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Fiona's Advent Adventure

‘overwhelming’

Quick Test:

Look at these words which start with ‘over’. Are they generally positive or negative?

Adjectives: over-weight, over-priced, over-rated, over-fished, over-excited, over-tired, over-crowded, over-protective, over-confident, over-qualified, over-cautious, overpowering

Verbs: overdo, overreact, overcook, oversleep, overspend, overeat, overrun, overuse, overload, overstep, overstay, overcharge

Check your answer here

Generally, the suffix ‘over’ means ‘too much’ or ‘more than necessary’ and is negative.

[Not always – there  are some positive examples e.g. to feel overjoyed, to overcome obstacles, and some neutral ones e.g. to overtake, to overhaul]

PS Are you worried about when to use the hyphen? Stop worrying – it’s not important. I checked all of these words in various dictionaries and there is no clear rule.

You will not lose points if you forget or add a hyphen e.g. over-weight = overweight]

It could also be said that there is an overwhelming benefit in terms of the environment, in that home learning has a much smaller carbon footprint than conventional study.’

‘Overwhelming’ has both a positive and negative meaning.

1. Negative meaning: having such a great effect on you that you feel confused and do not know how to react

e.g.

– The quantity of materials I need to prepare for the IELTS test is overwhelming.

– I feel overwhelmed by the task.

2. Positive/Neutral meaning: very large or greater, more important etc than any other

e.g. There is overwhelming evidence that smoking damages your health.

This second meaning is really useful in IELTS – you can use it to add emphasis and replace ‘huge, enormous, significant etc’, as in the example above (an overwhelming benefit).

Other collocations with ‘overwhelming’:

  • The overwhelming majority of the jobs created were in the private sector.
  • The campaign was an overwhelming success.
  • There is no overwhelming evidence to support this.
  • There was an overwhelming response to the survey.
  • Opposition to the government was absolutely/completely overwhelming.

Take action

Write your own sentence following this pattern:

It could be said that there is an overwhelming benefit/disadvantage in terms of [be specific here], in that [explanation here]’.

e.g. Brexit:

‘It could be said that there is an overwhelming disadvantage in terms of the economy, in that other countries will no longer want to trade with the UK’.

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