

Explanation sentence:

This is where you park your car for free in a large car park on the outskirts of the city and take a bus for the final part of your journey. The fee you have to pay for the bus trip is usually very small and this public transport system is generally very regular, running every ten minutes or so.

Finally, an  example  to support this point.

A survey carried out in the city of Exeter showed that the rush hour congestion decreased by 10% when the council set up a park-and-ride scheme to the north of the city. There was an additional drop of another 10% in traffic volume when a second scheme began operating to the south.

That’s the 3 parts of our second main body paragraph complete. Here’s the finished paragraph.

how to write problem and solution essay ielts

Now we need a conclusion and our IELTS problem solution essay is done.

How To Write a Conclusion

The conclusion is a summary of the main points in your essay and can generally be done in a single sentence. It should never introduce new ideas.

If you're below the minimum 250 words after you’ve written your conclusion, you can add a prediction or recommendation statement.

Our essay is already over the minimum word limit so we don’t need this extra sentence  but you can learn more about how to write a prediction or recommendation statement for IELTS problem solution essays on the Task 2 Conclusions page.

The conclusion is the easiest sentence in the essay to write but one of the most important.

A good conclusion will:

  • Neatly end the essay
  • Link all your ideas together
  • Sum up your argument or opinion
  • Answer the question

If you achieve this, you’ll improve your score for both task achievement and cohesion and coherence which together make up 50% of the overall marks. Without a conclusion, you’ll score below band 6 for task achievement.

You can start almost any final paragraph of an IELTS problem solution essay with the words:

  • In conclusion

        or

  • To conclude

Now all you need to do is briefly summarise the main ideas into one sentence.

Here’s a top tip . Go back and read the introduction to the essay because this is also a summary of the essay. It outlines what you are going to write about.

To create a good conclusion, you simply have to paraphrase the introduction. 

Introduction:

Here is the same information formed into a conclusion.  I’ve also added a personal statement at the end to link back to one of my example sentences. You don’t have to do this but in this case, I think that it rounds the essay off better.

how to write problem and solution essay ielts

That’s it. We’ve completed our essay. Here it is with the 4 paragraphs put together.

Finished IELTS problem solution essay.

how to write problem and solution essay ielts

Go through this lesson as many times as you need to in order to fully understand it and put in lots of practice writing IELTS problem solution essays from past exam questions. Practice is the only way to improve your skills.

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More help with ielts problem solution essays & other task 2 essays.

IELTS Writing Task 2  – T he format, the 5 question types, the 5 step essay writing strategy & sample questions. All the key information you need to know.

The 5 Types of Task 2 Essay   – How to recognise the 5 different types of Task 2 essays. 15 sample questions to study and a simple planning structure for each essay type.

Understanding Task 2 Questions  – How to quickly and easily analyse and understand IELTS Writing Task 2 questions.

How To Plan a Task 2 Essay  – Discover why essay planning is essential & learn a simple 4 step strategy, the 4 part essay structure & 4 methods of generating ideas.

How To Write a Task 2 Introduction  – Find out why a good introduction is essential. Learn how to write one using a simple 3 part strategy & discover 4 common mistakes to avoid.

How To Write Task 2 Main Body Paragraphs  – Learn the simple 3 part structure for writing great main body paragraphs and also, 3 common mistakes to avoid. 

How To Write Task 2 Conclusions  – Learn the easy way to write the perfect conclusion for a Task 2 essay. Also discover 4 common mistakes to avoid.

Task 2 Marking Criteria  – Find out how to meet the marking criteria in Task 2. See examples of good and poor answers & learn some common mistakes to avoid.

The 5 Task 2 Essay Types:

Step-by-step instructions on how to plan & write high-level essays. Model answers & common mistakes to avoid.

   Opinion Essays

   Discussion Essays

  Problem Solution Essays

  Advantages & Disadvantages Essays

  Double Question Essays

Other Related Pages

IELTS Writing Test  – Understand the format & marking criteria, know what skills are assessed & learn the difference between the Academic & General writing tests.

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IELTS Problem Solution Essays

Problem solution essays are a type of essay question sometimes given to you in the test. 

In this type of essay you need to discuss the problems with regards to a particular topic and then suggest possible solutions to these problems.

One of the first things you want to make sure that you are able to do is identfy one of these questions when it arises. 

Here are some examples of this type of question.

Examples of Problem Solution Essay Questions:

Overpopulation of urban areas has led to numerous problems.

Identify one or two serious ones and suggest ways that governments and individuals can tackle these problems.

Nowadays many people have access to computers on a wide basis and a large number of children play computer games.

What are the negative impacts of playing computer games and what can be done to minimize the bad effects?

The internet has transformed the way information is shared and consumed, but it has also created problems that did not exist before.

What are the most serious problems associated with the internet and what solutions can you suggest?

In the developed world, average life expectancy is increasing.

What problems will this cause for individuals and society?

Suggest some measures that could be taken to reduce the impact of ageing populations.

An important note. Some essays ask for  reasons  and solutions, not problems and solutions. Writing about a reason (or cause) is not the same as writing about a problem.

Check these  model essays  to see the difference.

IELTS Problem Solution Essay Example 

In order to understand these types of problem solution essays further and how to organize your writing, we'll look at a problem solution example essay:

Model Answer

The enormous growth in the use of the internet over the last decade has led to radical changes to the way that people consume and share information. Although serious problems have arisen as a result of this, there are solutions.

One of the first problems of the internet is the ease with which children can access potentially dangerous sites. For example, pornography sites are easily accessible to them because they can register with a site and claim to be an adult. There is no doubt that this affects their thoughts and development, which is a negative impact for the children and for society. Another major problem is the growth of online fraud and hacking. These days, there are constant news stories about government and company websites that have been hacked, resulting in sensitive information falling into the hands of criminals.

It is important that action is taken to combat these problems. Governments should ensure that adequate legislation and controls are in place that will prevent young people from accessing dangerous sites, such as requiring more than simply confirming that you are an adult to view a site. Parents also have a part to play. They need to closely monitor the activities of their children and restrict their access to certain sites, which can now be done through various computer programs. Companies must also improve their onsite IT security systems to make fraud and hacking much more difficult by undertaking thorough reviews of their current systems for weaknesses.

To conclude, the internet is an amazing technological innovation that has transformed people’s lives, but not without negative impacts. However, with the right action by individuals, governments and businesses, it can be made a safe place for everyone.

(285 words)

Writing about Problems

From the problem solution essay, look at the problems paragraph, and answer the following questions (then click on the link below to see the answers):

  • How many problems are discussed?
  • What are they?
  • What expressions are used to introduce the problems?
  • How are the problems illustrated further?
  • What results are discussed for each problem?

Show / hide answers

1) How many problems are discussed?

2) What are they?

children can access potentially dangerous sites growth of online fraud and hacking

3) What expressions are used to introduce the problems?

One of the first problems of the internet is... Another major problem is...

4) How are the problems illustrated further?

For example, pornography sites are easily accessible to them because they can register with a site and claim to be an adult. These days, there are constant news stories about government and company websites that have been hacked.

5) What results are discussed for each problem?

There is no doubt that this affects their thoughts and development, which is a negative impact for the children and for society.
...resulting in sensitive information falling into the hands of criminals.

Your answers to these questions should tell you a lot about how to plan and organize a problem paragraph.

You only need two or three problems as remember you do not have much time and you need to explain the problems.

When you brainstorm your ideas for problem solution essays, think about  (a)   what the problem is   (b)   how you will explain it   (c)   and what the effect is . Your paragraph will then follow this pattern.

Here is an example of the brainstorming for this paragraph:

Problem 1:   children can access potentially dangerous sites

  • Explanation / Example:   Pornography sites
  • Result:  Affects thought & development - negative for children & society

Problem 2:  growth of online fraud and hacking

  • Explanation / Example:   Evident from the constant news stories
  • Result:  Criminals get sensitive information

Here they are illustrated in the paragraph, with the introductory expressions underlined:

One of the first problems of the internet is the ease with which children can access potentially dangerous sites . For example, pornography sites are easily accessible to them because they can register with a site and claim to be an adult . There is no doubt that this affects their thoughts and development, which is a negative impact for the children and for society . Another major problem is the growth of online fraud and hacking . These days, there are constant news stories about government and company websites that have been hacked , resulting in sensitive information falling into the hands of criminals.

Writing about Solutions

Answer the following questions about the solutions paragraph:

  • How many solutions are given?
  • What three different groups of people does the writer say are responsble for these solutions?
  • How would the solutions be implemented?
  • What three modal verb structures are used to make the suggestions?

1) How many solutions are given?

adequate legislation and controls monitor the activities of children / restrict access improve company IT security systems

3) What three different groups of people does the writer say are responsble for these solutions?

Governments Parents Companies
Stricter criteria for accessing sites Using computer programs Reviewing current IT systems for weaknesses

5) What three modal verb structures are used to make the suggestions?

should need to must

Your answers to these questions provide you with some key tips on writing a solutions paragraph. Some of these points are now explained further.

The people involved

When you come to brainstorm your solutions, think of the key 'actors' who are involved. It is usually governments and individuals in some way or another.

There may be another group specifically realted to the topic. For example, in this case it is companies and parents. If you are discussing crime it could be the police. If it is violence on TV it could be TV and film producers.

You can then brainstorm your ideas under each 'group' and organize them in the same way.

Developing your solutions

Also, try to make sure your solutions are not too simplistic. It's all too easy to make sweeping generalizations about what people can do. For example, look at this idea:

The government should introduce stricter laws.

It it common to see such statements in IELTS problem solution essays with no further explantion. Give more detail about how or why this would work. For example:

Governments should ensure that adequate legislation and controls are in place that will prevent young people from accessing dangerous sites, such as requiring more than simply confirming that you are an adult to view a site.

Some specific detail has now been given on how this solution could work.

Modal Verbs

Modal verbs can be used to make suggestions in problem solution essays. These are usually found in solutions paragraphs.

Check out this grammar lesson if you are unsure how to use modal verbs .

Here again is a plan for the problem solution essay for the solutions paragraph:

Solution 1:   Governments

  • Idea:   Adequate legislation and controls  for young people
  • How:  More complex website access criteria

Solution 2:  Parents

  • Idea:   Monitor children and restrict access
  • How:  Use a computer program

Solution 3:   Companies

  • Idea:   Improve IT security systems
  • How:  Review current systems in place

Here is the paragraph again. Note how it follows the plan and the clear topic sentence that tells the reader the essay is moving on to discuss solutions (modals verbs are underlined):

It is important that action is taken to combat these problems. Governments should ensure that adequate legislation and controls are in place that will prevent young people from accessing dangerous sites , such as requiring more than simply confirming that you are an adult to view a site . Parents also have a part to play. They need to closely monitor the activities of their children and restrict their access to certain sites , which can now be done through various computer programs. Companies must also improve their onsite IT security systems to make fraud and hacking much more difficult by undertaking thorough reviews of their current systems for weaknesses.

More Task 2 IELTS Lessons:

how to write problem and solution essay ielts

IELTS Task Response - 25% of your essay grade

The IELTS Task Response criteria in the scoring makes up 25% of your band score for your essay.

how to write problem and solution essay ielts

Using Pronouns to Improve IELTS Essay Coherency

Find out how to use pronouns to improve your coherency for IELTS task 2 essays.

IELTS Music Essay: Understanding a Complex Question

An IELTS essay about music is used to show you how to answer a more complex IELTS essay question that does not have a clear 'task' given to you.

Improving Writing Coherence for IELTS essays

25% of the writing grade is on how you organise your essay so this lesson shows you how to improve your writing coherence.

Thesis Statement Tips for IELTS Essays

Your thesis statement in an IELTS essay should be written quickly and concisely. Use these tips to do that.

How to use brainstorming and planning to generate essay ideas.

Brainstorming and planning is a key step in developing your IELTS essay. This lesson has tips on how to coming up with ideas and organising them.

How to Identify the Task in an IELTS Essay

Learn how to identify the task in an IELTS task 2 essay question. This is one of the most important steps in responding to an essay question.

How to Write an IELTS Essay: The key steps

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Requirements for IELTS Band 7 in Writing

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Using Substitution in IELTS to Improve Writing Coherency

You can use substitution in your IELTS essays in order to improve coherency and coherence.

How to Identify the Topic of an IELTS Essay Question

In IELTS you must identify the topic of your essay as this is a key to making sure your essay is on topic.

Transitional Phrases for Essays

Learn transitional phrases for essays to get a band 7 or higher in your IELTS writing for coherence and cohesion.

Paragraph Writing for IELTS: Building strong arguments

This paragraph writing lesson provides tips on constructing the best paragraphs for your IELTS essay.

Tips on How to Score IELTS Band 8 in Writing and Speaking

To score IELTS Band 8 you need to understand exactly what is in the IELTS Band Descriptors for an 8 for writing and speaking first.

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Generating ideas for IELTS essays for writing task 2

Generating ideas for IELTS essays for writing task 2 can be difficult but complex ideas are not expected.

Writing an IELTS Essay Conclusion

The IELTS essay conclusion is the final part of your IELTS essay. This lesson guides you on how to write a conclusion quickly but effectively.

Writing an IELTS Essay Introduction

Tips on how to write an introduction for an IELTS essay introduction in a quick and easy way.

Can you use Personal Pronouns in Essays for IELTS?

Learn how to use personal pronouns in essays for IELTS correctly. Can you use "I", "we" and "you"?

The 3 Types of IELTS Opinion Essays in IELTS

IELTS opinion essays in IELTS can be placed into three types. This lesson explains the different types and how to analyse these essay questions.

IELTS Advantage Disadvantage Essay Tips and Strategies

An advantage disadvantage essay is one type of essay that you may get in the test. This lesson shows how to write a pros cons essay.

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IELTS Writing Task 2 Problem and Solution Essay Lesson

how to write problem and solution essay ielts

Problem Solution Essay

This lesson on how to write a problem solution essay will:

  • discuss common mistakes;
  • show you how to analyse the question;
  • show you how to think of ideas;
  • give you a structure that can be used again and again on all problem solution IELTS essays;
  • describe how to write an introduction , main body paragraphs and conclusion; and
  • give you a full band 9 sample answer.

Problem/solution questions are one of the most common IELTS Writing Task 2 questions on the academic paper. Despite being very common, many students fail to do well in these questions. This post will look at some of the most common mistakes and then take you through how to answer these questions step-by-step.

how to write problem and solution essay ielts

Common Mistakes

  • The most common mistake for problem solution essays is not expanding on your ideas and instead simply listing lots of problems and solutions. The examiner does not want a list of all the problems and solutions you can think of, and please don’t do this in the exam. Instead, if you look at how the exam is marked , the examiner wants you to pick one or two problems and solutions and then expand on them with explanations and examples. More on how to do this below.
  • Another common mistake is writing about problems and solutions that are not directly linked to the question. You should be like a sniper when answering the question and only give very specific ideas rather than ideas that generally talk about the overall issue. This has a lot to do with how you identify keywords and micro-keywords in the questions which we will look at below.
  • Lots of people think of good ideas for problems and then fail to link their solutions to these problems. Each problem should have a solution directly linked to it, or in other words, it should solve the actual problem.
  • Finally, some candidates think of really good problems and solutions that answer the question properly and then expand their answers with explanations and examples, but they talk too generally. Instead, you should be thinking of specific examples and explanations. We will look at how to avoid this below.

Analysing the Question 

This is one of the most crucial parts of answering any IELTS writing question. If you don’t take the time to think properly about what the examiner is asking you to do, then it is very difficult to answer the question correctly.

We analyse the question by thinking about three things:

  • micro-keywords
  • action words

Keywords are the words that tell us what the general topic is.

Micro-keywords identify which part of the general topic the examiner wants you to discuss. They often give an opinion, qualify the statement or talk about a sub-category of the bigger general topic.

Action words tell us what the examiner wants us to do.

Problem Solution Sample Essay

Global warming is one of the biggest threats humans face in the 21st Century, and sea levels continue to rise at alarming rates. 

What problems are associated with this, and what are some possible solutions? 

If we look at this question, we can see that the keywords are ‘ global warming ‘. This is our general topic. We will write about this, but we cannot write about any problems associated with global warming. If we do this, we have not answered the question properly. We, therefore, need to look at the micro-keywords.

The micro-keywords are ‘ humans ‘ and ‘ sea level rise ‘. So instead of writing just about the huge topic of global warming and any problems associated with that (such as increased storms, extinction of certain animals, erosion of soil), we have to talk about how particularly sea level rises will affect humans . If we talked about the problems affecting the ‘planet’ or ‘animals’ or the ‘atmosphere’, we would not be answering the question.

The action words are problems and solutions .  Our task is, therefore, to write about that and only that. It does not ask our opinion about the disadvantages, advantages, or causes, just the problems and solutions. If we discussed the causes of sea level rise, we would not be answering the question.

For more information, go to effectively analyse an IELTS question .

How to Think of Ideas 

how to write problem and solution essay ielts

Now that we know exactly what the question is asking us to do, we need to think of specific and relevant ideas. There are many strategies for thinking of ideas for IELTS task 2 questions  TO THINK OF IDEAS FOR IELTS WRITING TASK 2  but for problem-solving questions; I like to use something called the ‘coffee shop method’.

Instead of brainstorming or mind-mapping- which take too much time and lead to irrelevant ideas in my opinion- you should pretend you are in a coffee shop with a friend and they have just asked you a simple question. In this case, it would be “What are the problems and solutions associated with sea level rise on humans?”

If you were talking to a friend about this, I’m sure you would have no problem thinking of at least 2 or 3 problems and solutions. This method takes you out of an exam situation and puts your mind into a more relaxed environment. Try it and see. If you don’t like it, try one of my other methods.

There are several problems and solutions, including:

Problem : flooding of people’s homes and businesses

Solution : build flood barriers or move to higher areas

Problem : loss of agricultural land and starvation

Solution : switch to more suitable crops

Problem : displacement of millions of people

Solution : move people in a planned and orderly way before the floods

Problem : groundwater undrinkable

Solution : build desalination plants

As you can see, I didn’t think of lots of problems and then lots of solutions. For each problem, you should think of a solution that directly solves this problem.

You now have lots of ideas, but now you must decide which ones to use. I always tell my students to pick the ones they know most about, i.e. that they can explain and give relevant examples.

how to write problem and solution essay ielts

I advise my students to use a basic four-paragraph structure with all problem solution IELTS essays. Your four paragraphs should look something like this:

Paragraph 1- Introduction

Paragraph 2- Problems

Paragraph 3- Solutions

Paragraph 4- Conclusion

At a sentence level, your structure should look like this:

Introduction 

1- Paraphrase question

2- Outline sentence

3- State problems

4- Explain first problem

5- Explain second problem

6- Example of second problem

7- State solutions

8- Explain solution to first problem

9- Explain solution to second problem

10- Example of solution to second problem

Conclusion 

Sentence 11- Summary of main points in paragraphs 2 and 3

For more structures, check out our IELTS task 2 structures guide .

Now let’s look at each paragraph in more detail.

how to write problem and solution essay ielts

The introduction will have two sentences: a paraphrase of the question and an outline statement.

Paraphrasing is simply saying the sentence again with different words but with the same meaning. We can do this by using synonyms and/or changing the order of the words.

Question-  Global warming is one of the biggest threats humans face in the 21st Century, and sea levels continue to rise at alarming rates. 

Paraphrased- Climate change is among the principal dangers facing people this century, and ocean levels are increasing dramatically.

As you can see above, I have used synonyms to change the words of the questions, but it still has the same meaning. The examiner will look for your ability to do this in the exam, so practising this skill is a good idea.

Our outline sentence is next, which tells the examiner what they will read in the rest of the essay. This makes it very clear to the examiner and makes the rest of the essay much easier to understand. You will, therefore, gain marks for coherence and cohesion.

Our outline sentence should look something like this:

This essay will first suggest that the biggest problems caused by this phenomenon are the loss of land and the flooding of homes and then argue that pollution reduction and building flood protection are the most viable solutions.

Our introduction will, therefore, look like this:

Climate change is among the principal dangers facing people this century, and ocean levels are increasing dramatically. This essay will first suggest that the biggest problems caused by this phenomenon are the loss of land and the flooding of homes and then argue that pollution reduction and building flood protection are the most viable solutions.

It should be noted that this introduction does not contain a thesis statement. This is because this particular question does not ask us for our opinion. However, IELTS problem solution questions sometimes do ask you for your opinion, and you should then include a thesis statement.

Problems Paragraph 

Our problems paragraph will have this structure:

Sentence 1- State problems

Sentence 2- Explain first problem

Sentence 3- Explain second problem

Sentence 4- Example of second problem

State problems : The foremost problems caused by climbing sea levels are that land is being lost and peoples’ residences are often flooded.

Now that we have stated the problems, we must explain these. You should always consider your audience to be someone with no specialist knowledge in this area, and you, therefore, need to explain what everything means. Don’t assume that the IELTS examiner is educated and knows what you are talking about. These assumptions will stop you from writing what you need.

Explain first problem : As water levels rise, low-lying land is submerged, and many countries become smaller.

Explain second problem : Furthermore, millions of people worldwide live in coastal areas, and if the sea rises by even a few feet, they are inundated with water and lose their property.

Now we must give an example of what we are talking about. When we give an example, it should be as specific as possible.

An example of a very general example would be:

Lots of people in the world have experienced floods recently. 

This is far too general to be considered a good example.

Example : The devastation brought about by this was clear for all to see during the 2011 Tsunami in Japan, in which millions of people were displaced.

This example is much more specific. Stating a place and/or date can help you make your examples more specific.

Our second paragraph will look like this:

The foremost problems caused by climbing sea levels are that land is being lost and people’s residences are often flooded. As water levels rise, low-lying land is submerged, and many countries become smaller. Furthermore, millions of people worldwide live in coastal areas, and if the sea rises by even a few feet, they are inundated with water and lose their property. This devastation was clear for all to see during the 2011 Tsunami in Japan, in which millions of people were displaced.

Now we must move on to our solutions.

Solutions Paragraph

Our solutions paragraph will have this structure:

Sentence 1- State solutions

Sentence 2- Explain solution to first problem

Sentence 3- Explain solution to second problem

Sentence 4- Example of solution to second problem

State solutions : Possible solutions to these problems would be to reduce the amount of pollution created and build flood barriers.

We now need to explain how our solution will help solve the problem. Again, do not assume that the examiner has any specialist knowledge of this topic, so you need to explain what you mean.

Explain first solution: If each person reduces their carbon footprint, the negative effects on the environment will be reduced, which will mean that the water level will stop rising.

Explain second solution : Furthermore, flood defences, such as dikes, dams, and floodgates, could be built along coasts and waterways, thereby stopping the water from reaching populated areas.

Example : The Netherlands is one of the most populated areas in the world and one of the most vulnerable to flooding. They have successfully employed various flood defence systems.

