Today my students were given the following transformation sentence as part of their FCE exams:

I am reading a book which is irrelevant to school work.


The book I am reading is ..................... school work.

Can you please tell me how to do it?

The obvious would be:

The book I am reading has nothing to do with school work.

But the exercise asks us to use is, not has.

  • 3
    ELL is a better site for this question.
    – Mitch
    May 19, 2013 at 16:05
  • @Mitch And even better for the answers and comments. May 19, 2013 at 22:27

2 Answers 2


The easiest answer is this:

The book I am reading is irrelevant to school work.

  • But could that really be what the question wants you to do? It would be...trivial. May 19, 2013 at 15:52
  • 2
    @Cerberus: Yes, that's the answer that the question wants. How do I know? I'm a long-time EFL teacher. The FCE is the First Certificate in English exam. This is the kind of stuff they ask. It's not difficult if you're a native speaker. What it's asking the testee to do is to rephrase the sentence without a relative pronoun & clause: say the same thing in slightly different words. What else could the question be asking? Trivial? Yes & no. Only native & fluent speakers can do this.
    – user21497
    May 19, 2013 at 16:31
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    I'm afraid you've got the right of it, Bill. I've taken a lot of exams in my life, and the one thing I've learned is not to overestimate the subtlety of questions of standardized exams. That's not what they're for. May 19, 2013 at 17:22
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    @JohnLawler: Right. Standardized exams are hurdles created for the sake of creating hurdles. They become a cottage industry, then a big business, then a major player in the WTO as well as the domestic economy. I consider them to be in the same league as the betel nut business here in Taiwan. Everyone knows chewing betel nuts causes oral cancer & growing betel nut palms guarantees soil erosion & landslides during typhoons & torrential rains, but too many Taiwanese earn a living by hawking them. Big ESL, meet Big Tobacco & Big Betel Nuts. Homozygous triplets. :-)
    – user21497
    May 19, 2013 at 17:48
  • All right, if you say so. I wasn't sure because I have never seen such a trivial transformation in a test, but I have less experience than you. May 19, 2013 at 19:09

The book I am reading is nothing to do with (my) school work. (!)

from Collins at http://www.thefreedictionary.com/nothing :

have or be nothing to do with: to have no connection with

  • Wow! But take a look at Google Ngram Viewer for those phrases: "0" of "is nothing to do with". COCA shows 15 vs. 2413 for is vs. has. I doubt that the FCE will accept "The book I am reading is nothing to do with school work." "The book I am reading is irrelevant to school work." is still the better answer: shorter & uses the same word (irrelevant) as the original S. That's how test-makers think. I couldn't reach the BNC because of constant timeouts.
    – user21497
    May 20, 2013 at 1:09
  • So 250 000 (admittedly raw} Google hits for "is nothing to do with" means nothing to them! May 20, 2013 at 7:46
  • Correct! Those who construct standardized tests are not egalitarians or politically liberal linguistic descriptivists. They believe that there are right & wrong ways of using the language in every instance. These are the actual members of the Academy that John Lawler constantly dismisses as phantoms. They're all Freemasons & certifiable relatives of Sophie Neveu, the heroine of The Da Vinci Code, who is a direct descendant, if you remember, of Jesus & Mary Magdalene. Therefore, what they say has the force of divine right: they are the grammar gods.
    – user21497
    May 20, 2013 at 8:00
  • The book I am reading is more fun than school work. And probably makes better sense. May 20, 2013 at 16:54
  • Yes, that's true, but making sense isn't the point: Tell me what I'm thinking! is what most standardized tests are about. Good, clear, understandable, idiomatic English isn't what it's about: Give me the answer I want! is the rule.
    – user21497
    May 21, 2013 at 1:39

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