Our whole solutions paragraph will look like this:

Possible solutions to these problems would be to reduce the amount of pollution being created and to build flood barriers. If each person reduces their carbon footprint, the negative effects on the environment will be reduced, which will mean that the water level will stop rising. Furthermore, flood defences, such as dikes, dams, and floodgates, could be built along coasts and waterways, thereby stopping the water from reaching populated areas. The Netherlands is one of the most populated areas in the world and also one of the most vulnerable to flooding, and they have successfully employed various flood defence systems.

We have now answered the question and need to sum up what we have said in the conclusion.

how to write problem and solution essay ielts

The conclusion should have no new ideas but instead should list the main points from the previous two paragraphs. You can also use synonyms in this paragraph to avoid repetition.

Conclusion : To conclude, stemming the rising tides caused by increasing global temperatures is one of the foremost challenges we face, and it will ultimately lead to some countries losing landmass and many of the world’s cities being left underwater, but possible solutions could be to protect our environment and to utilise the flood prevention techniques already used by countries like Holland.

Our whole conclusion for this problem solution essay will look like this:

To conclude, stemming the rising tides caused by increasing global temperatures is one of the foremost challenges we face, and it will ultimately lead to some countries losing landmass and many of the world’s cities being left underwater, but possible solutions could be to protect our environment and to utilise the flood prevention techniques already used by countries like Holland.

Problem and Solution Sample Essay

Here is the whole essay:

Climate change is among the principal dangers facing people this century, and ocean levels are increasing dramatically. This essay will first suggest that the biggest problems caused by this phenomenon are the loss of land and the flooding of homes and then argue that pollution reduction and building flood protection are the most viable solutions. The foremost problems caused by climbing sea levels are that land is being lost and peoples’ residences are often flooded. As water levels rise, low-lying land is submerged and many countries become smaller. Furthermore, millions of people all over the world live in coastal areas, and if the sea rises by even a few feet, they are inundated with water and lose their property. The devastation brought about by this was clear for all to see during the 2011 Tsunami in Japan, in which millions of people were displaced. Possible solutions to these problems would be to reduce the amount of pollution being created and to build flood barriers. If each person reduces their carbon footprint, the negative effects on the environment will be reduced and this will mean that the water level will stop rising. Furthermore, flood defences, such as dikes, dams, and floodgates, could be built along coasts and waterways, thereby stopping the water reaching populated areas. The Netherlands is one of the most populated areas in the world and also one of the most vulnerable to flooding and they have successfully employed various flood defence systems. To conclude, stemming the rising tides caused by increasing global temperatures is one of the foremost challenges we face and it will ultimately lead to some countries losing landmass and many of the worlds’ cities being left underwater, but possible solutions could be to protect our environment and to utilise the flood prevention techniques already used by countries like Holland.

I hope this post helps you with IELTS problem solution essays, and if you have any questions, please comment below.

how to write problem and solution essay ielts

Next Steps 

If you found this lesson useful and it has helped you write a problem solution essay, you should also check out our lessons on task 2 opinions essays , discussion essays and advantages and disadvantages essays .

Do you need me to correct your essays and give you feedback on them? Check out our essay correction service .

The best way to keep up to date with posts like this is to like us on Facebook. There are also lots of practice activities for you to do on the Facebook page.

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IELTS Writing: problem and solution essay

In this lesson you’ll learn how to answer problems/solutions questions in IELTS Writing . This type of questions gives you an issue and asks you to describe some common problems associated with it and propose some possible solutions.

  • See problem-solution question sample
  • Learn how to generate ideas
  • Learn band 9 answering strategies
  • See full band 9 answer

Question sample

This is an example of problem-solution question in IELTS Writing:

Despite a large number of gyms, a sedentary lifestyle is gaining popularity in the contemporary world.

What problems are associated with this?

What solutions can you suggest?

How to answer the question?

Before starting to write your answer, you should think of 1-2 problems and 1-2 solutions, so you know what to write about. In our case:

Problems associated with sedentary lifestyle :

how to write problem and solution essay ielts

  • problems with backbone (osteoporosis, scoliosis)

Solutions :

  • promote walking and cycling as safe and attractive alternatives to motorized transport
  • promote visiting gyms and doing exercises

Now, after we’ve generated some ideas for our essay, it’s time to use them in our writing .

Remember : it’s not enough to simply state these facts, you should also extend the ideas in your writing.

Band 9 answer structure

Although there are many possible ways to structure your essay, we’ll use this band 9 answer structure that has been approved by many IELTS examiners:

Band-9 essay structure:

  • Introduction
  • Body paragraph 1 - problems
  • Body paragraph 2 - effects

Let’s take a look at each of these sections in detail:

Introduction Write your introduction in two sentences:

  • Sentence 1 - paraphrase the statement (you can use ‘nowadays/today/these days’ to start):

These days a sedentary lifestyle is becoming more and more popular despite a big number of sport facilities.

  • Sentence 2 - say what you’ll write about in your essay:

This essay will discuss the main problems associated with this epidemic and propose some possible solutions to avoid them.

Body paragraph 1- problems

  • Sentence 1 - summarise the main problems of inactive lifestyle:

The main problems caused by inactive lifestyle are obesity and various spine disorders.

  • Sentences 2-3 - state and explain the first problem (you can also give an example). It’s very important to expand your opinion! Imagine that your examiner doesn’t know this subject at all and you have to explain everything in detail:

A growing number of body research shows that long periods of physical inactivity raise a risk of becoming overweight. This is because people burn fewer calories and easily gain weight.

  • Sentences 4-5 - describe the second problem (as usual, expand your opinion). You can give an example and use linking words ‘ moreover’ , ’ what’s more’ or ‘ also ’ to start:

What’s more, a lot of studies show that so-called ‘sitting disease’ often results in posture and backbone problems. Due to constant sitting, person loses muscle tissue and curves spine, developing numerous spinal diseases. For example, it has been proven that about 80% of people experience backache at least once a week.

Body paragraph 2 - solutions

  • Sentence 1 - briefly state the main solutions:

In my opinion, the best solution to this problem is promoting active lifestyle.

  • Sentences 2-3 - write the first solution and explain it:

Firstly, millions of people stay less active because they use cars instead of walking. Therefore, an effective way to make people more active is to advertise walking and cycling as safe and attractive alternatives to motorized transport.

Moreover, inactive lifestyle is gaining popularity because nowadays a lot of people prefer passive rest to workouts in the gym. And the best way to avoid the hazards of unhealthy living is to obtain a regular dose of physical activity. Thus, promoting gyms and regular exercising would increase the level of activity.

Write your conclusion in 2 sentences by summing up the problems and solutions you’ve written in your body paragraphs:

In conclusion, leading a sedentary lifestyle causes a lot of health problems, including obesity and spinal diseases. The most effective solution is to increase the level of fitness among the society by advertising physical activity.

Band 9 answer sample

These days a sedentary lifestyle is becoming more and more popular despite a big number of sport facilities. This essay will discuss the main problems associated with this epidemic and propose some possible solutions to avoid them.

The main problems caused by inactive lifestyle are obesity and various spine disorders. A growing number of body research shows that long periods of physical inactivity raise a risk of becoming overweight. This is because people burn fewer calories and easily gain weight. What’s more, a lot of studies show that so-called ‘sitting disease’ often results in posture and backbone problems. Due to constant sitting, person loses muscle tissue and curves spine, developing numerous spinal diseases. For example, it has been proven that about 80% of people experience backache at least once a week.

In my opinion, the best solution to these problems is promoting active lifestyle. Firstly, millions of people stay less active because they use cars instead of walking. Therefore, an effective way to make people more active is to advertise walking and cycling as safe and attractive alternatives to motorized transport. Moreover, inactive lifestyle is gaining popularity because nowadays a lot of people prefer passive rest to workouts in the gym. And the best way to avoid the hazards of unhealthy living is to obtain a regular dose of physical activity. Thus, promoting gyms and regular exercising would increase the level of activity.

(268 words)

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Problem Solution Essays in IELTS Writing Task 2

Problem Solution Essays in IELTS Writing Task 2

January 30, 2023 By Ben Worthington

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This tutorial discusses how to write problem-solution essays in IELTS Writing Task 2.

A “problem and solution” essay, as its name suggests, proposes a problem to you and asks you to suggest a solution or solutions to it. It may also ask about the causes of the problem or the effects which the problem has.

Listen and you will learn:

  • How to write a problem solution essay
  • How to understand the question and structure your answer
  • How to make logical arguments in your answer
  • Three things all problem and solution questions have in common
  • Ideas to develop answers to sample IELTS problem/solutions questions

Read the Sample Problem Solution Essay Questions below

  • ‘Loneliness’ is an increasing problem in many societies, especially among the elderly. Why is this? How might it be remedied?
  • The world’s oceans are filling up with plastic waste. What are the reasons for this, and how can the situation be improved?
  • Many of the world’s rarest plants and animals are on the verge of becoming extinct. Why is this? What, if anything can be done to slow this process or arrest it all together?

Join many other students who have achieved IELTS success with our online IELTS course or get instant feedback with our online essay checker .

You can download or listen to the full tutorial here:

| Direct Download Here | Stitcher | iTunes | Spotify

Ben Worthington

About Ben Worthington

As the founder of IELTSPodcast, Ben started his journey as an English educator in 2006. Ben and his team of teachers provide students with expert advice, twice a week to cover the writing, reading, listening and speaking sections of the IELTS exam.

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IELTS Problem Solution Essay: Overview, Structure And Tips

1. ielts problem solution essay overview.

As its name, IELTS problem solution essay asks you to write about the problem, cause, effect, or solution to an issue stated. The requirement varies depending on each IELTS problem solution essay question. 

There are a variety of ways to word the IELTS problem solution essay questions such as:

  • What do you think are the causes of this? What solutions can you suggest?
  • What should schools do to prepare students for the world of work?
  • Why do you think this is and what can be done about it?
  • What could be the reasons behind this? What measures can be taken to resolve this problem?

ielts problem solution essay overview

An IELTS problem solution essay question includes typically 3 parts:

  • 1st part: a specific issue (e.g. Despite a large number of gyms, a sedentary lifestyle is gaining popularity in the contemporary world.)
  • 2nd part: requirement to state a problem, cause, effect or solution to the issue given (e.g. What problems are associated with this? What solutions can you suggest?)
  • 3rd part: requirement for the time and word limit (e.g. You should spend about 40 minutes on this task. Give reasons for your answer and include any relevant examples from your own knowledge or experience. Write at least 250 words.)

>>> Practice now: IELTS Writing Practice Test

2. IELTS Problem Solution Essay Structure

The three-part structure is also applied for IELTS problem solution essay. In specific, there should be 3 parts with 4 distinctive paragraphs: 

2.1. Introduction

– Paraphrase the question: 

(e.g. These days a sedentary lifestyle is becoming more and more popular despite a big number of sport facilities.)

– Thesis statement / Outline sentence: (e.g. This essay will discuss the main problems associated with this epidemic and propose some possible solutions to avoid them.)

– Body paragraph 1: Problem

  • Topic sentence: state the main problems (e.g. The main problems caused by inactive lifestyle are obesity and various spine disorders.)
  • State and explain the first problem: give the first problem of the issue and elaborate the first problem (e.g. A growing number of body research shows that long periods of physical inactivity raise a risk of becoming overweight. This is because people burn fewer calories and easily gain weight.)
  • Example: support the first problem with an example (optional)
  • State and explain the second problem: give the second problem of the issue and elaborate the second problem (e.g. What’s more, a lot of studies show that so-called ‘sitting disease’ often results in posture and backbone problems. Due to constant sitting, person loses muscle tissue and curves spine, developing numerous spinal diseases.)
  • Example: support the second problem with an example (optional) (e.g. For example, it has been proven that about 80% of people experience backache at least once a week.)

– Body paragraph 2: Solution

  • Topic sentence: state the main solutions (e.g. In my opinion, the best solution to this problem is promoting active lifestyle.)
  • State and explain the first solution: give the first solution of the issue and elaborate the first solution (e.g. Firstly, millions of people stay less active because they use cars instead of walking. Therefore, an effective way to make people more active is to advertise walking and cycling as safe and attractive alternatives to motorized transport.)
  • Example: support the first solution with an example (optional)
  • State and explain the second solution: give the second solution of the issue and elaborate the second solution (e.g. Moreover, inactive lifestyle is gaining popularity because nowadays a lot of people prefer passive rest to workouts in the gym. And the best way to avoid the hazards of unhealthy living is to obtain a regular dose of physical activity. Thus, promoting gyms and regular exercising would increase the level of activity.)
  • Example: support the second solution with an example (optional)

*** Note: The number of paragraphs in the body part of IELTS problem and solution essay depends on the requirement of the question. e.g. If the question asks you to give causes and solutions, there will be two paragraphs including the Causes and Solutions. In some cases, you are required to give the solutions only, then you can separate each solution into different paragraphs for the Body part.

2.3. Conclusion

– Summarize problems and solutions:

(e.g. In conclusion, leading a sedentary lifestyle causes a lot of health problems, including obesity and spinal diseases. The most effective solution is to increase the level of fitness among the society by advertising physical activity.)

– Give recommendations (optional)

>>> Read more: IELTS Double Question Essay

3. IELTS Writing Task 2 Problem Solution Essay Strategy

3.1.  analyse ielts problem solution essay questions.

This step seems to be unnecessary at first but it significantly counts your final result because it mentions all the requirements for a task. You had better take these criteria into consideration and highlight or underline keywords:

  • Main topic (e.g. Despite a large number of gyms, a sedentary lifestyle is gaining popularity in the contemporary world. What problems are associated with this? What solutions can you suggest?)
  • Instructions (e.g. Give reasons for your answer and include any relevant examples from your own knowledge or experience. You should spend about 40 minutes on this task. 

Write at least 250 words.)

problem solution essay strategy

3.2. Make an outline

You should organize your IELTS Problem Solution essay coherently and cohesively at the same time. In order to do so, prepare an outline in advance should be prioritized. You can create your own outline in the form of a table, a mindmap or simply a list of bullet points for easier tracking during the writing process. 

3.3. Write a complete IELTS problem solution essay

Once you’ve had your own outline and know well how to organize your writing, it’s time to write your IELTS problem solution essay using your grammar and vocabulary range related to the topic given.

3.4. Double-check your IELTS problem solution essay

You need to check your writing at least once after finishing so as to ascertain that all the grammatical or spelling mistakes will not be occurred. 

4. IELTS Writing Task 2  Problem Solution Essay Tips

  • Follow the world limit you have to write since it may affect your time of writing. You should write about 250-290 words for your IELTS Problem Solution essay within approximately 40 minutes.
  • Make use of the outline to best organize your IELTS Problem Solution essay.
  • Enhance your vocabulary range in different topics and try to practice with different IELTS Problem Solution essays in order to improve your critical thinking towards any issue.
  • Try to elaborate each of your problem, cause, effect, or solution with detailed explanations and examples.
  • Use linking words in your IELTS Problem Solution essay to make the grade.

IELTS Problem Solution Essay is one of the most common question types in IELTS Writing Task 2, so it is essential for you to have a deep insight into this type of question. Don’t forget to practice with us on IELTS Test Online website or mobile application.

IELTS Charlie

IELTS Problem Solution Essay: tips, common mistakes, questions & essays

In this lesson we are going to look at how to answer an IELTS Problem Solution essay.

You will learn about this  IELTS Writing Task 2  essay, using  authentic IELTS essay questions , plus the most common mistakes. And I will finish with an  IELTS model essay  written by me in response to a  sample IELTS essay question . So let’s get started!

What Is Your Task?

In this IELTS question type, you are usually presented with a statement about a common problem that many people or societies face. Usually you will be asked to discuss 2 things:

  • the causes of the problem, or the problem itself
  • and some solutions to the problem

Sometimes you may be asked to discuss the effects of the problem.

So it’s really important to read the question carefully, so you know  exactly  what you should discuss!

Read this task:

Plastic bags, plastic bottles and plastic packaging are bad for the  environment. 

What damage does plastic do to the environment? 

What can be done by governments and individuals to solve this problem? 

Cambridge IELTS 16 General Training Test 1

So in the task above, you are presented with a statement about a problem: “ Plastic bags, plastic bottles and plastic packaging are bad for the  environment. “

Next, you are asked a question related to the problem: “ What damage does plastic do to the environment?” . In this task the question is asking you about the effect of the problem.

Then, you are asked a question related to the solution: “ What can be done by governments and individuals to solve this problem?” In other words, you need to suggest some solutions.

These types of question can be worded in a variety of ways. Here are some common examples:

  • What problems are associated with this and what are some possible solutions?
  • What difficulties does this cause? What can we do to tackle this problem?

What do you think are the causes of these problems and what measures could be taken to solve them?

  • Why is this the case? What can be done about this problem?

As you can see, it’s really important to read the question carefully because the wording can vary a lot.

How To Plan An IELTS Problem Solution Essay

If you are aiming for a high band score (band 7 and above) it is absolutely vital that you plan your essay. A good plan will help you to see if you have answered the question, developed your ideas and organised them BEFORE you start writing.

We’re going to plan an essay using my  4 Step Planning Process .

4 Step Planning Process

Step 1: Understand The Task

First, you need to make sure you understand exactly what you need to write about. So you need to read the question carefully, not quickly!

Think about these three questions:

What is the topic about?

What is the topic NOT about?

How should you respond to the topic?

Let’s go back to this essay question, and answer those 3 questions:

The topic is presented in the first sentence in the task, “plastic bags, plastic bottles and plastic packaging are bad for the environment.”  So the topic is about the negative effects that plastic items (specifically bags, bottles and packaging) have on the natural world.

Note that the first sentence is a factual statement, not an opinion. It states that plastic IS bad for the environment, not “ some people think plastic is bad for the environment)

  • The topic is not about pollution in general, only plastic pollution. So don’t discuss carbon emissions or petrol fumes.
  • The topic also mentions only bags, bottles and packaging. So it’s probably best to avoid talking about objects made of plastic (e.g. toys…although I did this in one of my model essays! Hopefully I will get a kind examiner!)

The two questions tell you how to respond to the topic. So make sure you answer these questions. Don’t discuss the advantages of plastic, or why you think plastic is NOT bad for the environment!

Step 2: Decide Your Position

Next, you need to decide your position. In other words, you need to decide what you think.

In a problems solutions IELTS essay, your position is simply your answers to the two questions .

So in our example task, your position is your answers to these 2 questions:

  • What damage does plastic do to the environment?
  • What can be done by governments and individuals to solve this problem?

There aren’t questions with a factual answer, so they are really asking you for your opinion, ideally an opinion based on your own knowledge or experience.

Personally, I think that plastic damages the environment by harming wildlife, and because the plastic gets into the water supply system. What can governments and individuals do? I think governments need to tax plastic more heavily. And individuals can stop using plastic bags.

So what is YOUR position? What do YOU think? 

Step 3: Extend Your Ideas

When you decided your position, you may have started thinking about the reasons for your position, the reasons for your answer. In other words, WHY are you taking this view?

Giving reasons for your view is essential in an IELTS essay. In fact, all IELTS questions tell you to “give reasons for your answer”. So in Step 3, you need to think about your reasons a little more.

However, just presenting your  reasons is not enough. You need to develop them.

The two best ways of developing your ideas is by:

  • giving explanations of what you mean
  • giving specific examples which illustrate what you mean

Together, these add more detail to your answer.

You MUST do this to get Band 7. If you fail to develop your ideas in detail, your band score for Task Response may be limited to Band 6.

Read more about how to develop your ideas in an IELTS essay.

Step 4: Structure Your Essay

The final step in the planning process is to structure your essay. This simply means deciding which main ideas to put in which paragraphs.

Here’s a simple structure for a problem / solution essay:

  • Paragraph 1: introduction
  • Paragraph 2: discuss 2 problems
  • Paragraph 3: discuss 2 solutions
  • Paragraph 4: summarise your ideas.

Here is an alternative structure:

  • Paragraph 2: discuss one problem and a solution to this problem
  • Paragraph 3: discuss one problem and a solution to this problem

However, this structure is not always appropriate, so use it carefully! If your ideas are not closely related to the problem, it can cause problems with coherence. For example, one problem caused by global warming is melting icecaps; however, there is no direct solution to melting icecaps –  the solution often lies a long way from the polar ice caps .

ielts-problem-solution-essay

How To Write Your IELTS Problem Solution Essay

Let’s go through how to write the different parts of the essay.

How To Write The Introduction To An IELTS Problem Solution Essay

In the introduction to an IELTS Problems Solutions essay, you need to do two things:

  • briefly introduce the topic of the essay
  • briefly say what you are going to write about

Introduce The Topic

You should begin with a background sentence which introduces your reader to the topic of the essay. The best way to do this is to paraphrase the topic statement.

How To Paraphrase

Think about the meaning of the topic statement, and briefly rewrite it using your own words. Try not to use the same grammatical structures as in the essay question, and try to move language around. In other words, be flexible. This is important if you are aiming for a Band 7 or higher.

In the example essay question above, the topic statement said:

“Plastic bags, plastic bottles and plastic packaging are bad for the environment.”

Here is one way of paraphrasing this:

“People are becoming increasingly concerned about the damaging effects of plastic on the environment.”

This sentence has the same general meaning as the original sentence, but uses different vocabulary and different grammatical structures.

Say What You Are Going To Write About

In an IELTS Problems Solutions essay, it’s a good idea to briefly say what you are going to write about – in other words, say that you are going to answer the two questions.

In our example essay above, we need to answer two questions:

So I could write:

This essay will examine the damage done to the environment by plastic, along with some possible solutions.

How To Write The Body Paragraphs

In an IELTS Problems Solutions essay, you need to present the problem (or the causes of the problem) and possible solutions in the body paragraphs.

There a couple of possible structures:

  • Body Paragraph 1: discuss the problems
  • Body Paragraph 2: discuss the solutions
  • Body Paragraph 1: discuss one problem and its solution
  • Body Paragraph 2: discuss another problem and its solution

However, this second structure is not always appropriate. I would recommend only using the first structure.

Each body paragraph should contain:

  • A problem (or a solution) – your main idea
  • A more detailed explanation of the problem (or solution)
  • An example which illustrates this
  • You can also include a 2nd problem or (2nd solution) in the same paragraph.

This structure is what is meant by developing your ideas, and it is essential for a Band 7.

You can read more about  developing your ideas here .

How To Write The Conclusion

In the conclusion to an IELTS Problem Solution essay, you need to do one thing:

  • summarise your main points

Do NOT write any new ideas in your conclusion. If you think of new ideas while writing your conclusion, forget them! It’s too late.

Common Mistakes in an IELTS Problem Solution Essay

These are the most common mistakes made by Test Takers when writing an IELTS Problem Solution essay:

  • presenting too many problems and solutions: you MUST develop ALL of your ideas to get a high band score, so it’s best to present 3 or 4 problems / solutions in total and explain them all
  • not answering the exact question. If the question asks you to discuss the CAUSES of the problem, make sure you discuss the causes, not the problem.  If the question asks you to discuss the EFFECTS of the problem, make sure you discuss the effects, not the problem. So read the question carefully!
  • Writing an overly general statement about the topic in the introduction (e.g. “The Environment is a topic of hot debate.” )
  • Your main ideas are not explained and illustrated enough. You need to develop all of your ideas to get a band 7 and higher.
  • Writing an opinion in the conclusion: you usually only need to summarise your main points in the conclusion.
  • Using memorised phrases (e.g. “a hot topic”, “in a nutshell”, “quick fix”)
  • Using “research studies” as examples: examples should illustrate your ideas, not prove them. Read about  how to use examples in IELTS essays .
  • Trying to use rare or “novel” language: examiners are looking for groups of words used naturally, not rare words.quick fix

Sample IELTS Problem Solution Essay Questions

Plastic bags, plastic bottles and plastic packaging are bad for the environment. What damage does plastic do to the environment? What can be done by governments and individuals to solve this problem?

(Cambridge IELTS 16 General Training Test 1)

Nowadays many people complain that they have difficulties getting enough sleep. What problems can lack of sleep cause? What can be done about lack of sleep?

(Cambridge IELTS 15 General Training Test 2)

In spite of the advances made in agriculture, many people around the world still go hungry. Why is this the case? What can be done about this problem?

( Cambridge IELTS 13 Academic Test 4 )

Many working people get little or no exercise either during the working day or in their free time, and have health problems as a result. Why do many working people not get enough exercise? What can be done about this problem?

(Cambridge IELTS 13 General Training Test 2)

Model IELTS Problem Solution Essays

Here is an IELTS Problem Solution Essay that I wrote in response to this task:

In some countries the average weight of people is increasing and their levels of health and fitness are decreasing.

Cambridge IELTS 8 Test 4 (Academic)

Over the last few decades, rising obesity and a drop in people’s overall health and fitness have become a major concern in many countries, especially those in the developed world.

One of the main causes of increasing weight amongst the population is because so much food and drink contains large amounts of carbohydrates. Junk food, for example, tends to contain high quantities of cheap pasta and rice, while soft drinks often contain large amounts of sugar. If these carbohydrates are not burned up through exercise, they will simply be converted by the body into fat, leading to weight gain.

However, people are getting less exercise, which means that not only will they gain weight, they will also experience lower levels of health and fitness. One of the main reasons for this lack of exercise is our increasingly sedentary lifestyle. Whereas in the past, many people used to be engaged in manual labour such as factory work or farming, today they are more likely to be sat in an office hunched over a computer. Add to that the fact that people are more likely to commute to work by car, rather than walk or cycle, and we can see why people are getting fatter and less healthy.

There are some solutions to this problem that governments could provide, such as a sugar tax. In countries where this has been introduced, such as the U.K., this has led to drinks’ manufacturers reducing the amount of sugar in their products. I also feel that higher levels of tax on petrol might make car drivers think twice about whether they should really take the car out on the road. Ultimately, however, it is up to individuals to take more responsibility for their own health and fitness. They could make the effort to walk more and take the car less, and make better choices regarding their diet using information that is widely available on the Internet.

(321 words)

Read my full plan and comments for this essay.

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  • Essay Task 2

How to Write Problem Solution Essay in IELTS

  • Essay Types
  • Double Question
  • Advantage Disadvantage
  • Problem Solution
  • Essay Length

problem solution ielts essay

IELTS problem-solution tasks are the easiest of the IELTS essay types as you are required to explain the given problem(s) and provide some relevant suggestions/solutions. In this IELTS Task 2 Writing guide, we will take a look at how to produce a well-written essay for an IELTS writing task 2 problem and solution task.

Table of Contents

1.1 understanding the question, 1.2 example problem/solution questions.

  • Essay Structure for Problem/Solution Essays
  • 3.1 Identify key words and phrases

3.2 Organise your ideas

3.3 identify vocabulary, 4.1 introduction, 4.2 main body paragraphs, 4.3 conclusion.

  • 5.1 Complete the sample problem/solution essay

5.2 Problem Solution Sample Essay

1. problem/solution overview.

A problem and solution essay is a common type of IELTS writing task 2 essay question .

Remember, there are five main types of writing task 2 questions:

  • Advantage/disadvantage
  • Double question
  • Problem/solution

You will have 40 minutes to write at least 250 words which you use to explain one or more of the following

  • A common problem/ problems in the world
  • A cause/causes of a problem
  • A possible solution/solutions

There are a few different ways that a problem/solution question may be worded and it is important to understand exactly what you are being asked to do.

Here are the three main types of problem/solution question aims:

  • Write about a problem and possible solutions to that problem
  • Write about a cause of a problem and possible solutions
  • Only write about the solutions

And here are some ways the question may be worded for each aim:

  • What do you think the causes are? What are the solutions?
  • What solution can you suggest to deal with this problem?

Identifying common synonyms in the instruction words will also help you to identify the aim:

Problem : Situation; resulting in…; issue

Cause : Reason; why

The only solution : address; present; solve; improve; tackle; remedy; deal with

Take the time to read the question carefully! It is a common mistake to answer the wrong question.

Here are some example problem/solution questions. Try to work out what the aim is for each question:

The internet has transformed the way information is shared and consumed, but it has also created problems that did not exist before. What are the most serious problems associated with the internet and what solutions can you suggest?

Also, read the following IELTS Essay Writing Guides

  • IELTS Discussion Type Questions
  • Double Question IELTS Essay Topics
  • Opinion-based Task 2 IELTS Guide
  • IELTS Advantage Disadvantage Essay Type

Overpopulation of urban areas has led to numerous problems. Identify two serious ones and suggest ways that governments and individuals can tackle these problems.

One problem faced by almost every large city is traffic congestion What do you think the causes are? What solutions can you suggest?

More and more wild animals are on the verge of extinction and others are on the endangered list. What are the reasons for this? What can be done to solve the problem?

IELTS writing correction

2. Essay Structure for Problem/Solution Essays

You will see more than one way to structure a problem/solution IELTS essay. We’ve given you two options to choose from that are nice and easy to follow and enable you to produce a clear and cohesive essay everytime:

Essay structure 1

Essay structure 2

Note that essay structure 2 suggests that it is an option to write about more than one problem and solution . In fact, the essay question will usually ask for problems and solutions in the plural.

However, it is acceptable to write about one problem and solution so that you fully develop your ideas rather than rushing through your essay and missing any important examples or explanations.

Why not time yourself writing an essay in test conditions and see what option works for you!

3. Planning your Problem/Solution Essay

Taking the time to plan your essay will really make a big difference. Read on for some useful tips to help your planning.

3.1 Identify keywords and phrases

It’s a good idea to start your planning by  confirming the topic of your essay by locating the topic words .

Here’s the question for our model 9 band writing task 2 answer at the end of this guide:

Some people think that children nowadays are spending an excessive amount of time watching TV or using a computer or mobile phone.

Describe some of the problems that too much screen time can have for children , and what can be done to tackle them .

The topic of this essay is about the amount of time children spend using screens (TV, computer, mobile phones).

By looking at the instruction words , we can see this question also asks for problems and solutions in the plural form (although remember it is ok to focus on a single problem and solution in the exam).

A list is a great way to organise your ideas before you start writing your IELTS essay about problem and solution. Your ideas do not have to be elaborate or in-depth, just put pen to paper and start to jot down some ideas for an IELTS essay. You could choose to only write down ideas you will use in your essay, or you might end up with more than you need (we suggest ticking off the ideas you use to avoid repetition)

We have used a simple bullet point list to note down ideas for our model essay:

  • Childhood obesity
  • Mental health issues
  • Targeted junk food adverts
  • Government incentives for active children
  • Limited screen time imposed by parents
  • Lessons to educate children on the dangers of too much screen time
  • Restrictions on adverts at certain times

Writing down any useful vocabulary for IELTS that comes to mind during the planning process could improve your score in Lexical resources . Ask yourself if you know any idioms, collocations or other unusual IELTS essay vocabulary linked to your essay topic.

4. Writing your Problem/Solution Essay

There are three key things to include in your problem/solution introduction:

  • Paraphrase the given IELTS statement and question
  • State the problem/cause/solution
  • State what your essay will do

To successfully paraphrase the statement, you can use synonyms, change the word order or change the word class (e.g from a noun to an adjective). The tricky part is making sure you keep the meaning of the statement the same. Look what we’ve done for our model answer:

You can also briefly state what your essay will do using an outline statement . Here’s an example sentence:

This essay will look at these problems in more detail and propose some solutions.

For each problem or cause you write about, you should create a topic sentence which introduces each main idea.

Here are some possible ways you could structure your topic sentences:

  • One major problem connected to _____ is…
  • Another issue is that…
  • A final problem is the…
  • One cause of ____ is …
  • One reason for ____ is …
  • A further way to explain ____ is …
  • One contributing factor to ____ is…

You could also use the structure that + a clause. Here are some examples:

One major problem connected to childrens’ health is lack of exercise .

Another issue is that there are a large amount of junk food advertisements on television aimed at children .

As well as language for problems, you will also need to introduce solutions to these problems. Even though the topic of your essay will be different, you can learn language chunks/sentence starters to do this. Take a look at these examples:

  • To deal with this problem, _____ could …
  • The way forward might be for _____ to …
  • The solution is for people to …
  • In order to solve this issue, _____ should …

When you provide a solution, it is a good idea to keep the actor of the sentence more general, for example:

  • The government

You can also learn lexical chunks related to solutions to common problems. Here are just a few suggestions for our model answer:

  • The government could bring in a law to ban junk food advertising.
  • The government could allocate more money to healthy eating campaigns.
  • Parents could set aside time in the day to do activities as a family away from screens.
  • Schools could employ more physical education teachers to improve students’ fitness levels.

We’ve used the tips above to create the following body paragraphs:

Your conclusion for any IELTS writing task 2 essay is very important as without it, you will not score above a band score 6.0 in Task achievement .

Always make your conclusion easy to identify for the examiner by starting with:

  • In conclusion,…
  • To conclude,…
  • To sum up,…
  • In summary,…

Now you will need to paraphrase (again) what you have written for your introduction in your own words. Compare out model answer introduction and conclusion:

You can also include the following points in your conclusion (it is not necessary to include all the points):

  • State the seriousness of the problem (we’ve used the phrase ‘ increasingly serious ’)
  • Suggest who you think should solve the problem (we’ve gone with a balance between the government and parents )
  • Make suggestions about what to do in the future (we’ve kept this general: ‘ reducing the amount of screen time ’)
  • State what might happen if nothing is done to solve the problem (again, we’ve kept this general to reduce the word count: ‘ these problems will only intensify ’)

5. Example Problem/Solution Essay and Exercise

Below you will find the complete problem/ solution essay that we have been using throughout this guide, except we have removed some of the keywords.

Your task is to select the missing words and complete the sample answer. Good luck!

5.1 Complete the Sample Problem/Solution Essay

Describe some of the problems that too much screen time can have for children, and what can be done to tackle them.

Nowadays, governments and health experts around the world have become increasingly concerned about the general health of children. They are particularly worried about problems caused by too much time spent in front of a TV, computer or mobile. This essay will look at these problems in more detail and propose some solutions.

One major problem connected to childrens’ health is lack of exercise: in recent years , the amount of time children spend being sedentary in front of a screen has increased drastically, and as a result, childrens’ fitness levels have plummeted. This is a significant problem in the USA, for example , where children spend an increasing amount of time watching a TV screen. To try and solve this problem, governments should implement incentives for children that spend more time being active, such as giving vouchers for sport equipment or free tickets to sporting events.

Another issue is that there are a large amount of junk food advertisements on television aimed at children. This means that children are being targeted to buy unhealthy junk food and processed meals which can lead to weight and other health problems due to the high amounts of fat and sugar in the food. The answer could be for the government to ban these adverts at certain times of the day. If they did this, children would not be subjected to these unhealthy marketing tactics.

To sum up, there is no doubt that the problem of too much screen time is becoming increasingly serious for the youth of today. Unless action is taken urgently, these problems will only intensify. My opinion is that responsibility for reducing the amount of time in front of a screen lies mainly with the government, but also with the parents.

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how to write problem and solution essay ielts

How To Write A Problem And Solution Essay

In writing task 2 you will be asked to write a discursive essay ( 250 words minimum ). You will be given a question asking you to give your opinion, discuss a problem or issue. You could also be asked to provide solutions, evaluate a problem, compare and contrast different ideas or challenge an idea. In this post, we will be focussing on how to write a problem/solution essay .

One of the first things you should do is read the marking criteria  to see what the examiners expect. This is really important, as you need to know what they are looking for in the band 7+ boxes. 

You should be able to give the examiners exactly what they want, in order to get a 7+ band score. 

If you would like to purchase a 30  page PDF download that is easy to read and print out please take a look at the bookshop >

WRITING TASK 2 Problem/Solution STRUCTURE

The structure that I advise my students to use, will be sure to get you a band score 7+. You need to practice using this structure, with as many questions as you can, before sitting your IELTS test. This writing task 2 structure has been proven to be successful for my students and when perfected, can easily help you to achieve a high band score. 

TIP >> Before you start writing, plan your ideas so that you can organise the information clearly. You must decide what you think is the main problem and what the specific solution to that problem is. Take 5 minutes and plan out your ideas and examples. 

TIP >> It is very important that spend a full 40 minutes on this task as the score you get for writing task 2 is two-thirds of your total writing score. You also need to write a minimum of 250 words and use your own ideas. 

TIP >> Remember to write in a formal tone, this is an academic essay, therefore your writing should be formal. 

This is one possible way to structure your essay;

It is a 4-PARAGRAPH STRUCTURE >>

Paragraph 1 – The Introduction

This is the introduction to the essay and where you should start off by paraphrasing the question. 

Do you understand what I mean, when I say ‘paraphrase’ the question?

This means that you rewrite the question in your own words using synonyms. You can’t just copy the question again or use the same words in the question. Paraphrase and show off your vocabulary knowledge by using synonyms. When practicing your essay writing, use an online thesaurus  to help you. This is a great tool and can help you to learn many new words.

Then your next sentence should introduce the essay, this will tell   the examiner exactly what you will discuss in the main body paragraphs. For example, Firstly this essay will discuss……… Secondly, this essay will discuss…….

There are two sentences you need in the introduction >>

  • Introduce the specific topics that will be discussed in the main body paragraphs.

Paragraph 2 – Main Body Paragraph 1

In this paragraph, you should describe a specific problem.

Start the paragraph by introducing the problem. This is where you need to have a topic sentence. The next sentence(s) should explain the problem, going into detail. The third sentence should give an example that supports the problem.

The example you give could be something from your own experience or made up – it is ok to make up something as the examiners will not fact check your information. They want to see your ability to use English at a certain level. You could make up an example from a report, journal, newspaper or University study. 

This is how the paragraph should look >>

  • Introduce the problem (topic sentence)
  • Explain/give detail

Paragraph 3 –  Main Body Paragraph 2

In this paragraph, you should write about the solution.

Start the paragraph by introducing the solution. This is where you need to have a topic sentence. The next sentence(s) should explain the solution, going into detail. The third sentence should give an example.

  • Introduce the solution (topic sentence)

Paragraph 4 – The Conclusion

In the fourth paragraph, you write the conclusion giving a summary of your main points and say what you think is most important about this topic and give a recommendation. You should not enter any new information or ideas in this paragraph. 

  • Summary of the main points
  • What you think is most important about this topic / give a recommendation

Another possible way to structure your problem/solution essay is this;

  • Problem 1 – Describe a specific problem and give a solution
  • Problem 2 – Describe another specific problem and give a solution
  • Problem 3 – Describe a third specific problem and give a solution

You will need to make a choice, either describe each problem and give a solution in the same paragraph, or split the information into separate paragraphs, with only one main idea in each of the main body paragraphs. 

SAMPLE Problem/Solution ESSAY >>

**All questions have been reported by students who have taken the IELTS exam.**

In many developing countries, there are a number of skilled academics leaving in search of better pay, increased socioeconomic benefits, and the chance to earn citizenship in a developed country. In this essay, I will examine the impact this has had on the more poverty stricken countries and suggest how this situation could be improved.

The foremost problem with skilled professionals, such as doctors and teachers leaving is that it deprives the country of people who are necessary to its survival. A shortage of doctors in hospitals could lead to them being severely understaffed, even though they have the trained doctors and nurses who are local and willing to work. In addition, some academic institutions will also suffer, with a lack of skilled teachers in highly desirable subjects, like maths, science and languages. Many professionals desire better pay and working conditions, leaving in search of a better lifestyle, so that they can earn a higher salary. For example, a study from Bucharest University showed that in Romania in 2014, 75% of graduates had applied to work in the UK and the USA.

A possible solution to this problem is for skilled professionals to enter into mandatory service in their origin country, before being able to migrate. Those who earn their qualifications from state universities should have to work in service to their country for a set amount of time, even though they are ready for the wider workplace. This would address the shortage of workers in hospitals and schools, meanwhile gaining experience, in order to give something back to their community and country. For instance, in Romania, it is common practice for graduates from state-funded university courses to work in areas where their services are needed for a minimum of two years before they are able to apply to work abroad.

In conclusion, with the rising demand for nurses, doctors and teachers in economically rich countries like the UK, more and more people are leaving their poor origin countries in search of better pay, working conditions and benefits. It is, therefore, necessary for governments to put appropriate schemes into place, with mandatory service for state-funded degree holders.

(Word Count = 362 / Band Score 9)

Feedback

  • Task Achievement  – The answer provides a paraphrased question, to begin with, followed by a relevant problem and solution. Both the problem and solution are fully supported in the main body paragraphs in the essay, with fully extended and well-supported ideas. the style of the writing is appropriate for an academic essay.
  • Coherence and Cohesion  – The answer has been divided into clear logical paragraphs and each main body paragraph only has one main idea. There are cohesive links between the main body paragraphs and between most sentences. Examples are highlighted with discourse markers like – for example, and for instance . The conclusion gives a clear recommendation, which is linked to the information in the main body paragraphs.
  • Lexical Resource  – There is evidence of a wide range of vocabulary, with no errors in the text.
  • Grammatical Range and Accuracy  – The answer has no grammatical errors. The sentences have a wide range of structures. 

TIP >>  Remember to give both a problem and solution. Use each of the main body paragraphs to support your ideas, giving examples that are relevant. In the conclusion, summarise your main points and say what is important about the topic/give a recommendation. 

WRITING TASK 2 BAND SCORE 9 CRITERIA >>

If you would like to view more high band score problem and solution essay examples please click below >

We hope you found this post useful in helping you to study for the IELTS Test . If you have any questions please let us know in the comments below or on the Facebook page.

The best way to keep up to date with posts like this is to like us on Facebook , then follow us on Instagram and Pinterest . If you need help preparing for the IELTS Test, join the IELTS Achieve Academy and see how we can assist you to achieve your desired band score. We offer an essay correction service, mock exams and online courses.

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IELTS Writing Task 2: How To Answer Problem/ Cause & Solution Questions To Reach Band 9

Updated: Nov 14

Problem/ Cause & Solution Writing Task 2

When answering an IELTS Writing Task 2 problem/ cause and solution question you need to think of one or more problems (often two is good), and then give one or two solutions. You can group the problems in one paragraph and the solutions in one paragraph, or you can combine them, with a problem and solution together in each paragraph. It works really well if you have a main general idea for each paragraph which you can divide into two sub-ideas. In my plans below I’ll describe the problems in one paragraph and the solutions in another.

To begin with, think about your main ideas for the essay. The main idea is the general idea, and the sub-ideas go into more detail. In this kind of essay, your main idea 1 is about the problem, while main idea 2 is about the solution.

Basic Problem/Cause & Solution Task Plan:

Main idea 1: problem/ cause:.

Sub-idea A: Problem/ Cause 1

Sub-idea B : Problem/ Cause 2

Main Idea 2: Solution:

Sub-idea A: Solution 1

Sub-idea B : Solution 2

Next, I’ll show you a detailed plan on how to structure the problem/ solution essay with links to articles which have more information.

Detailed Task Plan:

Introduction:.

Paraphrase question

Summarise main ideas 1 & 2

For more information on writing introductions click here

Body Paragraph 1 (Problem):

Topic Sentence: Summarise main idea 1. You may want to use “owing to ”/ “as a result of”/ “due to ” to give the reason for the problem. (see Giving Reasons/ Causes vocabulary below).

Introduce Sub-idea A: Describe the problem in one or two sentences.

Expand Sub-idea A: Write one or two sentences that explain/ support sub-idea A - say why or how it happens and/ or give an example. (see Giving Examples vocabulary below)

Result Statement: Explain the results of the problem. (see Results vocabulary below)

Introduce Sub-idea B: Use “Furthermore”, “In addition”, or “Moreover” and then describe the problem.

Expand Sub-idea B (as above)

Result Statement (as above)

For more information on writing essay body paragraphs click here

Body Paragraph 2 (Solution):

Topic Sentence: Summarise main idea 2 clearly. Use phrases such as “One solution is”/ “In order to address this problem”, etc. (see Proposing Solutions vocabulary below)

Introduce Sub-idea A: Describe the solution in one or two sentences.

Expand Sub-idea A: Write one or two sentences that explain/ support sub-idea A - say why or how it solves the problem and/ or give an example.

Result Statement: Explain the expected results of the solution. You can use the 2nd conditional here e.g. “This would lead to” . For more information on 2nd conditionals click here

Introduce Sub-idea B: Use “Furthermore”, “In addition”, or “Moreover”, and then describe the solution.

Conclusion:

Summarise main ideas 1 & 2: Begin with “In conclusion”/ “To conclude”/ “To summarise”/ “In summary”. Avoid repeating vocabulary. Use synonyms and parallel expressions.

Useful Vocabulary:

Below you’ll find the useful vocabulary that will help you when you write your problem/ cause and solution IELTS essay.

Giving Reasons/ Causes:

As a result of

…is a major cause of

....is a source of

...can contribute greatly to

…is the underlying cause of

The main cause of ………… is

….is due to

...are (important/ major) factors in

Giving Examples:

To give an example,

Suppose, for instance, that

As an example,

Good examples include

For instance,

For example,

This would lead to/ This leads to

This would mean that/ This means that

As a result

Consequently

As a consequence

By doing this

This will provide

In this way

A consequence of this is

This will create a situation where

This makes it

Proposing Solutions:

One solution to this problem is

In order to address this problem

In order to do this

It would be a good idea if

…should be encouraged to

Steps should be taken to

...should take measures to

The problem can be fixed by

So what does this essay look like in full? Keep reading below:

Problem/ Cause and Solution Task Example:

It is generally agreed that family relationships are not as close as they were in the past.

Explain why you think this has happened and suggest how family relationships could be made closer.

Essay Plan:

Main Idea 1: Changes in society make it harder to maintain close relationships

Sub-idea A: People are more likely to move to another area or city

Sub-idea B: People have very busy lives so have less time for family

Main Idea 2: People should make more effort to foster family relationships

Sub-idea A: People should meet up with family members more often

Sub-idea B: We can take advantage of modern communication technology

Now we have the main and sub-ideas for the essay, we are ready to write it.

Paraphrase question:

It is commonly thought that families are not as close-knit as they were previously.

Summarise main ideas 1 & 2: In my opinion this could be the result of changes in society that have made it harder for people to spend quality time with family members. In order to address this problem, it’s important that people make more effort to stay in touch with family, and they can leverage modern communication devices and applications to do this.

Topic Sentence:

As a result of various changes in society it is much harder for people to maintain close ties with their families than previously.

Introduce Sub-idea A:

For one, in the past, people tended to live very near relatives during their whole lives, whereas in today’s world this is not the case.

Expand Sub-idea A:

These days, people are more mobile and regularly move to different cities or even countries in order to find a better job, take advantage of better education or for some other opportunity.

Result Statement:

This makes it more difficult to socialise with relatives and therefore more difficult to maintain close relationships.

Introduce Sub-idea B:

Furthermore, people’s lives are busier today than they were in the past.

Expand Sub-idea B:

We have a plethora of work and personal responsibilities, not to mention all of the recreational and personal development opportunities now available.

This means that it is even harder to find time for family. People are often only able to focus on providing for their nuclear family, at the expense of bonds with siblings, cousins and other family members.

One solution to the problems causing weakening family relationships is for people to prioritise their family members and make more effort to foster family relationships.

People should get together with relatives more frequently and spend more quality time together.

For example, they could organise a weekly meal together, or a regular family day out.

As a consequence of these activities, family members would become closer.

Moreover, even if a person lives far away from their relatives, in the modern world we have a myriad of technologies which enable us to stay in touch with them.

Be it on Skype, Messenger, or any similar application, people can message and speak to their siblings, parents or others quickly and cheaply.

By doing this, people who live far apart from their family members would still be able to remain close with them.

In conclusion, changes in society have made it harder for people to maintain strong family bonds. However, if we make a little more effort, and take advantage of the communication technologies now available, there’s no reason why we can’t maintain close relationships with our families.

Finally, if we put it all together, we get a model essay for a problem/ cause and solution IELTS writing task 2.

Model Answer:

It is commonly thought that families are not as close-knit as they were previously. In my opinion this could be the result of changes in society that have made it harder for people to spend quality time with family members. In order to address this problem, it’s important that people make more effort to stay in touch with family, and they can leverage modern communication devices and applications to do this.

As a result of various changes in society it is much harder for people to maintain close ties with their families than previously. For one, in the past, people tended to live very near relatives during their whole lives, whereas in today’s world this is not the case. These days, people are more mobile and regularly move to different cities or even countries in order to find a better job, take advantage of better education or for some other opportunity. This makes it more difficult to socialise with relatives and therefore more difficult to maintain close relationships. Furthermore, people’s lives are busier today than they were in the past. We have a plethora of work and personal responsibilities, not to mention all of the recreational and personal development opportunities now available. This means that it is even harder to find time for family. People are often only able to focus on providing for their nuclear family, at the expense of bonds with siblings, cousins and other family members.

One solution to the problems causing weakening family relationships is for people to prioritise their family members and make more effort to foster family relationships. People should get together with relatives more frequently and spend more quality time together. For example, they could organise a weekly meal together, or a regular family day out. As a consequence of these activities, family members would become closer. Moreover, even if a person lives far away from their relatives, in the modern world we have a myriad of technologies which enable us to stay in touch with them. Be it on Skype, Messenger, or any similar application, people can message and speak to their siblings, parents or others quickly and cheaply. By doing this, people who live far apart from their family members would still be able to remain close with them.

Thanks for reading and I hope you found that helpful!

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IELTS Problem and Solution Essay

Problem-solution is one of the essay types that you may be asked to write during the IELTS test writing task 2 . In this article, we will take an in-depth look into problem and solution essays, how to recognize and answer them.

Always keep in mind, you won’t be able to write well-structured IELTS essays if you don’t know how to structure all 5 types of IELTS essays. So, now, let’s start learning about problem and solution essays.

How to Recognize Problem and Solution Essays

Obviously, the first thing you want to do when writing an IELTS essay is to determine the essay type.

Problem and solutions essays consist of two parts. The first part of the topic question describes an existing problem. The second part of the topic question asks what possible solutions you can propose to the problem.

At this point, you should have a basic idea about problem and solution questions and the way they look. Now, let’s take a question from an official IELTS Cambridge book and see it with a real example.

The question we will use is from Cambridge IELTS Book 10, Test 4:

Overpopulation in many urban centres around the world is a major problem. What are the causes of this and how can this problem be solved?

As you can see, the topic asks you to discuss a problem, which is overpopulation in urban centers. And then you have to think of some possible solutions to deal with this problem. This is a problem and solution essay. Whenever you see an essay question that describes a problem and asks you to give possible solutions to the problem, that is a problem and solution essay. No need to hesitate about the essay type!

Now, let’s move forward and understand how you should structure problem and solution essays.

Step 1. Plan your answer.

Understand the question..

Before beginning to write, make sure to understand what the question is asking for. Once you fully understand the question, it will be easier to give a relevant answer. For example, this question asks you to find the reasons why urban centres are becoming overpopulated and propose solutions to deal with this situation.

Additionally, since the question has “ you ” in it, it is, thus, asking for your opinion. IELTS essays always ask for your opinion, so writing in the first person is okay. You may use phrases like “ I believe ”, “ in my opinion. ”, “I have to state” and etc.

Plan the structure.

We recommend that you write 4 paragraphs for problem and solution essays – introduction, two main body paragraphs, and conclusion.

1. Introduction: topic and answer.

In the introduction, you need to write two sentences: The first should paraphrase the topic question and the second one should give some ideas on how the problem can be solved.

2. Body paragraph.

In the first body paragraph, you should discuss what causes the given problem. Try to give 2-3 ideas in this body paragraph with supporting examples. Write 5-7 sentences for this body paragraph.

3. Body paragraph.

In the second body paragraph, you should write your solutions to the problem. Again, try to write 5-7 sentences for this body paragraph.

4. Conclusion: repeat the answer.

In the conclusion paragraph, you should repeat the answer you stated in the introduction while summarizing the problems and steps you have written in the two body paragraphs. This should be easy to do. In a moment, we’ll show the way you can do it.

Plan ideas for two body paragraphs before writing

For the first body paragraph, you will write the causes. Some causes of this problem could be:

1. More jobs in urban centers and people move there to get a job

2. In urban centers education is better, that’s why people prefer staying there.

This body paragraph will need to include 5-6 sentences. The first sentence should introduce what the paragraph is about. You may write, “ There are several reasons why in urban centers the population is increasing rapidly. ” Then, you can follow the paragraph and add your points with supporting examples.

For the second body paragraph, propose solutions to the causes you stated in the first body paragraph. For this example, the solutions may be as follows:

1. The government can create jobs in rural areas so that people can work there.

2. Creating good schools in the countryside so that children can get a decent education outside of major cities.

This body paragraph will need to include five to six sentences, like the previous paragraph. The first sentence should introduce what the paragraph is about. You may write, “ There are solutions to decrease the population in urban centers. ” In the second through fifth sentences, you should list the solutions you have suggested. Try to divide two to three sentences for each idea while staying within five to six total sentences in the paragraph.

Understanding the question and planning the ideas should take you overall 7 minutes. Try to achieve this.

Once you understand the question and have planned your answer, it’s time to start writing the answer. 

Introduction Paragraph – IELTS Problem and Solution Essay

The introduction paragraph needs two sentences. The first sentence should be introducing the topic. In this example, the topic sentence can be similar to the following:

 “ It is undoubtedly true that overcrowding is a serious problem in many cities. There are a variety of reasons for this, but steps can definitely be taken to tackle this problem. ”

Beginning with the phrase “ It is undoubtedly true ” confirms that you agree that the problem mentioned in the question exists.

With the second sentence, we say that to solve this problem we should take some steps. And, we are going to write these steps in the second body paragraph.

You have not revealed any causes or solutions yet. You will present these in the body paragraphs. For now, you are introducing what you will talk about in the essay.

Body paragraph 1 – IELTS Problem and Solution Essay

Write the first body paragraph according to the plan. We should mention what are the reasons that cities are overpopulated. So, it could be:

“ On the one hand, there are a lot of reasons why in urban centers the population is increasing rapidly. First of all, in cities, there are more job opportunities and therefore people move to cities to seek employment. For example, many people struggle to find a job in their villages for a long time, but once they move to major cities, they land a job easily. Moreover, the lack of good schools in rural areas forces people to leave their homes and move to towns because their children will get a decent education. Hence, these people do not have another option except living in the cities where the standard of education is far better than in rural areas. ”

Here, we finish the first main body paragraph. We gave two reasons why urban centers becoming overpopulated place.

Now, we need to write the second body paragraph and propose solutions to the existing problem.

Body paragraph 2 – IELTS Problem and Solution Essay

Let’s start writing the second body paragraph. We will start it with the phrase “on the other hand ” because the first paragraph we started with the phrase “on the one hand”. Also, we will propose our solution to the existing problem.

“On the other hand, there are several actions which governments can take to improve the situation. The first and most obvious step is to create more job opportunities with competitive salaries in rural areas so that people will not move to the cities to find work. For example, in the countryside, governments can establish a tax-free system. Hence, people will be eager to start a business there and create jobs. Additionally, if governments create better schools near villages people will not need to move to the major cities to get a first-class education.

We gave two solutions which were relevant to the issues which cause the problem of overpopulation in urban centers.

Now, it’s time to write the conclusion and finish this essay.

Conclusion paragraph – IELTS Problem and Solution Essay

In the conclusion paragraph, you will need to summarize the problem and the solution. We already know the problem as we introduced it in the first body paragraph. We also know the solutions that we suggested, and we will summarize those, too. Your summary may be as follows:

“In conclusion, people tend to live in urban areas because of several benefits but governments can take certain actions to make these people happy in rural areas as well so that urban centres will not become overpopulated.”

ALISTAIR BROWN:  As a writing and speaking examiner for more than 10 years, I bring a lot of experience. I have seen the frustrations that students have with IELTS from a career where I have actively guided and corrected students’ studies. I am looking for the most effective ways to teach IELTS as I understand students’ needs.

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Problem Solution Essay IELTS: Topics & Sample Questions

  • Updated On December 12, 2023
  • Published In IELTS Preparation 💻

Problem and solution essay IELTS or cause and solution essay IELTS is a common type of essay question asked in IELTS Writing Task 2 Exam. Herein, a problem is presented to the candidate and you are asked to suggest relevant, specific, and possible solutions regarding the same.

You can either write about 2 problems with both their solutions or discuss one major problem and one solution. As long as you extend and explain your ideas, you will be able to communicate your thoughts to the examiner. Maintain a formal tone throughout your essay. In a problem and solution essay IELTS might ask the candidate to discuss any of the following:

  • Cause of the problem
  • Effect of a problem
  • Methods to prevent the problem
  • Possible and effective solutions to the problem

Problem Solution Essay IELTS

Problem Solution Essay Question: Evaluation Factors

IELTS writing tests are evaluated across 4 main factors or areas when your IELTS band scores are calculated. These areas are:

  • Achievement of the task – The examiner notices here to what extent you have addressed all the parts of the task with explained and well-developed ideas.
  • Cohesion and Coherence – The logical flow and organization of your ideas and information, are examined here. The examiner notices whether the essay has a logical progression of thoughts.
  • Lexical Resource – The vocabulary used in the essay and its accuracy is examined here. You should use lexical items with sophistication.
  • Grammatical accuracy and range – Lastly, the examiner evaluates whether the candidate has used the grammatical structures accurately. Sentences with sophisticated clauses and a clear flow should be used.

Tips to Create an IELTS Problem Solution Essay Structure

While structuring the essay in your head, make sure to use a proper approach for these questions. The steps to structure the essays are:

Analyze the question thoroughly

Analyzing the question is a crucial part of answering any IELTS writing essay questions. You can analyze the question in the best way through three main things:

  • Keywords : These are the specific words that inform you about the general topic.
  • Micro Keywords : These keywords identify the parts of the general topic that the examiner wants you to focus on. They generally give an opinion by emphasizing a sub-category of the topic.
  • Action Words : Instruction words or action words make it clear for the candidates what the examiner wants them to do.

Think of Ideas

Now that the purpose of the question is clear to you, form a specific idea for the essay in your head. For each problem you think of, identify a direct solution for the same.

Follow the structure & write down the essay

Write down the essay by ensuring to follow a proper structure, including an introduction, two body paragraphs, and a conclusion. The essay should include examples and discuss possible solutions.

Also Read: Latest 50+ IELTS Essay Topics in 2022

Problem Solution IELTS Essay Pattern

A basic four-paragraph structure should be used to structure the problem solution IELTS essays. The structure is as follows:

Paragraph 1 – Introduction

In the introduction paragraph, you can first paraphrase the statement part of the question and outline the ideas to be discussed in the essay further. Paraphrasing the questions means rephrasing the sentence without changing its meaning using synonyms. The outline sentence helps the examiner to understand what they can expect from the essay and thus ensure clarity. Cohesion and clarity play an important role in the scoring of the essay.

Paragraph 2 – Problems

In the second paragraph, state the problems you thought of and then explain the first problem and the second problem in the second half of the essay thoroughly.

Paragraph 3 – Solutions

In the third paragraph, list down the solutions to the problems listed above, the first solution with its examples, and then the second solution along with relevant examples that support the solution.

Paragraph 4 – Conclusion

In the conclusion paragraph, cover all the important points discussed in the above 3 paragraphs and end your essay.

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Problem Solution Essay IELTS: Topics & Sample Questions

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Problem Solution Essay IELTS: Topics & Sample Questions

Problem Solution Essay IELTS: Key Points to Remember

Some of the main points to remember while attempting the problem solution essay questions in IELTS are:

  • You have only 40 minutes to complete the essay writing task, and you have to write a minimum of 250 words.
  • Use linking words, collocations, and phrases to ensure a flow in the essay.
  • If you are using any facts or statistical data, make sure it is accurate and reliable.
  • Make sure that the introduction is clear and engaging. It helps the examiner to get a sense of what will be discussed in the essay further.
  • Use refined and accurate grammar and vocabulary, which will help the examiner understand your proficiency in the language.
  • Provide relevant examples to explain your content. An explanation of your opinions is the best way to ensure a higher IELTS score.
  • Identify the keywords and secondary keywords. Relate them with the problems and the solutions, and make sure to include the keywords in the content. 
  • Plan the problems you are going to discuss in your head and the possible solutions before writing them down.
  • The paragraphs should be ideally balanced by discussing the problems in one body paragraph and solutions in the second body paragraph.

Also Read: Updated List Vocabulary for IELTS 2022

Common Mistakes

Though problem solution essay IELTS is highly asked in the exam, there are some common mistakes that are made by the candidates. Some of these mistakes that a candidate can avoid while attempting these types of questions are:

  • Candidates often do not expand on their ideas and often list down a lot of problems and solutions. The examiners mark the essays on the basis of the explanation of the problems and solutions listed. It is usually advised to pick a problem or two along with their solutions and then explain them with relevant examples.
  • Another common mistake by the candidates is writing indirectly about solutions that are not directly related to the questions. You should opt for concrete ideas rather than writing a generalized answer. Identify the keywords and the micro-keywords from the question and try to include those in the topic.
  • Many people often list down good problems but fail to link them with the solutions. Each problem should have a directly linked solution that actually solves the problem.
  • Learn to identify the problem and solution and causes and solution questions as both of them might look similar but have a certain difference in how they are to be structured.
  • Avoid writing in absolute terms by using qualifiers which ensure that your sentences look like claims rather than proven facts.

Problem Solution Essay IELTS Sample Questions

There are many themes for the problem solution essay topics IELTS related to various problems. Some of the problem solution essay IELTS topics questions for your practice are as given below:

Theme 1 – Cities

  • Nowadays, it is getting difficult for people to enjoy their lives in cities. Why do you think this is? What can the government do to make life in cities more enjoyable?
  • In large cities, the issue of overpopulation has been a significant cause of concern which leads to a lack of jobs and traffic congestion. What is the cause of this? How can government help in solving this problem?
  • In many cities and urban areas around the world, crime is increasing. What is the cause of this? How can governments help to prevent the crimes?

Theme 2 – Technology & the internet

  • People from older generations face difficulty in using new technology. What is the cause behind this? What are some possible solutions to this problem?
  • A lot of children spend time on social media surfing the internet and playing video games which hurts their studies and grades and makes them experience loneliness and health problems such as obesity. What is the reason behind this? What can the parents do to prevent it?
  • The internet has changed the way information is consumed and shared among people. What are some serious issues a person can face associated with the internet, and what solutions can be implemented?

Theme 3 – Environment or Climate Change

  • Sea levels are steadily rising in recent years. What do you think is the reason behind this? How can it be fixed?
  • Many countries around the world are suffering from poor water and air quality, which is harmful to all of us, especially older people. What is the cause of this? How can it be solved?
  • Climate change and global warming is a serious threat the world is facing, which is reducing the average life expectancy. What are some causes of this? How can governments and healthcare sectors solve this problem?

IELTS Advantages & Disadvantage Essay Topics   

Foreign Language IELTS Sample Essay

A sample of the Problem Solution Essay Example Question IELTS for Writing Test 2 is given below for your reference:

As social media continue to develop, more and more youngsters have unsupervised access to all the contents available over the internet in order to meet and chat with friends and even strangers, which can lead to some potentially dangerous situations. What solutions can you suggest to deal with this problem?

IELTS Problem Solution Essay

In the modern era, a large number of young people use the internet to meet and talk with friends via social media. Due to social media and the growth of the internet in the 21st century, many children are facing issues related to their health and the expression of their feelings as a result of the lack of face-to-face interaction. This issue can be solved by opting for some measures.

To begin with, there are many people all over the world who use the internet for their work or education purposes. As a result, everyone uses it until late at night, which can lead to a variety of health issues, such as vision problems from constantly staring at computers or mobile phones and spinal curvatures from excessive sitting in front of computers and laptops. Secondly, due to the nature of online meetings and conversations, there is a lack of face-to-face interaction among people due to which youngsters are unable to express their feelings due to the loss of peer interaction.

Parents can help in resolving these issues by blocking the access of children to websites that are not children-friendly. In addition to that, parents can encourage children to go out and play instead of being on the internet all day in exchange for a surprise or more quality time. Social media companies can also contribute to the solution by restricting the access of children to the platforms on the basis of their age, which can protect them from content that is not suitable for them. For example, the social media platform Facebook recently updated its privacy policies to restrict access to children under the age of ten.

To summarize, young people use the internet to interact with various types of people online without any supervision, which gives them a sense of freedom and confidence in sending unethical messages to others. To stay out of it, parents should monitor their communication and provide suitable guidance and advice to their children.

Problem Solution Essay IELTS is a type of question that includes problems for which you have to find the solutions through a logical flow of thought. 40 minutes are given to complete the 250 words essay writing task. The structure of the essay for a problem-solving question includes an introduction, discussion of problems, possible solutions with examples, and a conclusion. 

The introduction has an overview of the essay. The main body paragraphs discuss the problems along with their direct solutions and examples. The conclusion paragraph summarizes your opinion on the task. You need to discuss the problems caused by the issues and the measures to reduce or eliminate the problem altogether.

You do not just need to state problems and solutions but also need to explain the thought process to reach that solution. Make sure the essay is readable and has a logical flow and cohesion.

You can practice for the Problem Solution Essay IELTS by writing on various topics or themes available on the internet ranging from the internet, cities, poverty, problems of rural areas or developing countries, lifestyle in developed countries, success, news, etc.

Related Articles:

  • Guide on How to Score 8+ Band in IELTS Speaking
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Frequently Asked Questions

Can i write the problem and solution both in one paragraph.

Ans. No, you can not write the problem and solution both in the same paragraph as this will affect the flow and understanding of the essay. The cause and the solution or the problems and the solution will both be discussed in two different paragraphs of the main body.

How can I identify a problem solution essay type?

Ans. In the problem solution essay questions, a topic is given, and you will have to discuss the issues or problems faced in regards to that particular topic. Often, these questions can also ask for your opinion on a particular issue.

What is the difference between a cause solution essay and a problem solution essay?  

Ans. Problem solution essay and cause solution essay are highly similar. However, there is a subtle difference between the two. A problem solution essay question asks about the problem with regards to a particular topic, whereas the cause solution essay asks about the causes behind an issue. The problem is to be mentioned in both the essays. However, in the cause solution essay, you should focus more on the cause of that particular statement.

How can I write a solution paragraph? 

Ans. First of all, for a solution paragraph, you need to develop ideas related to the given problem in your mind to check whether or not your ideas are directly relevant to the problem. After then, you have to decide how you will explain the solution to all the problems in a precise manner. After then, develop your solution with the help of a detailed explanation.

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How to Structure a Cause and Solution Essay [IELTS Writing Task 2]

Posted by David S. Wills | Mar 30, 2021 | IELTS Tips , Writing | 0

How to Structure a Cause and Solution Essay [IELTS Writing Task 2]

Today, we are going to look at the process of writing an answer to a cause and solution IELTS essay . This is a common question type that will generally ask you to describe a cause (or reason) for an issue and then suggest some solutions.

What are Cause and Solution Essays?

In IELTS writing task 2, you may be asked to discuss the cause of a problem and then suggest some solutions to solve it. There are a wide array of possibilities and sometimes the words “cause” and “solution” are not actually used, so it can be a little difficult to spot these.

Here is an example:

Some people get into debt buying things they don’t need and can’t afford. What are the reasons for this behaviour? What action can be taken to prevent people having this problem?

In the first part, it does not say “what is the cause?” Instead, it says “What are the reasons…?” This is why it is important to read carefully and to think in terms of synonyms. In the second question, it does not say “solutions,” but instead says “What actions can… prevent…?” Again, if you read carefully you will realise this means “What are the solutions to the problem?”

Structure for Cause and Solution Essays

Thankfully, it is very easy to structure a cause and solution essay for IELTS. You simply need to write four paragraphs, with one body paragraph about the causes and one body paragraph about the solutions:

  • Introduction – introduce the topic
  • Body paragraph #1 – explain the causes of the problem
  • Body paragraph #2 – explain the solutions to the problem
  • Conclusion – summarise briefly

This is very, very easy to do. However, today I would like to show you a little more. In fact, I am going to discuss some complicated issues to help you produce a more advanced essay structure.

how to structure ielts essays for cause and solution

How Many Causes and How Many Solutions?

When I talk about IELTS essay structures, I often tell people to write just one main idea per paragraph. This is because for IELTS it is really important to give development and if you write too much then it can end up more like a list than an essay.

However, with cause and solution essays, you can get into multiple causes and multiple solutions if you are careful. Whilst it is fine to write one single cause and one single solution, you might find it easier to list many. However, I would suggest that you must structure this more carefully because you need to link the causes and solutions clearly.

For each cause, you could find one direct solution and link them in the following way:

advanced structure for cause and solution essay

I would recommend using a maximum of three problems and solutions for the aforementioned reason of development. If you wrote a list of five or six, you would not realistically be able to explain them properly.

To understand this better, let’s look at an example cause and solution question:

More and more wild animals are on the verge of extinction and others are on the endangered list. What are the reasons for this? What can be done to solve this problem?

When I read this question, I first thought, “Wow! It’s really hard to answer it because it’s such a vast issue!” Thus, I would want to mention many factors. Rather than listing them, I’ll boil them down to three causes and three direct solutions:

The benefit of this method is that I can include three big ideas about the problems and then counter each of them with a specific solution. The drawback of course is that I cannot go into much detail. This will be more of a problem for the solution section because obviously issues like “ending deforestation” are incredibly complex and require a lot of discussion. However, you cannot say everything for IELTS.

In order to put across the complexity of the situation and show my understanding of it, I will mention several times that it will be difficult to solve and that the problem is very serious. I will conclude my “solutions” paragraph with a note about the unlikeliness of any real change happening because it is true and also in order to counter any complaints about my ideas being unrealistic.

Sample Band 9 Answer

It is apparent nowadays that humans have had a devastating effect on the environment, and in particular we have caused the extinction of countless species of animals. This essay will explore the reasons for this and mention some possible solutions.

To begin with, there are various causes for the reduction in animal populations around the world. Perhaps the main cause is the destruction of their environment. Humans have cut down rainforests and polluted the seas, which has meant that animal no longer have their natural habitat and thus cannot survive. Beyond that, they are poached in order to satisfy the demand for fake medicines in Asia. Every day, elephants and rhinos are killed in Africa and then sent to China. Beyond that, the growing demand for fish has meant that vast fleets of fishing boats trawl the seas, causing the eradication of wildlife there. Many whales and dolphins, for example, are caught up in these nets as a tragic by-product of the industry.

Fixing this problem will be difficult and for many species it is already too late. The most important factor will be the cessation of deforestation in places like Brazil and Malaysia. Humans have to recognise the value of nature rather than focusing on obtaining more land for farming or housing. Education needs to be drastically improved in Asia and also punishments strictly enforced to end the sadistic trafficking of animals for these so-called medicines. Finally, ethical fishing needs to be practised, with limits on trawl nets and ranges for fishing boats. Sadly, none of this is particularly likely due to a lack of concern amongst most of the citizens of the world, and so of course education must be improved before it is too late.

In conclusion, there are various factors that have caused the tragic loss of biodiversity in this world, but there are some steps that could be taken to mitigate the damage.

About The Author

David S. Wills

David S. Wills

David S. Wills is the author of Scientologist! William S. Burroughs and the 'Weird Cult' and the founder/editor of Beatdom literary journal. He lives and works in rural Cambodia and loves to travel. He has worked as an IELTS tutor since 2010, has completed both TEFL and CELTA courses, and has a certificate from Cambridge for Teaching Writing. David has worked in many different countries, and for several years designed a writing course for the University of Worcester. In 2018, he wrote the popular IELTS handbook, Grammar for IELTS Writing and he has since written two other books about IELTS. His other IELTS website is called IELTS Teaching.

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Preparation for the IELTS Exam

IELTS writing task 2: How to write a causes solution essay

IELTS problem solution essay

Step by step guide to writing a causes solution essay.

Updated : August 2022.

A common type of IELTS task 2 essay is the Problem Solution or Causes Solution essay. Here you will need to write about the causes of the problem in main body one and recommendations or possible solutions that could solve the issue in main body two. I could have a 3rd body paragraph but I prefer the 2 main body approach.

In this lesson we will look at:

1. A good structure for a causes/problem solution essay. 2. How to analyse the question. 3. Tips on thinking of ideas for the essay. 4. Getting ideas effectively. 5. How to paraphrase the question and write a good introduction. 6. How to build main body paragraphs. 7. How to write an effective conclusion. 8. Model Answer.

In this type of IELTS essay, you can either write about 2 problems and 2 solutions or just 1 problem and 1 solution as long as you develop and extend your ideas. Both are fine there is no one particular magic structure that will guarantee a high band score.

Example of one problem one solution structure.

how to write problem and solution essay ielts

Analyse the question.

This is the first thing that needs to be done before getting ideas or writing anything. Let’s look at the question.

All over the world, societies are facing a growing problem with obesity. This problem affects both children and adults. What are the reasons for this rise in obesity, How could it be tackled?

Keywords: all over the world, societies, a growing problem, obesity, affects children and adults,

(The general topic is about obesity, however, we need to focus on the issues. Keywords such as “all over the world” “societies” ” affects children/adults” “growing problem” It is important to write about the issues by looking at the keywords, not just a general essay on obesity.)

Instruction words: These words show what kind of essay you will need to write, there are 5 essay types and each structure is different. In this case, the instruction words are: “what are the reasons for this? ” and “how could it be tackled?” . I have to write about the reasons for the problem and how can the problem be solved. This is a causes solution essay.

Tips on getting ideas for the essay.

1. listing pros and cons or problems and solutions:.

This idea might work well for a problem solution essay or an advantage disadvantage essay but for the other types of essay, it might not work very well. You just list problems on the left and solutions on the right. (I will use this method in this lesson.) but remember we only choose one or two problems and solutions to write about.

This took me about 2 minutes to list them, so now I need to select just 1 or 2 problems and 1 or 2 solutions and write about those. I do not need all these ideas, be selective here.

Important: do not just write a list of problems in the essay. You have to explain the causes of the problem and give specific examples and a suggestion for what action should be taken in the body paragraphs. You only need to write about 1 or 2 problems and suggest solutions. Don’t waste time brainstorming ideas or going into too much detail because you will not have time.

2. Asking questions to yourself:

This technique is very useful for getting ideas quickly, remember that you don’t have much preparation time before writing. So you write a statement and ask yourself questions, like having a conversation with yourself. This works well for an opinion essay or discussion essay.

By the way, you can just use one problem and one solution and still get a Band 7 if the essay is well supported and developed.

how to write problem and solution essay ielts

You have a little conversation with yourself to get ideas and then write some notes. Imagine you are with a friend and they are having a conversation with you about this topic. Keep it short though because you have to now think of paraphrasing the question and writing a thesis statement.

Giving Examples

You do not need to be an expert on the topic, but you need to give an opinion and support it with specific examples. Another thing to bear in mind is the specific examples you give do not have to be accurate. For example, if I say “the consumption of fast food in the UK has risen by 24% since 2002 “ that sounds fine, but if I say “ it has risen by 98% “ then that just doesn’t sound believable.

Click this link on how to give examples in body paragraphs.

Tip: The IELTS test is not a general knowledge test. It is designed to test your English ability and the way you can back up your arguments with examples. Many students are scared and think their facts, opinions or statistics will be cross-checked. The examiner is not going to check online to see if your facts or statistics are correct, they just don’t have time to do that.

How to paraphrase the question and write an effective introduction.

Now it is time to paraphrase the question for the introduction and add a thesis statement. Here is the question again.

Paraphrased version:

Nations worldwide are dealing with the increasing issue of obesity. This is a cause for concern for all age groups.

These are the words and phrases that I have paraphrased using synonyms.

  • All over the world – Worldwide
  • Societies – Nations
  • Are facing a growing problem with.. – Are dealing with the increasing issue of…
  • This problem affects both children and adults – This is a cause for concern for all age groups

Have you noticed that I didn’t paraphrase everything?  It is not necessary to change every single word. Also, I changed the phrase “All over the world, societies are….” to a much simpler “ Nations worldwide” . It’s not just about paraphrasing words with synonyms the grammar can be slightly altered too. Now I need to state the causes of the problems and possible solutions in the Thesis statement.

The Thesis Statement.

There are two main causes, overconsumption of fast food and a lack of exercise. Possible solutions would be a government tax on fast food and special incentives on gym membership to get people exercising.’

Keep the thesis statement short and to the point. Another method is to state the causes of the problem and refer to the fact that there are possible solutions to the issue. This means you will have a much more concise thesis statement. Example below.

This is caused by overconsumption of fast food and a lack of exercise, however, some steps can be taken to resolve this.

Remember: Your main body paragraphs will reflect the thesis statement so you must plan your thesis statement well.

Here is the introduction in full.

Nations worldwide are dealing with the increasing issue of obesity. This is a cause for concern for all age groups. There are two main causes, overconsumption of fast food and lack of exercise. Possible solutions would be a government tax on fast food and special incentives for gym membership to get people exercising.

This introduction is around 54 words. Keep it concise it is not necessary to have a long introduction.

Main body paragraphs.

I have chosen 2 key problems which are fast food and lack of exercise so I want to stick with those and not go off onto another topic. Do not suddenly change your ideas in the middle of writing you will lose time. Take a look at the idea below.

One of the reasons people are becoming obese these days is that they eat junk food like hamburgers and chips. The solution is for the government to raise taxes on fast food.

Is there enough detail here? Is there anything missing from this paragraph? How can I improve it? The answer is that I need more detail and a specific example, not just a general example . I need to explain what can be done to solve the problem. I can also write about what the result of the solution could be.

In this case, I will go with 2 causes 2 solutions

Key: Green = main topic sentence, Blue = give an explanation, Purple = give an example,  Orange = give a possible solution,  Grey = result of the possible solution (you don’t have to use this though)

  • One of the reasons that people are becoming overweight these days is that they are eating more junk food, ready meals and convenience food rather than cooking healthy meals at home. This is because many people tend to lead a busy life and after a long day at work it is easier to just buy ready meals in the supermarket or get a takeaway. For instance, In the UK sales of these types of foods have risen dramatically since 1990. This is due to busy people seeing cooking at home as time-consuming. To tackle this issue the government should take steps to increase tax on high fat, high sugar or unhealthy foods. Therefore consumers would think twice about the foods they consume, which could lead to them losing weight.

Now I will use the same technique to write the main body 2 paragraph about lack of exercise.

  • Another problem that needs to be considered is the lack of exercise. As a result of leading a busy life or work pressures, many people are just too tired to go to the gym or join a sports club. For example, after a hard day at work, most people prefer to just come home and sit in front of the TV. It goes without saying that when people have time off they tend to relax rather than going to a gym. One possible solution is for employers to consider the health and well being of their employees and offer in-house company gyms or special incentives, such as discounts to join a sports or fitness club. If this is implemented it would have a positive effect on peoples health and a reduction in weight gain.

Some key phrases for introducing the causes of the problem and giving solutions

  • Problem: One of the main reasons for…..   Solution : To tackle this issue…..
  • Problem: Another problem to consider is…  Solution : One possible solution is….
  • Problem : One main cause of…….   Solution : The way forward could be to…..
  • Problem: A particular cause for concern is …   Solution: To solve this problem…

Examples for introducing problems: 


  • One of the main reasons for people becoming overweight these days is that they are eating junk food, ready meals and convenience food…
  • Another problem that needs to be considered is the lack of exercise…..

Grammar for showing possible results/outcomes: 


  • Therefore, consumers would think twice about the food they consume…..
  • As a result, this would have a positive effect on peoples health…..
  • Unless action is taken, the problem will get worse……
  • If the government takes steps to address the issue, the problem could be resolved…
  • This would result in a reduction of obesity/This would lead to a reduction in obesity…

Key point on giving examples in body paragraphs: Something that is important for backing up your supporting points is giving specific examples, such as “In the UK sales of these types of food have risen dramatically since 1990” . You can give statistics but they are not really necessary. The examiner is not going to google your information and check. The aim of this is to show how you can use examples to back up your points.

How to write a good conclusion.

Now let’s take a look at the conclusion. Here you need to briefly summarise the 2 problems and 2 solutions with a recommendation or prediction sentence.

Key: Green = cohesive device,  Orange = summarise the 2 problems,  Blue = summarise the 2 solutions,  Purple = recommendation or prediction sentence

  • In conclusion, being overweight is an increasing issue because of consumption of fast food, convenience foods and lack of exercise due to work commitments. The government needs to look at taxing fast food and companies should set up incentives for gyms, sports or fitness clubs. Unless this issue is tackled soon, then the problem of obesity will lead to a higher mortality rate in the future.

The last sentence is optional (the recommendation prediction sentence) but this is a good idea to include if you think the essay is under 250 words.
 The conclusion should briefly repeat the main points you were writing about in the main bodies of the essay. Be sure to keep the conclusion short and simple, about 3 sentences is enough.

You must write a conclusion, If you do not write a conclusion you will lose a Band score in task response. One useful method is to paraphrase your introduction in the conclusion.

Examples of cohesive devices to conclude.

Just choose one of these in the conclusion. Some words that should not be used to conclude are ‘ All in all, Finally, Lastly, in the end, In a nutshell, I reckon … ‘ don’t use these, they are informal or are inappropriate.

Model Answer (2 causes 2 solutions)

Nations worldwide are dealing with the increasing issue of obesity. This is a cause for concern for all age groups. There are two main causes, over-consumption of fast food and lack of exercise. Possible solutions would be a government tax on fast food and special incentives for gym membership to get people exercising.

One of the reasons that people are becoming overweight these days is that they are eating more junk food, ready meals and convenience food rather than cooking healthy meals at home. This is because many people tend to lead a busy life after a long day at work it is easier to just buy ready meals in the supermarket or get a takeaway. For instance, In the UK, sales of these types of foods have risen considerably since 1990, this is due to busy people seeing cooking at home as time-consuming. To tackle this issue the government should take steps to increase the tax on high fat, high sugar or unhealthy foods. Therefore, consumers would think twice about the foods they consume, which could lead to them losing weight.

Another problem that needs to be considered is the lack of exercise. As a result of leading a hectic life with pressures at work, many people are just too tired to go to the gym or join a sports club. For example, after a hard day at work, most people prefer to just come home and sit in front of the TV. Furthermore, when people have time off they tend to relax rather than go to a gym. One possible solution is for employers to consider the health and well being of their employees and offer in-house company gyms or special incentives, such as discounts to join a sports or fitness club. If this is implemented it would have a positive effect on peoples health and a reduction in weight gain.

In conclusion, being overweight is an increasing issue because of consumption of fast food, convenience foods and not enough exercise due to work commitments. The government needs to look at taxing fast food and companies should set up incentives for gyms, sports or fitness clubs.

Note:   The essay doesn’t have to be this long , I did this for example purposes only, aim for around 260 to 290 words as you will not have the time to write a long essay in the exam.

Remember that there is no magic structure that can guarantee you a high band score for an IELTS essay. You can have 1 problem 1 solution as long as it is well supported or 2 problems 2 solutions or a 3rd body paragraph.

Just work with whatever you feel comfortable with. The essay must have an introduction and a conclusion though, and no more than 3 body paragraphs.

Any questions? comment below.

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2 thoughts on “IELTS writing task 2: How to write a causes solution essay”

I would like to appreciate the way you explained each and everything in a very simple and concise way. Appreciated.

Thanks, glad it was useful.. Ray

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Ielts test format explained.

Test takers who understand the format of IELTS are at an advantage. Make sure you’re familiar with how IELTS testing works.

There are two IELTS tests available, IELTS Academic and IELTS General Training . Both tests are graded in exactly the same way. 

You’ll take the first three parts of the test on the same day, in the following order: Listening, Reading and Writing (there are no breaks between these tests). Your Speaking test will be held either on the same day or seven days before or after that, depending on local arrangements.

The IELTS Listening test is designed to assess a wide range of listening skills, including how well you

  • understand main ideas and specific factual information
  • recognise the opinions, attitudes and purpose of a speaker
  • follow the development of an argument

Take a free listening practice test.

You will need to read quickly and efficiently, and manage your time. You will be asked to read three different passages and respond to related questions in your IELTS Reading test. The content of the Reading test is different for IELTS Academic and IELTS General Training tests.

The IELTS Reading test is designed to assess a wide range of reading skills, including how well you

  • read for the general sense of a passage
  • read for the main ideas
  • read for detail
  • understand inferences and implied meaning
  • recognise a writer’s opinions, attitudes and purpose

Academic Reading

 General Training Reading

Take a free reading practice test.

The IELTS Writing test is designed to assess a wide range of writing skills, including how well you

  • write a response appropriately
  • organise ideas
  • use a range of vocabulary and grammar accurately

Academic Writing

General Training Writing

Take a free writing practice test.

You will talk to a certified examiner in the IELTS Speaking test. The test is interactive and as close to a real-life situation as a test can get. A variety of accents may be used, and the test will be recorded.

The content of the IELTS Speaking test is the same for both the IELTS Academic and IELTS General Training tests.

The IELTS Speaking test is designed to assess a wide range of skills.

The examiner will want to see how well you can

  • communicate opinions and information on everyday topics and common experiences; to do this you will need to answer a range of questions
  • speak at length on a given topic using appropriate language
  • organise your ideas coherently
  • express and justify your opinions
  • analyse, discuss and speculate about issues

Make sure that you relax and talk fluently. You will need to speak naturally.

Take a free speaking practice test.

Video-Call Speaking test

From July 2020, some of our IELTS test centres will start delivering the IELTS Speaking test via video calls. This means more flexibility and more availability of IELTS Speaking tests.

You will take the Video-Call Speaking test at an official IELTS test centre with the same high standard of identity verification. The test will be exactly the same as the in-person Speaking test in terms of content, scoring, timing, level of difficulty, question format and security arrangements.  Delivered by an IELTS Speaking Examiner, the video-call Speaking test will maintain the face-to-face feature of the in-person Speaking test.

This test is currently available in Albania, Egypt, Hong Kong, Malaysia, North Macedonia, Oman, Philippines, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand, Turkey, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, Uzbekistan and Vietnam.

For more information, please contact us .

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Writing IELTS examples to be prepared for the big day

Home >> Writing IELTS examples to be prepared for the big day

14th Dec 2023 |

By Sergio Beltran

Are you taking the IELTS soon? Then you should be prepared. Check out this writing IELTS examples to complete the module successfully. Discover how to get the best score that you can

In the diverse and multicultural landscape of Canada, the IELTS plays a pivotal role for individuals from all walks of life . It serves as a key instrument for those seeking to fully integrate and excel in this nation. Achieving a strong score opens doors to better employment prospects and educational opportunities. So, if you are taking this exam,  you will get the most out of this  writing  IELTS examples to have a successful outcome .

Remember that  this part of the exam seeks to evaluate your understanding of the main ideas, the recognition of the attitudes and opinions of the author, and the ability to follow up an argument and draw conclusions from the text

Book now your IELTS exam

Writing IELTS examples: How is the structure of the exam?

As you may know,  there are two variations of the IELTS exam: Academic and General Training . The first one is  suitable for educational processes , such as college or university admissions. The second one is for  migration and improving your professional career . However, if you are not sure about which test is the best for you, you can  check our website to learn about their differences  and characteristics.

Keep reading to discover some writing IELTS examples regarding both types of exams . We will present some practice questions and tips to answer them correctly. You should know that you have 60 minutes to complete the whole section, which includes two tasks.

It is recommended to take 20 minutes to complete this task in both Academic and  General Training .

IELTS Academic

You will be given a graphic, chart, map, or diagram to summarize and explain the information in your own words . You might be asked to describe data, the stages of a process, and how an object works, among others. Here are some writing IELTS examples regarding this matter:

  • You are presented with a pie chart showing the distribution of a student’s monthly expenses. Write a report for a university lecturer describing the information shown below. The text should have 150 words. 

how to write problem and solution essay ielts

Here are  some tips  to answer correctly:

  • Write an introduction.
  • Write an overview or a summary.
  • Highlight the key features.
  • Create a full paragraph with no bullets.

It should look something like this:

The provided pie chart illustrates the breakdown of a student’s monthly expenses. They are divided into four main categories: rent, transportation, food, and other.

Rent constitutes the largest portion of the student’s budget, accounting for 60% of their total expenses. Food comes second, making up 20% of it. Transportation is the third most significant category, representing 10% of the monthly spending. Other expenses, which include books, personal care, and miscellaneous items, account for the remaining 5% of the budget.

In conclusion, this pie chart provides a clear overview of how this student allocates his or her monthly income. Rent and food are the two most substantial expenses, while transportation and other expenses make up the rest of their budget. Understanding these spending patterns can be valuable for financial planning and budget management. In this way, he or she would be able to analyze how to save money, cut unnecessary costs, and maybe consider having a side hustle to increase his or her savings.

Two women studying together to take the IELTS

IELTS General Training

You are presented with a situation around a topic of general interest, and  you must write a letter  in response to it . These scenarios might be  formal, semi-formal, or informal . The first and second cases usually are  professional-related topics . The third one is about  writing to a friend or family member .

You will be given three points to cover in your letter, which should be around 150 words . The idea is to evaluate if you approach all the required topics and the number of words, coherence and cohesion, lexical resources, grammatical range, and accuracy.

Here is one of the writing IELTS examples that will be more useful:

  • You recently moved to a new apartment, and you have discovered a problem with the kitchen faucet. Write a letter to your landlord describing the issue, explaining how it is affecting your daily life, and requesting prompt repair.

These are  some tips to answer correctly :

  • Make sure to cover all the points above  (describe the issue, explain how it affects your daily life, and ask for a solution).
  • Be careful with the tone that your letter should have  (formal or semi-formal).
  • Introduce yourself and state your reason for writing .
  • Write body paragraphs.
  • Choose a polite and adequate closing.

Here is a model:

Dear Mr. Thomas,

I hope this letter finds you well. I am Sam, your tenant, and I am writing to bring to your attention    a maintenance issue in my apartment that requires your immediate attention. The problem pertains to the kitchen faucet. Recently, I have noticed that it has been leaking steadily, despite my efforts to tighten it. The leak has now escalated to the point where it results in a constant drip. In consequence, not only is it wasting water, but it is also causing water puddles on the kitchen counter, which poses a potential hazard. Additionally, the persistent dripping noise has become quite disruptive, especially during the quiet hours of the evening and early morning.

I kindly request that you arrange for the repair or replacement of the kitchen faucet as soon as possible. I understand that timely maintenance is essential to ensure the functionality and comfort of the apartment, and I would greatly appreciate your prompt attention to this matter. Please do not hesitate to contact me at 31476890654 or [email protected] if you require any further information or access to the apartment for repairs.

Thank you for your understanding and cooperation,

A woman taking notes in a notebook

This format  is the same for both Academic and General Training. You must write an informal essay of at least 250 words . It is recommended that you dedicate around  40 minutes  to complete this task. The objective is to assess your ability to address the given topic in the determined number of words, your vocabulary, grammatical range, critical thinking, analysis, and development of ideas, among others.

Here is a sample question. Remember that you can prepare better for the exam if you look for writing IELTS examples:

  • In many countries, the gap between the rich and the poor is widening. What problems does this trend cause, and what solutions can you suggest?

Your essay should:

  • Have a clear structure  (introduction, body paragraphs, and conclusion).
  • Provide relevant examples and evidence to support your opinion.
  • Examine the problems associated with the topic and possible solutions.
  • Tackle advantages and disadvantages.

It should look like this:

Income inequality, characterized by the widening gap between the affluent and the economically disadvantaged, poses a range of serious problems in many countries. This trend, if left unchecked, can result in social unrest, economic instability, and reduced overall well-being for society. However, there are several strategies that governments and societies can adopt to mitigate these issues and promote a fairer distribution of wealth.

One of the primary problems associated with income inequality is the exacerbation of poverty. As the wealth gap widens, the impoverished are further marginalized, with limited access to quality education, healthcare, and job opportunities. This not only hinders their personal development but also places additional burdens on social welfare systems. Moreover, income inequality can lead to heightened social tensions and a sense of injustice, potentially resulting in protests, strikes, or even civil unrest.

Economically, income inequality can hinder long-term growth. When a significant portion of the population lacks the purchasing power to drive consumer demand, economic activity stagnates. This can lead to reduced investment, fewer job opportunities, and decreased economic mobility for the middle and lower classes. Ultimately, it jeopardizes a nation’s economic stability and competitiveness on the global stage.

To address these challenges, governments can implement a range of policies aimed at reducing income inequality. Progressive taxation systems, for instance, can require the affluent to pay a higher percentage of their income in taxes, thereby redistributing wealth to fund social programs and support the marginalized. Additionally, investments in education, job training, and healthcare can empower individuals to escape the cycle of poverty and contribute to economic growth.

In conclusion, the widening income gap between the rich and the poor has far-reaching consequences, including social unrest and economic instability. However, through progressive policies that promote wealth redistribution and invest in the well-being and education of all citizens, societies can work toward a fairer and more equitable future. Nations must address income inequality to ensure the long-term prosperity and harmony of their populations.

Follow these writing IELTS examples

Now, with these writing IELTS examples, you are fully equipped to do your best and answer correctly. Remember that  preparation is key to success . You can also check the resources that are available online. Good luck!

Visit the IELTS Canada homepage to find out more

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Does the IELTS Essay Question Repeat? Get the Answer Here!

The IELTS writing task 2 is the second question of the writing section and is considered the most important question of the IELTS exam . It weighs 66% of your score on the writing test. The essay must have a word limit of 250 words and it will take around 40 minutes to answer the question. The essay must be written in a formal style. Continue reading this article to know more about IELTS essay questions and their different types.

Also Read: Synonyms for IELTS Writing Task 2: Enhance Your IELTS Writing Score

How to Answer Essay Questions in IELTS?

Answering the IELTS essay questions is not an easy task. You must understand the topic before you answer it. Before you start answering the question, you must understand what the examiner wants from you. If you don’t answer the question accordingly then you won’t be able to score a good band in your writing section. You also need to brainstorm your answers. Students who score the maximum marks in the IELTS exam are the ones who prepare 10 – 15 minutes beforehand. By doing this you can save a lot of time and write a concise essay.

You need to follow a basic structure while answering this question. You must start with a basic introduction to the topic, followed by a statement supporting your opinion. Once you have made your choice clear, provide facts to justify your choice of opinion. You must also state the opposing point once to let the examiner know about it. Conclude the essay by summarizing your opinions.

Does the IELTS Essay Question Repeat in the IELTS Exam?

Students often wonder whether the essay questions are repeated or not. The answer is No. The essay questions never repeat, but the topic might. You may receive a question on recycling like “ Recycling is seen as too little too late. To what extent do you agree with this statement?” and another question like “Recycling is obligatory in many countries these days. However, in some it is not. How can we encourage other countries to recycle more”. Some of the most common topics in the IELTS writing section are mentioned below:

  • Environment
  • Development
  • Globalization
  • Public Transport
  • Criminal Justice
  • Youth Crime
  • Government Spending

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Also Read: IELTS Writing Task 2 Topics with Answers: Here’re the Previous Year Question Paper at Your Rescue

IELTS Agree or Disagree Essay Questions

In the IELTS agree or disagree essay you must either agree or disagree with the statement, or you can give your opinion which contains a balanced answer to the statement in question. This does not mean that you can support both sides. You must mention a clear opinion to receive a good score. An example essay is mentioned below.

Big salary is much more important than job satisfaction. Do you agree or disagree? Provide relevant examples if necessary. It is often argued that it is more advantageous to choose a job with a high wage, even if it doesn’t appeal to you at all. I completely disagree with this opinion and think that job satisfaction is much more important than salary. First of all, I believe that job satisfaction gives people a sense of fulfilment that no money can guarantee. Even if someone is earning a high salary, but feels tensed and compromises with his conscience, this person won’t enjoy his life. While pursuing one’s interests will always bring pleasure and a feeling of satisfaction. For example, a lot of famous researchers made their career choices, not because of appealing wages, but because they were passionate about science.
That’s why it’s more important to choose the kind of work that makes you happy than to look only at a high salary. Secondly, doing what you like keeps you motivated and therefore leads to career growth. In other words, there is a strong relationship between job satisfaction and productivity. People who love their jobs can easily excel in their fields of work and achieve better results than those, who put a salary in the first place. For instance, Henry Miller decided to leave his everyday job despite a good wage and ventured to become a writer. And after enduring years of ups and downs, he became one of the most famous and well-paid authors of the twentieth century. Thus, the advantages of jobs that keep you satisfied outweigh the drawback of a low salary from a long-term perspective. To conclude, I strongly believe that job satisfaction is more beneficial than a high salary because it makes people happy and motivated.

Problem Solution Essay IELTS Question

In this type of question, you need to discuss the problems in a particular topic and you must suggest possible solutions to these problems. You must read the instructions carefully, and give time to constructing both, the causes and the solutions. You must spend an appropriate amount of time planning both the main and supporting points. You must also use language that is flexible of course and consequences. A sample essay is given below for your reference.

Also Read: Is SOP Required for a Canada Student Visa? Click Here to Know Everything about SOP

The internet has transformed the way information is shared and consumed, but it has also created problems that did not exist before. What are the most serious problems associated with the internet and what solutions can you suggest? The enormous growth in the use of the internet over the last decade has led to radical changes in the way that people consume and share information. Although serious problems have arisen as a result of this, there are solutions. One of the first problems of the internet is the ease with which children can access potentially dangerous sites. For example, pornography sites are easily accessible to them because they can register with a site and claim to be an adult. There is no doubt that this affects their thoughts and development, which is a negative impact on children and society. Another major problem is the growth of online fraud and hacking. These days, there are constant news stories about government and company websites that have been hacked, resulting in sensitive information falling into the hands of criminals.
Action must be taken to combat these problems. Governments should ensure that adequate legislation and controls are in place that will prevent young people from accessing dangerous sites, such as requiring more than simply confirming that you are an adult to view a site. Parents also have a part to play. They need to closely monitor the activities of their children and restrict their access to certain sites, which can now be done through various computer programs. Companies must also improve their onsite IT security systems to make fraud and hacking much more difficult by undertaking thorough reviews of their current systems for weaknesses. To conclude, the internet is an amazing technological innovation that has transformed people’s lives, but not without negative impacts. However, with the right action by individuals, governments and businesses, it can be made a safe place for everyone.

This article might have given you a clear idea of how to answer the essay questions asked in the IELTS writing task 2 questions and how to use question sentences in essay writing. IELTS writing task 2 is the most important part of the writing section hence you must concentrate while answering this question. You can read more about the IELTS essay questions here.

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I was doubting practicing previous year’s questions but now I am looking at it from a new lens. Even if the questions don’t repeat the topic may or may not repeat. You all also provided us with other topics which I should look into, I am really thankful for that !!

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Thank you for the helpful and informative blog and yes many think that IELTS question repeats, and I also think it is true though never gave a real test, what do you think?

Thank you for providing such a deatiled article, it was very helpful and valuable, can you also help with some material to boost your vocabulry?

प्रातिक्रिया दे जवाब रद्द करें

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Aaditya anand.

Aaditya might have completed his engineering in computer science, but he has always had a passion for writing. He believes that writing a code and a story are much more similar than they might seem. You need to imagine the end product in both of them and you can only reach there once you start writing. Aaditya’s love for food is the only thing he can’t describe with words and more than eating he enjoys cooking for his family and friends. In his free time, Aaditya enjoys watching cricket and football. He knows how to lighten the mood with one-liners in a serious situation. If he is not writing or reading about any of his interests, you can find Aaditya in a sports bar cheering for his favourite sports club.

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Tobacco and Alcohol are Drugs that Cause Addiction and Health Problems – IELTS Writing Task 2

Kasturika Samanta

Updated On Dec 13, 2023

Tobacco and Alcohol are Drugs that Cause Addiction and Health Problems – IELTS Writing Task 2

Limited-Time Offer : Access a FREE 10-Day IELTS Study Plan!

  • 1.1 You should spend about 40 minutes on this task.
  • 1.2 Tobacco and alcohol are drugs that cause addiction and health problems. Therefore, they should be made illegal. To what extent do you agree or disagree with this statement?
  • 1.3 Give reasons for your answer and include any relevant examples from your own knowledge or experience.
  • 1.4.1.1 Type of Essay: 
  • 1.4.1.2 Structure Breakdown: 
  • 2.1 Vocabulary 
  • 3.1 Vocabulary 
  • 4.1 Vocabulary 
  • 5 IELTS Writing Task 2 Connectors for Extra Points in the Sample Answers for Tobacco and Alcohol are Drugs that Cause Addiction and Health Problems
  • 6 Additional Resources

Agree Disagree essays, like ‘Tobacco and Alcohol are Drugs that Cause Addiction and Health Problems’, are the most common type of questions in  IELTS Writing Task 2 .

In contrast to classic  Agree Disagree essays , ‘To what extent do you agree or disagree’ questions do not specifically ask you to declare your level of agreement or disagreement with the statement. You can either say for or against the notion or you can partly agree or disagree with it. Once you’ve made up your mind, come up with two or three arguments in favor of it.

Since Writing Task 2 can be challenging for many IELTS candidates, practising topics like The ‘Tobacco and Alcohol are Drugs that Cause Addiction and Health Problems’ will help you acquaint yourself with the format of structuring an IELTS Agree Disagree essays. Also, if you want to practise regularly, check out the  Writing Task 2 practice tests .

Let’s have a look at the Agree Disagree essay – Tobacco and Alcohol are Drugs that Cause Addiction and Health Problems – with three expert-curated sample answers for different IELTS band scores.

You should spend about 40 minutes on this task.

Tobacco and alcohol are drugs that cause addiction and health problems. therefore, they should be made illegal. to what extent do you agree or disagree with this statement, give reasons for your answer and include any relevant examples from your own knowledge or experience., you should write at least 250 words..

Check Out –  IELTS Writing Task 2 Preparation Tips/Tricks 2024

Band 7 Sample Answer for Writing Task 2 Question – Tobacco and Alcohol are Drugs that Cause Addiction and Health Problems

A large percentage of individuals think that alcohol and tobacco should be banned since they are substances that can lead to addiction and health issues. In this essay, I will explain why I agree with this viewpoint.

In the first place, tobacco and alcohol are well-known contributors to multiple health problems, including lung cancer, liver cirrhosis, cardiovascular diseases, and addiction. One of my uncles passed away due to liver cirrhosis, as he used to drink alcohol regularly even when the doctor asked him not to. As a result, supporters of this ban argue that making these substances illegal would result in a significant reduction in the prevalence of such health issues.

Moreover, addictive substances, especially alcohol, are linked to poor judgment and an increased risk of accidents, including drunk driving incidents. Every year, a large number of people meet with deadly accidents due to intoxication. Due to this, a considerable burden on healthcare systems is created. So, people feel that making alcohol illegal could enhance public safety by minimizing alcohol-related accidents and violence.

In the end, even though it is true that alcohol and tobacco have a harmful effect on our health, I believe banning them will not stop the use of these substances. The government will need to check the black market, where the sale of these substances will increase once the ban is applied. Also, individuals should be conscious of the effects and be responsible for regulating their use. (240 words)

Vocabulary 

  • Banned (Verb)

Meaning: officially or legally prevent (something) E.g.: He was banned from flying with this airline due to his misbehavior with the airhostess.

  • Contributors (Noun)

Meaning: someone who takes part in something or makes a contribution E.g.: Kalika is a regular contributor to the editorial column of the magazine.

  • Cirrhosis (Noun)

Meaning: a condition in which the liver is scarred and permanently damaged E.g.: After his father died with cirrhosis, he gave up drinking.

  • Prevalence (Noun)

Meaning: the fact of something existing or happening often E.g.: We noticed a prevalence of inappropriate behavior among the new students.

  • Addictive (Adjective)

Meaning: something that makes people unable to stop taking it E.g.: Dendrite has an addictive quality and should be kept away from children.

  • Intoxication (Noun)

Meaning: the condition of having physical or mental control markedly diminished by the effects of alcohol or drugs E.g.: The police asked him to get down from the car as he was showing signs of intoxication.

  • Regulating (Verb)

Meaning: to control or maintain the rate or speed of (a machine or process) so that it operates properly E.g.: The government should make laws for regulating the misuse of labour.

Come learn proven tips for handling IELTS Writing in our IELTS webinars!  Explore Now !

Band 8 Sample Answer for Writing Task 2 Question – Tobacco and Alcohol are Drugs that Cause Addiction and Health Problems

Alcohol and cigarettes both have adverse impacts on health and can cause severe addiction. I truly believe that the use of alcohol and tobacco should be prohibited since they are addictive and cause other health issues.

To begin with, more than 25 distinct fatal diseases, such as emphysema, bronchitis, and lung cancer, are linked to smoking. Recent data indicates that tobacco-related diseases claim the lives of four million people worldwide each year, or one death every eight seconds. More people are dying from and getting disabled from tobacco use than from any other single factor. Additionally, smoking tobacco affects not just smokers but also those in the vicinity as they inhale the smoke emitted. Accordingly, smoking ought to be restricted to improve public health. A nation could treat more patients with the amount of money it spends annually on treating citizens with diseases linked to tobacco use.

Moreover, the use of alcohol has grown to be a significant issue during the past few centuries. An increasing number of individuals consume alcohol daily, which leads to severe issues like brain damage, divorce from one’s spouse, and dissolution of a family. In addition, consumption of alcohol reduces productivity, which affects the life of the individual as well as the people around him. Thus, alcohol ought to be banned everywhere.

In conclusion, I believe that the two biggest risks to society and our health are alcohol and cigarettes, as they cause several health and social issues. Therefore, the government should make the use of tobacco and alcohol illegal and individuals should behave more responsibly. (261 words)

  • Adverse (Adjective)

Meaning: having a negative or harmful effect on something E.g.: Eating fast foods on a regular basis can have adverse effects on your health.

  • Prohibited (Verb)

Meaning: not allowed E.g.: Women are prohibited to enter mosques.

  • Emphysema (Noun)

Meaning: a lung condition that causes shortness of breath E.g.: Meena’s father is suffering from emphysema.

  • Vicinity (Noun)

Meaning: the area near or surrounding a particular place E.g.: No one is allowed to go in the vicinity of that haunted palace.

  • Emitted (Verb)

Meaning: produce and discharge (something, especially gas or radiation) E.g.: The government should penalize the factories that emitted harmful gasses.

  • Dissolution (Noun)

Meaning: the act or process of ending an official organization or legal agreement E.g.: Everyone is unhappy to learn about the dissolution of the R&D department of the company.

  • Productivity (Noun)

Meaning: the rate at which a person, company, or country does useful work E.g.: Productivity and creativity are two important factors that we are looking for in the new candidate.

Take your IELTS Writing Task 2 to the next level with our exclusive study material!

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Band 9 Sample Answer for Writing Task 2 Question – Tobacco and Alcohol are Drugs that Cause Addiction and Health Problems

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The idea of making tobacco and alcohol illegal is a controversial issue as people are divided in their opinion. In my opinion, although these substances do indeed pose significant health risks and can lead to addiction, banning them may not be the most effective solution. Therefore, I will discuss my viewpoint in the following paragraphs with relevant examples.

It is true that tobacco and alcohol consumption are major contributors to various health problems, including heart disease, liver damage, respiratory issues, and various cancers. Simultaneously, the use of tobacco and alcohol can impair judgment and coordination, leading to accidents and injuries. As a result, supporters argue that prohibiting the use of alcohol would protect individuals from the associated health risks and reduce mishaps. However, history has shown that outright prohibition can lead to black markets, smuggling, and increased criminal activity. The prohibition of alcohol in the United States during the 1920s, for example, led to the rise of organized crime.

Furthermore, supporters of the ban opine that the health consequences of tobacco and alcohol use place a considerable economic burden on healthcare systems worldwide. Likewise, the consumption of these harmful substances is often linked to social problems, including domestic violence, crime, and public disturbances. Nonetheless, some believe outlawing them will not be effective as it is a personal choice. Therefore, individuals must become responsible and consciously try to prevent the damaging effects.

  • Controversial (Adjective)

Meaning: relating to or causing much discussion, disagreement, or argument : likely to produce controversy E.g.: Divorce in backward countries is a controversial topic.

  • Impair (Verb)

Meaning: weaken or damage (something, especially a faculty or function) E.g.: The accident impaired his ability to play football.

  • Coordination (Noun)

Meaning: the act of making all the people involved in a plan or activity work together in an organized way E.g.: The performance of the group was rated low due to lack of coordination among the dancers.

  • Mishap (Noun)

Meaning: bad luck, or an unlucky event or accident E.g.: The burning of the Northern forest was a mishap no one could forget.

  • Outright (Adjective)

Meaning: completely or immediately E.g.: Telling him that we have reached the destination is an outright lie.

  • Smuggling (Noun)

Meaning: the illegal movement of goods into or out of a country E.g.: The detectives are looking for the group that is involved in smuggling of priceless artifacts.

  • Outlawing (Verb)

Meaning: to make something illegal or unacceptable E.g.: People want the government outlawing child labour in the country.

  • Detrimental (Adjective)

Meaning: obviously harmful; damaging E.g.: Overconsumption of soft drinks can be detrimental to children.

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IELTS Writing Task 2 Connectors for Extra Points in the Sample Answers for Tobacco and Alcohol are Drugs that Cause Addiction and Health Problems

Connectors or Linking words helps to bring coherence to your writing and increase your chances of scoring a high band. So, check out the list of  connectors/linking words   used in the sample responses for the IELTS Writing Task 2 – ‘Tobacco and Alcohol are Drugs that Cause Addiction and Health Problems’ given below.

  • In the first place/To begin with
  • As a result/Due to this/Accordingly
  • Moreover/Also/Additionally/In addition/Furthermore
  • So/Thus/Therefore
  • In the end/In conclusion/To conclude
  • In my opinion
  • It is true that
  • Simultaneously
  • However/Nonetheless

It’s time for you to start writing on your own now that you have read through the sample responses on the subject of ‘Tobacco and Alcohol are Drugs that Cause Addiction and Health Problems’. You can use  our FREE evaluation service  or submit your replies in a comment below for that.

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  • A Person’s Worth Nowadays Seems To Be Judged According To Social Status And Material Possessions- IELTS Writing Task 2 British Council
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  • IELTS Writing Task 2 Topic 03: Despite health warnings a large number of people continue to smoke

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Kasturika Samanta

Kasturika Samanta

Kasturika is a professional Content Writer with over three years of experience as an English language teacher. Her understanding of English language requirements, as set by foreign universities, is enriched by her interactions with students and educators. Her work is a fusion of extensive knowledge of SEO practices and up-to-date guidelines. This enables her to produce content that not only informs but also engages IELTS aspirants. Her passion for exploring new horizons has driven her to achieve new heights in her learning journey.

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how to write problem and solution essay ielts

Below is an IELTS model answer for the IELTS problem solution essay in writing task 2. There are five types of essays in IELTS writing task 2 and the "solution" type essay is a common one. However, make sure you follow the instructions. You need to know the difference between "what are the causes?" and "what problems does this cause?".

Activity 1: Generating ideas (1) Material: Worksheet 1 Time: 5-10 minutes Procedure: introduce the focus of the lesson: Academic Writing Task 2 - Problems and Solutions essays. elicit environmental problems in general or show the class some pictures related to overfishing and elicit the topic.

The Question Here are two typical IELTS problem solution essay questions. They consist of a statement followed by the question or instruction. 1. One problem faced by almost every large city is traffic congestion. What do you think the causes are? What solutions can you suggest? 2.

An important note. Some essays ask for reasons and solutions, not problems and solutions. Writing about a reason (or cause) is not the same as writing about a problem. Check these model essays to see the difference. IELTS Problem Solution Essay Example

The introduction to a problem and solution essay should briefly state: The problem Explain why it needs to be solved. A brief summary of the proposed solution. A strong statement that sets out the purpose of the essay. Body paragraphs Body paragraphs are where you develop the solution to your problem.

This lesson on how to write a problem solution essay will: discuss common mistakes; show you how to analyse the question; show you how to think of ideas; give you a structure that can be used again and again on all problem solution IELTS essays; describe how to write an introduction, main body paragraphs and conclusion; and

Problem solution essays in IELTS are often worded as follows: One major problem faced by large cities is traffic congestion. What do you think the causes are? What solutions can you suggest? The number of endangered species has increased significantly in this century and we find more mass extinctions in this period than in any other period of time.

IELTS Writing: problem and solution essay In this lesson you'll learn how to answer problems/solutions questions in IELTS Writing. This type of questions gives you an issue and asks you to describe some common problems associated with it and propose some possible solutions. In this lesson you will: See problem-solution question sample

A "problem and solution" essay, as its name suggests, proposes a problem to you and asks you to suggest a solution or solutions to it. It may also ask about the causes of the problem or the effects which the problem has. Listen and you will learn: How to write a problem solution essay How to understand the question and structure your answer

1. IELTS Problem Solution Essay Overview As its name, IELTS problem solution essay asks you to write about the problem, cause, effect, or solution to an issue stated. The requirement varies depending on each IELTS problem solution essay question. There are a variety of ways to word the IELTS problem solution essay questions such as:

2.1 Step 1: Understand The Task 2.2 Step 2: Decide Your Position 2.3 Step 3: Extend Your Ideas 2.4 Step 4: Structure Your Essay 3 How To Write Your IELTS Problem Solution Essay 3.1 How To Write The Introduction To An IELTS Problem Solution Essay 3.1.1 Introduce The Topic 3.1.2 Say What You Are Going To Write About

1. Separately - you discuss the main cause first then discuss the main solution. You need one or two main causes and one or two main solutions. 2. Together - you discuss the causes one at a time together with its solution. Again, you need at two main causes and two main solutions. Do not write an opinion essay

4.1 Introduction 4.2 Main body paragraphs 4.3 Conclusion Example Problem/Solution Essay and Exercise 5.1 Complete the sample problem/solution essay 5.2 Problem Solution Sample Essay 1. Problem/Solution Overview A problem and solution essay is a common type of IELTS writing task 2 essay question.

Here's what it covers:• Identifying IELTS problem solution essays • 6 Com... In this video, I show you step-by-step how to write Task 2 Problem Solution Essays.

Before you begin to write your IELTS Problem / Solution Essay, make a brief plan. You should make a note of the main causes and possible solutions. Two problems and two solutions are usually sufficient. Your Problem /Solution essay should contain an introduction, two main body paragraphs and a conclusion.

Tips to Approach Problem Solution Essay IELTS While you work on such types of essays you must remember that some essays ask for reasons and solutions, not problems and solutions. Writing about a reason (or cause) is not the same as writing about a problem. When you writing about Problems, here are some things you must keep in mind: Tips to Remember

Paragraph 1 - The Introduction This is the introduction to the essay and where you should start off by paraphrasing the question. Do you understand what I mean, when I say 'paraphrase' the question? This means that you rewrite the question in your own words using synonyms.

Topic Sentence: Summarise main idea 2 clearly.Use phrases such as "One solution is"/ "In order to address this problem", etc. (see Proposing Solutions vocabulary below) Introduce Sub-idea A: Describe the solution in one or two sentences. Expand Sub-idea A: Write one or two sentences that explain/ support sub-idea A - say why or how it solves the problem and/ or give an example.

1. Introduction: topic and answer. In the introduction, you need to write two sentences: The first should paraphrase the topic question and the second one should give some ideas on how the problem can be solved. 2. Body paragraph. In the first body paragraph, you should discuss what causes the given problem.

Updated On August 7, 2023 Published In IELTS Preparation 💻 Problem and solution essay IELTS or cause and solution essay IELTS is a common type of essay question asked in IELTS Writing Task 2 Exam. Herein, a problem is presented to the candidate and you are asked to suggest relevant, specific, and possible solutions regarding the same.

You simply need to write four paragraphs, with one body paragraph about the causes and one body paragraph about the solutions: Introduction - introduce the topic Body paragraph #1 - explain the causes of the problem Body paragraph #2 - explain the solutions to the problem Conclusion - summarise briefly This is very, very easy to do.

During this webinar you'll practise identifying the different essay types that you might be asked to write in Writing Task 2. We will then focus on one type, essays that require you to write about problems and solutions. You'll have the chance to work through the steps to prepare to write your own essay before looking at a full model answer.

Step by step guide to writing a causes solution essay. Updated: August 2022.. A common type of IELTS task 2 essay is the Problem Solution or Causes Solution essay. Here you will need to write about the causes of the problem in main body one and recommendations or possible solutions that could solve the issue in main body two. I could have a 3rd body paragraph but I prefer the 2 main body approach.

The IELTS Writing essay can be structured mainly in 4 paragraphs as follows: Paragraphs. 1: Introduction. 2: Problems. 3: Solutions. 4: Conclusion. Further structuring of the paragraphs for IELTS Writing can be done as follows: a. Paragraph 1- Introduction.

You can write the letter in a personal, semi-formal or formal style. In Task 2 you will be asked to write an essay in response to a point of view, argument or problem. You can use a fairly personal style. Timing The IELTS Writing test takes 60 minutes. Spend 20 minutes on Task 1, and 40 minutes on Task 2.

Problem Solution Essay IELTS. Problem-solution essays are among the most important IELTS Writing Task 2 topics on the academic paper. While being so common, a lot of students are not doing well on these topics. This article will focus on some of the more common errors and then take you stepwise to answer certain questions.

Here is a sample question. Remember that you can prepare better for the exam if you look for writing IELTS examples: In many countries, the gap between the rich and the poor is widening. What problems does this trend cause, and what solutions can you suggest? Your essay should: Have a clear structure (introduction, body paragraphs, and conclusion).

5 Min Read. The IELTS writing task 2 is the second question of the writing section and is considered the most important question of the IELTS exam. It weighs 66% of your score on the writing test. The essay must have a word limit of 250 words and it will take around 40 minutes to answer the question. The essay must be written in a formal style.

Agree Disagree essays, like 'Tobacco and Alcohol are Drugs that Cause Addiction and Health Problems', are the most common type of questions in IELTS Writing Task 2. In contrast to classic Agree Disagree essays, 'To what extent do you agree or disagree' questions do not specifically ask you to declare your level of agreement or disagreement with the statement.

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Issue Cover

Article Contents

Introduction, agamben on dancing with ‘phantasmata’, maya deren: dancing with ‘phantasmata’.

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Phantasmata of Dance: Time and Memory within Choreographic Constraints

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Silvia Casini, Phantasmata of Dance: Time and Memory within Choreographic Constraints, Forum for Modern Language Studies , Volume 55, Issue 3, July 2019, Pages 325–338, https://doi.org/10.1093/fmls/cqz028

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This article contributes to the scholarly discussion of the relationship between cinema and dance using Giorgio Agamben’s understanding of dance as gesture. To render Agamben’s critical framework operative, however, one needs to consider his reference to the concept of phantasmata (images) taken from Domenico da Piacenza’s Renaissance treatise on choreography. Agamben returns to this treatise to support his argument that dance is concerned first and foremost with time and memory rather than space and the present. To notate dance as a sequence of moving images is not simply to make visible on screen a series of bodily movements in space. Rather, it means acknowledging that dancing is primarily a mental activity. Taking Agamben’s reflections on dance and using Maya Deren’s work on screen dance as a case-study, this article discusses how cinema and dance together prompt us to undo the economy of bodily movements, restoring the body to us transfigured.

A fascination with the spectacle of the body in movement links cinema and dance, despite the very different relations of each, in phenomenological terms, to time and space. Dance exists, first, as a performance happening in real time and space. Cinema, by contrast, manipulates its own time and space:

Cinema is, of course, simultaneously, an art of space and of time. A moving body occupies space, yet these spaces are not fixed moments but acts of duration, or space-in-time, recorded and projected in the classic celluloid format at a speed of twenty-four frames per second. The moving body thus succeeds in ‘being’ (spatial) and ‘becoming’ (temporal) by expressing duration, with time and space collapsing together to form a moving present. 1

The moving body in cinema is a presence and a becoming; it is present here and now, and it becomes there and then. The encounter between dance and cinema, two arts of organizing bodies in space and time, produces intriguing results that transgress both art forms. In the early days of cinema, the attempt to break down the movement of bodies and to capture the various phases of movement in space and time was seen in Eadweard Muybridge’s photographic sequences as well as in Étienne-Jules Marey’s chronophotographic studies. 2 Cinema did not limit itself to the study of movement as an abstract category: for example, both Méliès and Lumière used actual dancers in The Magic Lantern (1903) and Fire Dance (1906) – the latter starring the dancer Loïe Fuller.

If the collaboration between dance and cinema seems straightforward in musicals and classic Hollywood films – for example, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954), one of the first dance films in wide-screen format – this is not true of all cinema/dance overlap. Since the 1920s, a variety of experiments with dance have been conducted across the different avant-garde movements in cinema and the arts. Prominent examples are Fernand Léger’s Ballet mécanique (1924), a landmark experiment with camera-created motion and rhythm; Germaine Dulac’s Thèmes et variations (1928), which compares and contrasts the gestures of the dancer with the mechanized movements of the machine; Maya Deren’s dance-based films (discussed in more detail below); the films by Ruttmann, Len-Lye and Fischinger posing a ‘structural analogy’ between cinema and dance in terms of the play of forms, light and movements beyond any narrative constraints; and more recently, William Klein’s Babilée ’91 (1992) with its focus on the way in which the body moves and transforms the space around it during rehearsals.

Even a cursory review of the history of the relationship between dance and cinema reveals that dance film has become a recognized subgenre across avant-garde art and popular culture, relating time, space and movement across a variety of media (the body, celluloid film, video etc.). Although the intersections of dance, film, video and new media have been explored across genres, epochs and cultural traditions, the contribution of dance theory to cinema remains relatively under-theorized, as Brannigan points out:

[W]hile dance studies has often kept its distance from debates in film theory, film has also avoided dialogue with issues in dance studies […]. Dance theory offers understandings of the moving body and its ability to produce and express meanings that are particularly useful for addressing both popular film genres and other categories of dancefilm. 3

The relationship between cinema and dance is, therefore, more nuanced than it would seem at first glance. Since the twentieth-century avant-garde revolution embodied by dancers such as Delsarte, Duncan, Laban, Graham, Cunningham and Bausch, dance has ceased to be merely a divertissement . It has become a self-reflexive art that interrogates its own methods, its position within cultural history, and functions as a means for better grasping our condition as human beings. 4

From this revolution, and thanks to a productive exchange with key theories that called for a re-thinking of corporeality, dance has come to be recognized as a way of thinking through the relationship between the body and the world, opening up the possibility to transcend both in the act of dancing. 5 Transcendence does not mean escapism, but rather inhabiting the forms and movements of the dancer, a type of experience that is contingent and charged with time: in a choreographic sequence, every dancing gesture and movement is brought to its completion until it transforms itself into either a pause (stillness) or the next movement. Dance, as Badiou argues following Nietzsche, is a mental activity, for it shows what the body is capable of beyond any physical constraints, the body unleashed from its embodiment:

It should be noted that dance, which is both bird and flight, is also everything that the infant designates. Dance is innocence, because it is a body before the body. It is forgetting, because it is a body that forgets its fetters, its weight. It is a new beginning, because the dancing gesture must always be something like the invention of its own beginning. And it is also play, of course, because dance frees the body from all social mimicry, from all gravity and conformity. A wheel that turns itself. […] [T]he essence of dance is virtual rather than actual movement; […] dance is composed of gestures that, haunted by their own restraint, remain in some sense undecided. 6

In this passage, dance is both material (a body) and abstract (innocence, an image). It is animal and human, real movement and thought; it is action and endurance, a body before the body, a body in all its potential.

More than any other scholarly dance critics, it is Agamben, in his reflections on dance as gesture, who offers a critical lens through which the relationship between dance and cinema can be re-assessed. 7 If Badiou had the merit of theorizing dance as a mental rather than a physical activity, Agamben pushes Badiou’s reflections further by discussing choreography as both a restraint and a possibility for the body, and not just as the articulation of a series of movements. 8 Agamben argues that dance gives cinema the opportunity to explore the status of the moving image – that is, the theme of forms and their becoming.

This article contributes to the scholarly discussion of the relationship between cinema and dance by using Agamben’s understanding of dance as gesture. To render operative Agamben’s critical framework, however, one needs to take into account his reference to the concept of phantasmata (images) taken from Domenico da Piacenza’s Renaissance treatise on choreography. Agamben returns to this treatise to support his argument that dance is concerned primarily with time and memory, rather than space and the present. Cinema becomes a form of dance notation (a choreography), but in images rather than in symbols or words. To notate dance as a sequence of moving images is not simply to record and make visible on screen a series of bodily movements in space. Rather, it acknowledges that dancing itself is first a mental activity, a form of thinking that can take place, paradoxically, even in the absence of a moving body. This is not to say that dancing occurs literally without a body but, rather, that the act of dancing is not simply connected to the corporeality of an individual body. Dancing is an act of rebellion aimed at unmasking any choreographic ritual and protocols, not just for the dancer but also for the spectators’ collective body.

By taking Agamben’s reflections on dance and using Maya Deren’s work on screen dance as a case-study, this article discusses how cinema and dance together prompt us to undo the economy of bodily movements. The article argues that this undoing occurs thanks to the interplay between stasis and movement, two crucial phases of every dance, which are illustrated by two images ( phantasmata ) in da Piacenza’s treatise: arrest/interruption (the Medusa’s head) and movement/action (the falcon). For Agamben, to dance is not simply to perform a series of bodily movements in space, but also to move through temporal layers and spectral images thanks to memory. Just as Agamben conceives of cinema outside the image – the concept of cinema as gesture rather than image-based – he also conceives of dance outside movement. Dance shows the possibility of movement without a destination. This radical attempt to disentangle dance from bodies moving in space enables us to conceive of dance as a type of life form in which the condition of being unproductive becomes activated.

To illustrate the relationship and exchange between dance and cinema as characterized by a temporal exchange based upon memory and the image, one can look at the films made by Maya Deren, a filmmaker, dancer, choreographer, writer and photographer who was particularly active in the United States during the avant-garde period between the 1940s and 1950s. I do not offer a comprehensive critical reading of Deren’s artistic production, nor do I pretend to exhaust the range of other examples that could be used to illustrate my argument. Rather, through an analysis of Maya Deren’s first film, Meshes of the Afternoon (1943), I seek to show how Deren re-thinks the relationship between cinema and dance in light of a conception of dance (and, broadly speaking, of movement) as a mental activity that engages with the conundrum of the self and of the self as other in a choreography of images, memory and imagination. Paradoxical as it might seem, a conception of dance as being possible without a body can suggest the possibility of dance as a means to reactivate images, giving them back a body, freeing them from being trapped in a spectral dimension with no bodily life. This new body, however, is not entrapped in any individual corporeal identity but, rather, is multiplied across space and time.

The philosopher and critical theorist Agamben is mostly known for his scholarly work on politics rather than on aesthetics. Agamben engages his readers with some of the most pressing contemporary concerns, from the concept of sovereignty and the rights of citizens to the concept of life itself. His method is ‘paradigmatic’ in so far as it uses the paradigm, which is a real case serving as an exemplum, to understand our present and its concealed grids of power and control. 9 Although Agamben’s oeuvre traverses disparate fields from law, to aesthetics and science, at the centre of his interest is the attempt to re-frame the present situation ( status ) of the refugee.

In support of ‘the Agamben of poetics, culture and signification’, 10 I argue that the question of the status of a certain subject/object is one of the chief preoccupations in Agamben’s interventions in the fields of aesthetics and art, as in his reflections on politics. When it comes to aesthetics, Agamben tackles the question of status in a literal sense: how do objects (e.g., images) come to acquire the power and authority they have? How can another object/subject/event disrupt this authority? Agamben subjects to inquiry the ways in which an image (still or moving) makes meaning and the conditions under which power is to be found in each medium (cinema, video, painting, performance, dance), thus binding the aesthetic to the political.

For Agamben, man is not only a political animal as Aristotle argued, but also ‘a movie-going animal’ interested in the production and consumption of images. 11 The passion and intellectual interest Agamben has evinced for cinema shows across his intellectual oeuvre, even if he writes only briefly about it and uses a limited range of examples. Cinema offers Agamben the opportunity to critically engage with the temporality that inhabits images – that is, their capacity to move (to elicit an emotional response, to shift), including from one medium to another, and thus be revitalized.

Key to grasping how Agamben sees the relationship between dance and cinema are two of his insights. First, Agamben sees cinema as being based on gestures rather than on images, and second, he thinks of dance as gesture. His understanding of cinema can be summarized by recalling his axiom ‘Gesture rather than image is the cinematic element.’ 12 Cinema can preserve the dynamism of gesture against its becoming frozen by the image. He describes cinema ‘or at least a certain sort of cinema’ as ‘a prolonged hesitation between image and meaning’, highlighting how the two elements at the basis of cinema are not the Deleuzian movement-image and time-image but repetition and interruption, the constitutive elements of montage that restore the full potential and dynamism of the image. 13 Agamben identifies cinema as a medium that dwells in a territory where potentiality reigns, rather than storytelling. 14 In Agamben, gesture is ‘the exhibition of a mediality: it is the process of making a means visible as such’. 15 Gesture is the signifier in which human potential appears or is given form.

Agamben’s second key insight is to draw upon Aristotle’s difference between praxis (action) and poiesis (production) to put forth his central thesis, which is that gesture stands separate from production or poiesis (a means to an end) and action or praxis (an end without a means), and in the process opens a new dimension of the political:

Nothing is more misleading for an understanding of gesture, therefore, than representing, on the one hand, a sphere of means as addressing a goal (for example, marching seen as a means of moving the body from point A to point B) and, on the other hand, a separate and superior sphere of gesture as a movement that has its end in itself (for example, dance seen as an aesthetic dimension). Finality without means is just as alienating as mediality that has meaning only with respect to an end. If dance is gesture, it is so, rather, because it is nothing more than the endurance and the exhibition of the media character of corporal movements. 16

A gesture is a non-linguistic sign of physical presence that human beings are able to use. Dance is a gesture that settles in this void of language. Dance is gesture, however, only under specific circumstances. First, Agamben thinks of dancing not simply as a choreography of skilled and trained bodies moving in space, but as a way of enduring that enables one to deactivate movement as a means to an end. Recalling Agamben’s notion of dance as gesture, Noys explains that ‘what dance exhibits is not a movement that has an end, but movement for its own sake’. 17 Second, through the concept of endurance, Agamben puts forth the idea that cinema makes visible that the proper medium of dance is time rather than space.

In a passage in his essay Nymphs , Agamben critically tackles the concept and practice of dance as occurring in time rather than simply space by discussing ‘De arte saltandi et choreas ducendi/On the art of dancing and directing choruses’, one of the most eloquent Renaissance treatises on the arts, which was written c. 1455 by the choreographer Domenico da Piacenza ( c. 1400–1476), a master of dance at the Estensi Court in Ferrara. 18 In this treatise, da Piacenza introduced one of the earliest examples of dance notation in Western culture. Dance is traditionally taught through physical demonstration, and dancers, contrary to musicians, generally rely on physical memory without the help of a written score to remind them of the steps. To prevent the loss of works over time due to choreographers neglecting to preserve their routines in written form, several notation systems have been created, but none has become as popular or as standardized as music notation. To notate his choreography, da Piacenza used word descriptions rather than symbols.

The treatise puts forth the idea of dance as a medium for expressing affects, against a purely physiological-mechanistic conception of movement. To the fundamental elements of dance, such as memory, agility and measure of the ground ( misura ), da Piacenza adds phantasmata (images), arguing that whoever wants to learn the art of dancing needs to learn to dance with phantasmata , which denote

a physical quickness which is controlled by the understanding of the misura […]. This necessitates that at each tempo one appears to have seen Medusa’s head, as the poet says, and be of stone in one instant, then, in another instant, take to flight like a falcon driven by hunger. Do this according to the prescription above, that is, using misura , memoria , maniera , misura di terreno and aire . 19

The term phantasmata , Agamben argues, comes from the Aristotelian doctrine around memory.

Aristotle established a connection between time, memory and imagination by arguing that only beings who are capable of perceiving time are also able to remember, and the act of remembering requires the use of the very same faculty which we use to perceive time – that is, the imagination. It is through images ( phantasmata ) that human beings can not only perceive but also think. In the theory of knowledge developed in De anima , Aristotle argued that knowledge had its origin in the senses; then it would reach the intellect through a process of abstraction operated by imagination and through the production of phantasmata . 20 These images are stored in memory, which is ‘an affect, a pathos of sensation or of thought’. 21

The first chapter of the treatise opens with da Piacenza expressing his debt to the philosopher Aristotle. At the same time, he laments that in Aristotle’s discussions on movement in the Nicomachean Ethics , the philosopher was not able to draw forth the implications of bodily motion through space. At the beginning of chapter three, da Piacenza argues that

Note that aside from being blessed by God with a good mind and body, one has to learn to discern the underlying structure of this refined art form. […] [T]he foundation is misura , which governs everything (all actions) quick or slow according to the music. Aside from this, it is necessary to have a large and deep memoria which stores all of the corporal movements ( motti corporali ) – natural and incidental – that are required by all performers depending upon the composition of the dances. 22

Memory is not possible without phantasmata . These images, charged with memory and affect, become responsible for the movements of the body.

The phantasma is the interruption between two successive moments; it is a pause that contains the memory of the whole choreography virtually – that is the past, present and future of the dance sequence. 23 Phantasmata coincide with Aby Warburg’s research on the pathosformel , defined as ‘an indissoluble intertwining of an emotional charge and an iconographic formula in which it is impossible to distinguish between form and content’. 24 These images are ‘crystals’ imbued with time and history. With their intrinsic energy, they can move and unsettle the body of anyone who receives them and has the task of charging them with new life.

If memory, which is one of the key elements of every choreographic sequence, is only possible in the form of an image, then to dance is to remember and to let the chain of mental images affect the body and move it forward. Dance as a practice of memory can re-activate images that, otherwise, would crystallize, becoming spectral. Corporeality, the sign of the material, passes itself off as the incorporeal. The fascination this paradox exerts reveals our discomfort with the original dichotomy between body and soul, material and spiritual. Paradoxical as it might sound, dancing would still be possible even in the absence of a moving body.

The dancer endures in her body, oscillating between the here and now (the actual movements performed within a space) and the potential of being elsewhere and else-when (the memory of what it was and the imagination of what is about to become). This quasi-cinematic chain of successive invisible images ( phantasmata ) not only triggers the movements of the dancer who goes forward in her choreography, but simultaneously stops the dancer for an imperceptible instant which becomes imbued with potentiality. Dancing with phantasmata , therefore, undoes the status of the body, restoring it to us transfigured, inoperative yet active, a way to deactivate the grids in which our bodies are entrapped.

Agamben clarifies the concept of inoperativity when he suggests that the ‘creation of a new use is possible only by deactivating an old use, rendering it inoperative’ through an act of profanation. To profane something is a positive act for the simple reason that it liberates things and practices for communal usage. 25 Being the manifestation of the gestural dimension proper to human beings as Agamben defines it, dance is in itself the suspension of the means-ends axis. Inoperativity does not mean the cessation of all activity, but it denotes an operation that de-activates and renders works (of art, of economy, of language, etc.) inoperative, opening them to a new possible use. Both Aristotle and Agamben maintain that anything potential is capable of not existing in actuality, and that ‘what is potential can both be and not be, for the same is potential both to be and not to be’. 26 Agamben finds within Aristotle a ‘potentiality that conserves itself and saves itself in actuality’. 27

To illustrate the connection between potentiality and inoperativity, Agamben uses the example of Bartleby the Scrivener. When asked by his employer to write, Bartleby, although he is fully capable of writing, replies that he would prefer not to. By becoming a scrivener who does not write, Bartleby preserves his potentiality and inoperativity, removing himself from the power structures at play. 28 What happens with the potentiality of the dancer to not dance any choreographic sequences? The potential-of-not-to is maintained in the act of dancing but de-activated. The dancer does not stop being a dancer, even when she is not dancing, because dancing is not an activity but a form of life.

A pioneer in experimental filmmaking in the United States, Maya Deren acted as a director, cinematographer, scriptwriter, editor and performer in many of her films. Like other filmmakers such as Jean-Luc Godard and Sergei Eisenstein, Deren too was engaged in critical film theory. In her essay on Cinematography: The Creative Use of Reality (1960), she explores the intimate correspondence between the medium of film and the other arts, discussing how dance and cinema are both interested in re-staging movement. It is in her films, however, that Deren best articulates her own thinking about the relationship between cinema and dance. 29 A Study in Choreography for the Camera (1945) is the first cinematic document to capture kinetics of the body in slow motion and space-time continuity. Here Deren explores the potential of the cinematic medium to transcend reality and the constraints of the frame. 30 In the opening sequence of the film, which stars the dancer Talley Beatty, Deren’s camera rotates more than 360 degrees, scanning past the dancer. One of the main features of this film is the concept of transition. The dancer raises his foot in a forest, puts it down in a museum-like space, and then returns to the forest without any continuity in space.

The only reality is that of the dancer, which exists for him alone, rather than that of the external world. The slow-motion effect allows Deren to reveal the very structure of the dancer’s motion and his inner state, something that the eye cannot perceive – just as the telescope reveals the structure of matter, to use a comparison that Deren herself suggests. 31 Thanks to the use of jump cuts and discontinuity editing, the camera becomes a performer, like the dancer whose body moves across different types of environment (the natural, the domestic) rather than inhabiting the very same world all the time. The body exceeds the world it inhabits; it overcomes the limits imposed by the frame, blending the cinematic with the extra-cinematic, reality and imagination, the world inhabited by the dancer in the film with the world inhabited by the onlooker. As in all her oeuvre, in A Study in Choreography for the Camera Deren is interested in exploring the relationship between time and space through the body. The spatialization of time is what she seeks to achieve by means of camera movements and discontinuity editing. In Deren’s film, the camera extends the full potential of the body by having it move across the cut. By doing so, not only does Deren break down the grid of the frame, the spatial cage in which the body is entrapped, she also transforms the medium of film itself into a kind of ‘muscular’ body capable of enacting a change in the body on the screen. 32

Influenced by her first-hand ritualistic experiences across different cultures, Deren’s work is characterized by the attempt to achieve an organic aesthetics of the body capable of counteracting the alienation of the body brought about by modernity. 33 In this respect, the ability of the camera to act as a performing body mimics what the organic body can do. This swapping between the organic and the inorganic body reminds us of the provocative paradox mentioned at the beginning of this essay: do we need an actual body to dance? To dance, to move, we need memory, we need a chain of images along which we can move without necessarily advancing in space, but rather, dwelling in layers of time: past, present and future.

The essence of dance is not movement, but a chain of images imbued with time and memory, the phantasmata . As discussed earlier, Domenico da Piacenza defined dance as an act that caused an interruption (or suspension) of movement and time. This interruption, however, is charged with time – not with the present time, but with memory and potentiality. In this sense, dance does not happen when it appears to happen (now), but at an ‘other’ time, before or after the chronological framework within which it is performed. The gesture of the dance is a means free of purpose, pure mediality suspended between memory (past), event (present), and potential (future).

Dancing with phantasmata first emerges in Meshes of the Afternoon (1943), Deren's first experimental film, made in collaboration with the filmmaker Alexander Hammid. Although strictly speaking this film does not present any actual dancing directly, Deren uses a series of formal cinematic innovations to explore, through a moving body, a variety of themes that will remain central throughout her artistic production, such as the relationship between movement and stasis, the constraints posed by the physical body, the porous membrane between interiority and the surface of the visible, and the fragmentation of subjectivity. Meshes of the Afternoon , which has been defined by Fabe as a psychotopography imbued with Freudian motives and symbolism, is organized around a basic movement performed by a young woman (Deren) and her doubles. 34

A first young woman walks along a road, picks up a flower, and glimpses the back of another figure disappearing around a bend in the road ahead of her. After knocking, the young woman tries the locked door of a house, takes out a key, drops it, and pursues it as the key bounces in slow motion down a staircase. She then climbs the stairs, passes a telephone with the receiver off the hook; a shot of her eye and one of a window are intercut until they are both clouded over. Inside the house, the camera moves subjectively, adopting the point of view of the young woman. This initial movement is repeated, each time with subtle variation. There is a fluid transition from the first-person point of view to the third. As the film proceeds, under the influence of cinema pioneer Méliès and his editing style, Deren plays cinematic tricks: the key comes out of the woman’s mouth and turns into a knife in her hand. The woman enters a room through the unlocked door. Inside, there are now two female figures seated at the table. The newcomer joins them and places the key on the table. One of the female figures, wearing goggles, stands up and holds the knife aggressively.

Instead of recording actual events, the film is concerned with the interior landscape of what the female protagonist experiences, fears or dreams of while she moves across different spaces. It explores how the subconscious of a woman elaborates an apparently simple and casual incident into a critical emotional experience. The play of repetition, circularity and variation accompanies the protagonist as she walks across different spaces, the soil, the grass, the beach and the concrete. There is no logical narrative trajectory, but a dream-like movement (a dance) which progressively draws the spectator in and brings her back. The theme of the double becomes visible thanks to a series of formal choices, from the motif of reflection in the mirror, to the circular, dream-like and repetitive structure of the film.

In Deren’s films, all made with amateur means, bodies move at great speed, start actions again, slide over the ground without touching it, disrupt the laws of physics, and by doing so they challenge any assumption of dancing as a mere physical activity concerned with virtuosic bodies moving in space. By engaging with dance as a mental rather than physical activity similar to a state of trance, Deren attempts to liberate dance from the constraints of the body by means of the cinematic medium. In this respect, Meshes of the Afternoon shows how Deren is concerned with dance even in the absence of a dancer or choreography. The main protagonist of the film is movement – of a female body, inanimate objects and the psyche.

Movement as the cipher of being alive is a recurring motif in Renaissance paintings such as La Nascita di Venere (Birth of Venus) by Botticelli (1482–1485), in which the painter masterfully coped with the challenge of representing movement on a necessarily static canvas. The dialectics between movement and stillness, between dance and the image, is addressed by da Piacenza using two symbols: on the one hand, Medusa’s head signifying petrification, stoppage – interruption, to use Agamben’s word; on the other, the flight of the falcon to signify movement and action. With its sudden freezing of movement, the concept of phantasmata itself is linked to the myth of Medusa, who can turn people into stone by looking at them.

The myth of Medusa has traversed all Deren’s filmic productions: Medusa (1949) is the title of an unfinished work that she made at the YMHA film workshop with the dancer Jean Edrman, whose performance on the transformations of Medusa was to serve as the basis for Deren’s film. 35 The myth becomes metaphorically visible in Meshes of the Afternoon . In the so-called ‘Botticelli’ medium shot, Deren herself is portrayed inside the domestic space with her hands pressing against a glass wall – a membrane between herself and the world outside. 36 Deren looks at a series of moving images that are the doubles of herself. She is framed standing still, observing the spectacle of her two other selves, one of whom races to chase the hooded figure walking in front of her. Tree branches reflected on the glass window seem to grow from Deren’s Medusa-like head, anticipating the seaweed that signals the sleeper’s death. 37 The hooded figure with a mirror instead of a face appears in the film before Deren’s own face, which has been withheld up to this moment. It is only through the mirror and the spectacle of the other selves that we witness the sudden unveiling of Deren’s face. The Medusa myth resonates here. The frontal stillness that characterizes Medusa's terrifying image is dangerous – one cannot look into Medusa’s eyes without being turned to stone – and, therefore, access to Deren’s face is given only through a play of reflections and doubles in constant movement. What is watched directly can kill, but if viewed as a reflection, by indirect vision as in the myth of Perseus, it does no harm.

Etymologically, the word spectrum means image, apparition, spectre. This is where Deren’s work and da Piacenza’s concept of dancing with phantasmata come together. During their (both collective and individual) transmission, images tend to ossify in spectral presences. The task is then to bring these images back to life as cinema can do. The spiral constituted by cinema and dance in Deren becomes a symptom of an underground current that returns to the surface, bringing back ghost-like images, the debris of half-forgotten memories and sensations. Things seem as if they were subject to a gradual fading out, but not in the sense of disappearance. Very much like history, onscreen images themselves are characterized by returns and repetitions. For example, the laying out of the lily at the beginning of the film is the visual and material anticipation of the deposition of Deren’s own dead body that closes the film.

Similarly, elements of the mise-en-scène that Deren uses in her everyday household activities, such as the knife, the key and the telephone, are all ghost-like traces of repressed memories, recurring motifs reflecting the hidden chaos that characterizes all the spaces in which the action of the doubles takes place. Deren’s body fails to master this fragmented space of the psyche: ‘Deren’s doubles are imaginary, but they produce “real” effects. In this way, “otherness” is a mythic and abstract force beyond individual control – as is movement – yet it is not located in the external environment alone.’ 38 This is the dance of the film itself. As the film proceeds, all the scattered images of the self come back together into a configuration that points to the end of movement (the end of life, if movement is a sign of life), which coincides with the return of the physical body, still, immobile, at the end of the film – Deren’s own dead body. Physical reality, like the physical body, is subjugated to the logic of the protagonist’s psychic world of memories and fantasies, ultimately causing her death. In this film, Deren’s movement and the almost imperceptible movements of the objects forming the mise-en-scène are mental rather than just physical; they are ‘mini-choreographies at the body’s periphery’. 39 Deren’s choreography of mental images and mnemic traces, therefore, can lift her out of her own physical body and its constraints.

Dance in film lays bare the medium of cinema in all its potential. This article has shown how Agamben’s understanding of dance can give us a framework through which the relationship between dance and cinema can be re-assessed. Dance is more than a highly-skilled sequence of movements that require trained bodies in order to be performed; in dance, the body endures its own mediality. As Maya Deren’s first film, Meshes of the Afternoon , shows, the true place of the dancer is not her body, nor the movement performed, but the chain of images ( phantasmata ) that function as a Medusa’s head, as an interruption, albeit not petrifying but liberating, an interruption charged with dynamism and potentiality.

Ultimately, dance as gesture undoes the existing economy of bodily movements. It undoes the status of the body, restoring it to us transfigured, inoperative yet active, a sign of resistance against the grids in which our bodies are trapped, the spatial-temporal grids of the here and now. Dance is not the liberated impulse: it is disobedience to an impulse. Agamben’s concept of potentiality resonates here. Dance as gesture reveals human actions as means without ends , as a form of life . Agamben defines the art of living as ‘the capacity to keep ourselves in harmonious relationship with that which escapes us’. 40 The art of dancing, one could conclude, is a form of life constituted by a radical openness, which becomes visible when we dare to dance with images and relics of memory – phantasmata .

Space and Being in Contemporary French Cinema , ed. by James S. Williams (Manchester and New York: Manchester University Press, 2013), p. 2.

Marta Braun, Picturing Time: The Work of Étienne-Jules Marey (1830–1904) (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1995). Eadweard Muybridge, The Human Figure in Motion (London: Dover, 1955).

Erin Brannigan, Dancefilm: Choreography and the Moving Image (New York: Oxford University Press, 2011), p. 7. Another comprehensive and rigorous exploration of dance and media is Sherril Dodds, Dance on Screen: Genres and Media from Hollywood to Experimental Art (Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2001). Both studies provide readers with an overview of the genre of dance films, using a variety of critical approaches and theorists as well as offering a close reading of selected dance films. Brannigan focuses, in particular, on the legacy of Maya Deren. Dodds traverses a wide range of genres focusing on the relationship between dance, spectators and the camera.

See Laurance Louppe, Poétique de la danse contemporaine (Brussels: Contredanse, 2004).

See, for example, the reflections on dance and the body by Nietzsche, Rilke, Valéry and Merleau-Ponty, among others: Friedrich Nietzsche, The Birth of Tragedy and Other Writings , ed. by Raymond Geuss and Ronald Speirs (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999), and Thus Spoke Zarathustra: A Book for All and None , ed. by Adrian Del Caro and Robert Pippin (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006); Rainer Maria Rilke, Dance the Orange: Selected Poems , trans. by Michael Hamburger and ed. by Jeremy Mark Robinson (Maidstone: Crescent Moon, 2008); Paul Valéry, Dance and the Soul (London: Lehmann, 1951); Maurice Merleau-Ponty, The Visible and the Invisible (Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press, 1969), and The Phenomenology of Perception (London: Routledge, 2002).

Alain Badiou, Handbook of Inaesthetics , trans. by Alberto Toscano (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2005), pp. 57–58. Nietzsche relies on the concept of dance in the characterization of all his major thoughts. It is integral to the economy of the Dionysian and the Apollonian, and to the theory of the will to power.

See Benjamin Noys’s seminal essay on Agamben: Benjamin Noys, ‘Gestural Cinema?: Giorgio Agamben on Film’, Film-Philosophy , 8.22 (2004) < http://www.film-philosophy.com/vol8-2004/n22noys > [last accessed 10 July 2017]. To further explore the relationship between Agamben and cinema, see Janet Harbord, Ex-centric Cinema: Giorgio Agamben and Film Archaeology (New York and London: Bloomsbury, 2016).

Jonathan Owen Clark, ‘Dance and Subtraction: Notes on Alain Badiou’s Inaesthetics’, Dance Research Journal , 43.2 (2011), 51–64 (p. 60).

On Agamben’s paradigmatic method, see Giorgio Agamben, The Signature of All Things. On Method (Cambridge, MA and London: Zone Books, 2009), and Leland de la Durantaye, Giorgio Agamben. A Critical Introduction (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2009), pp. 200–43.

Christian McCrea, ‘Giorgio Agamben’, in Film, Theory, and Philosophy: The Key Thinkers , ed. by Felicity Colman (Montreal: McGill University Press, 2009), p. 350.

Giorgio Agamben, ‘Difference and Repetition: On Guy Debord’s Films’, in Guy Debord and the Situationist International , ed. by Tom McDonough (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2002), pp. 313–19 (p. 314).

Giorgio Agamben, ‘Notes on Gesture’, in Infancy and History : On the Destruction of Experience , trans. by Liz Heron (New York: Verso, 1993), p. 136. This text, which has appeared in English in three different versions, was first published by Agamben in 1991 under the title ‘Notes sur le geste’ in the cinema journal Revue Trafic , founded in the same year by the film critic Serge Daney.

Agamben, ‘Difference and Repetition’, p. 317.

As I have discussed elsewhere, the concept of potentiality occupies a central position across all Agamben’s oeuvre. See Silvia Casini, ‘Engaging Hand to Hand with the Moving Image: Grandrieux, Serra and Viola’s Radical Gestures’, in Cinema and Agamben. Ethics, Biopolitics and the Moving Image , ed. by Henrik Gustafsson and Asbjørn Grønstad (New York and London: Bloomsbury, 2014), pp. 143–69.

Giorgio Agamben, ‘Notes on Gesture’, in Means Without End: Notes on Politics , trans. by Vincenzo Binetti and Cesare Casarino (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2000), p. 58.

Ibid., p. 58.

Benjamin Noys, ‘Gestural Cinema?’ < http://www.film-philosophy.com/vol8-2004/n22noys > [last accessed 10 July 2017].

Giorgio Agamben, ‘Nymphs’, in Releasing the Image: From Literature to New Media , ed. by Jacques Khalip and Robert Mitchell (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2011), pp. 60–80.

A. William Smith (trans. and annotated by), Fifteenth-Century Dance and Music. Twelve Transcribed Italian Treatises and Collection in the Tradition of Domenico da Piacenza (Volume 1: Treatises and Music ; Volume 2: Choreographic Descriptions with Concordances of Variants ) (New York: Pendragon Press, 1995), Vol. 1, p. 13.

Aristotle, On the Soul (De anima) , in The Basic Works of Aristotle , ed. by Richard McKeon (New York: Random House, 1966), 595 (432a).

Agamben, ‘Nymphs’, p. 63. On the Aristotelian theory of memory, see Aristotle, On the Soul (De anima) , p. 595 (432a).

Smith, Fifteenth-Century Dance and Music , Vol. 1, p. 13.

Agamben, ‘Nymphs’, p. 62.

Giorgio Agamben, ‘Aby Warburg and the Nameless Science’, in Potentialities: Collected Essays in Philosophy , trans. and ed. by Daniel Heller-Roazen (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1999), p. 90.

Giorgio Agamben, Profanations (Boston, MA: Zone Books, 2007), pp. 85–86.

See Aristotle, Metaphysics (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1986), 1050 b 10.

Agamben, ‘Aby Warburg’, p. 184.

Agamben, ‘Bartleby, or On Contingency’, in Potentialities: Collected Essays in Philosophy , pp. 243–74.

The film Ritual in Transfigured Time (1946) confirmed Deren’s interest in the theme of rituality, while in Meditation on Violence (1948), the director's focus is on the performer Chao Li Chi. One of Deren’s last works, The Very Eye of Night (1958), shot in collaboration with the Metropolitan Opera Ballet School, is now regarded as an avant-garde intuition of contemporary digital dance: here the dancers, like white ghosts, sway in the scenic notion of a virtual night and starry space.

For an examination of Deren’s film as the transformation of dance into avant-garde film, see Amy Greenfield, ‘The Kinesthetics of Avant-Garde Dance Film: Deren and Harris’, in Envisioning Dance on Film and Video , ed. by Judy Mitoma (New York and London: Routledge, 2002), pp. 21–26.

Maya Deren, ‘Cinematography: The Creative Use of Reality’, Daedalus , 89.1 (1960), 150–67.

Andrew Nell, ‘The Medium is a Muscle. Abstraction in Early Film, Dance, Painting’, in Film, Art, New Media: Museum Without Walls? , ed. by Angela Dalle Vacche (London and New York: Palgrave, 2012), p. 59.

Alison Butler, ‘“Motor-Driven Metaphysics”: Movement, Time and Action in the Films of Maya Deren’, Screen , 48.1 (2007), 1–23. See also Leslie Satin, ‘Movement and the Body in Maya Deren’s Meshes of the Afternoon ’, Women and Performance: A Journal of Feminist Theory , 6.2 (1993), 41–56.

Marilyn Fabe, ‘Maya Deren’s Fatal Attraction: A Psychoanalytic Reading of Meshes of the Afternoon , with a Psycho-Biographical Afterword’, Women’s Studies , 25 (1996), 237–54.

See Sarah Keller, Maya Deren: Incomplete Control (New York: Columbia University Press, 2014), p. 222. Maya Deren often refers to mythology and divinity: in Ritual in Transfigured Time she takes inspiration from Dionysian movements and Hellenic statues; Study in Choreography for Camera (1945) starts at the statue of a Buddha; and The Very Eye of Night (1958) stages translucent dancers floating between constellations and archaic symbols. Some aspects of the Medusa myth can be related to Maya Deren’s filmic work. See Keller, Maya Deren , passim.

For a close reading of this shot, see Maria Pramaggiore, ‘Seeing Double(s): Reading Deren Bisexually’, in Maya Deren and the American Avant-Garde , ed. by Bill Nichols (Los Angeles and London: University of California Press, 2001), pp. 237–60.

Becky Paterson, ‘Fabric in Film and Film as Fabric: Maya Deren’s Meshes of the Afternoon ’, Textile , 8.2 (2010), 228–43 (p. 240).

Pramaggiore, ‘Seeing Double(s)’, p. 239.

Brannigan, Dancefilm , p. 1.

Giorgio Agamben, Nudities (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2010), p. 114.

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COMMENTS

  1. 11 The Role of Phantasms in Inner Sense: Part 1

    Aquinas refers to this relation as the 'conversio ad phantasmata'. 1 One of the goals of the present inquiry will be to take some of the metaphorical nature away from an understanding of phantasms. The claim that phantasms are necessary conditions for concept exercise is expressed in the following passages: ...

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    The Scholastics also admitted this, and indeed many urged the necessity of this conversio ad phantasmata as the explanation of our piecemeal ratiocinative mode of learning. But this is not equivalent to saying that all reasoning can be exactly formulated, crystallized, as it were, into words.

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    a conversio ad phantasmata approximately 80 times throughout his writings, from Sent. III.14.1.3.5 ad 3, to ST III.34.2 ad 3. More rarely, he refers to a conversio ad

  4. the Doctrine of St. Thomas Aquinas

    the Doctrine of St. Thomas Aquinas and proposed to the Teachers of Philosophy July 27, 1914. in English and Latin, translated by Hugh McDonald Edited and Substantially Revised by Br. Alexis Bugnolo

  5. Santo Tomás

    Selección de textos de Santo Tomás de Aquino acerca de ese importante paso en el proceso de conocimiento que es llamado "conversio ad phantasmata", donde se ve la necesidad de lo sensible para el acto completo de intelección. Copyright: © All Rights Reserved Available Formats Download as PDF, TXT or read online from Scribd

  6. Conversio ad phantasmata: Gouvernement, sécurité et imagination

    Conversio ad phantasmata Gouvernement, sécurité et imagination. This article investigates the technical rationalities of modern forms of government. Conceived in a Foucauldian vein, the paper argues for an interpretation of security dispositifs which sustain the structures of modern government. The main argument developed in the article is ...

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    Aquinas' expression for the relation of the 'intellectual' act of judgment to the context of sense-perception that gives it a particular reference was 'conversio ad phantasmata', 'turning round towards the sense-appearances'. This metaphorical term is obviously a mere label, with negligible explanatory value; but it does not pretend to be more ...

  8. The Role of Phantasms in Inner Sense Part 1

    In the present conditions of human earthly existence, the mind cannot actually understand anything except by reference to phantasms [nisi convertendo se ad phantasmata] [ . . . . ] Yet in understanding, either freshly or summoning knowledge already acquired, the mind's activity must be accompanied by the activity of the vis imaginativa and of the other sense powers.

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    By itself, the intellect is not capable of recognizing singular things; therefore, it must resort to the phantasmata that represent singular things (conversio ad phantasmata). On the basis of the acquired concepts, or first intentions of things, such as human being, the mind can build further concepts.

  10. Rahner, Karl (1904-1984)

    In this work, Rahner examines one part of St. Thomas Aquinas's metaphysics of knowledge, specifically that section of the Summa theologiae that addresses what appears to sense intuition, conversio ad phantasmata (conversion to the phantasm), in light of Kant's critique of speculative metaphysics.

  11. The Physiology of Phantasmata in Aristotle: between Sensation and Digestion

    In this article, I foreground the physiology of phantasia in Aristotle, which has been comparatively understudied. In the first section, I offer a new interpretation of the relationship between aisthēmata (sense perceptions) and phantasmata , based on passages in the De Anima and the Parva Naturalia , and for a nuanced understanding of their respective substrates in the body, which I argue to ...

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  13. (PDF) When and Why Understanding Needs Phantasmata: A Moderate

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  14. PDF teoría de la percepción conversio ad phantasmata

    Sólo así la razón discursiva podría someter a prueba el inicial signifi cado otorgado a una determinada información sensible, verifi cando su validez a través de la denomi- nada conversión o reversión al fantasma (conversio ad phantasmata) en cuya elaboración ya no sólo interviene la fantasía o la cogitativa, sino también el propio intelecto age...

  15. When and Why Understanding Needs Phantasmata: A Moderate ...

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    Erin Brannigan, Dancefilm: Choreography and the Moving Image (New York: Oxford University Press, 2011), p. 7. Another comprehensive and rigorous exploration of dance and media is Sherril Dodds, Dance on Screen: Genres and Media from Hollywood to Experimental Art (Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2001). Both studies provide readers with an overview of the genre of dance films, using a variety of critical ...