Then the lumps of clay are placed on a metal grid in order to break up the big chunks of clay into much smaller areas, which fall through the metal grid onto a roller, whose motion further segregates the bits of clay.

  • What does areas here refer to?
    What does this word denote here since its basic meaning doesn't seem to fit the context given.

  • What other word could have been used in its place?

  • 3
    Area refers to (pieces of smaller) size into which big chunks of clay are broken into. Smaller pieces that can fall through the grid.
    – user5267
    Oct 3, 2016 at 11:09
  • 1
    Please provide the source of the quotation. Found it. OK it comes from an IELTS writing task 1 paper. What you have here is a sample, a piece of writing handed in by a non native speaker who was taking the IELTS exam. The sample is supposed to act only as a guideline. It is not saying this is the perfect way to describe a process.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Oct 3, 2016 at 11:51
  • The composition is shown to help candidates affront the writing task, unless you know what an examiner is looking for, you won't get the best possible mark. The chances of that same question being asked is nil, so don't fixate over it.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Oct 3, 2016 at 14:33

3 Answers 3


The text (and by implication, the source website) is poor quality.

Someone asked exactly this same question on wordreference.com, where "Senior Member" Copyright responded...

I would say that "lumps" become "pieces" when they are broken up. Not "areas." I wouldn't memorize this for use with the general public.

(I assume by this he means the specific example sentence, but I would avoid the entire website.)

I can't really add much to that apart from to say that I don't think any native speaker would use areas there, since lumps and chunks are three-dimensional, but areas are by definition two-dimensional.

The most "natural" word to use in this context is probably pieces. Of the four "synonyms" lumps, chunks, bits, pieces, the first two often imply "large", and the second two often imply "small".

  • 1
    Area noun (Measure) ​I think this is the meaning implied: [ C or U ] the size of a flat surface calculated by multiplying its length by its width: the area of a rectangle. Clearly referring to the area of the each single space of the grid.
    – user5267
    Oct 3, 2016 at 12:22
  • 4
    @AbsoluteBeginner you don't break "chunks" into "smaller areas". It has to be bits or pieces or (even) smaller sizes
    – Mari-Lou A
    Oct 3, 2016 at 12:24
  • 1
    @FumbleFingersy they increase the total surface area, but the area of each of the smaller pieces will generally be less (unless you broke them in a way that increased the surface area for the smaller bits, but that's unlikely without some thoughtful destruction), therefore "smaller areas" - hence the plural :)
    – Charleh
    Oct 3, 2016 at 17:07
  • 1
    @Charleh: I understand perfectly well what you meant, but the fact of the matter is native speakers simply wouldn't use "smaller areas" to mean "smaller pieces" (which each have smaller surface areas than the larger piece from which they were formed). Oct 3, 2016 at 17:12
  • 1
    We're going round in circles. We can both understand it, but surely you don't seriously maintain that you would use this phrasing. If you do, I'd have to question your command of English. Oct 3, 2016 at 17:14

Unless there is more context to the quote, where areas has already been introduced as a specific way of referring to a specific part of the machine, this is simply the wrong word. There is no common context where area can be equated with the result of breaking down a big chunk.

Alternative words to describe this stage in the process (although the context would also need to be changed) might be:
crumb - This is understood to be a fragment (but probably there is a better 'specialist' term amongst clay working)
lump, fragment - other generic words describing something which is broken down
cube, segement, bar - describing the shape as in some way regular.

Then the lumps of clay are placed on a metal grid in order to break up the big chunks of clay into much smaller elongated bars, which are forced through the metal grid onto a roller, whose motion further segregates the bits of clay.

You could write this, or infer this meaning from the original test

Then the lumps of clay are placed on a vibrating metal grid. This breaks up the clay and only allows small chunks to pass through. A vibrating belt transports the clay and further breaks down the chunks to smaller parts.

This is more a accurate description of the process as I imagine it.

  • The link can be found in Fumblefingers' answer and in the comment section beneath the OP
    – Mari-Lou A
    Oct 3, 2016 at 14:22
  • +1 for the first paragraph but I wouldn't say "...break up the big chunks of clay into much smaller lumps OR bars, which fall through..."
    – Mari-Lou A
    Oct 3, 2016 at 14:27
  • Fair enough, I wan't thinking of a drop-in replacement word, more of the correct word to use in a replacement. Oct 3, 2016 at 14:33

"Area" refers to a two-dimensional shape such as a square or rectangle.

So if you look down at the top of the surface of the clay:

  1. Before it passes through the grid, there will be one large area of clay;
  2. After it passes through the grid, it will have been cut into lots of smaller squares or rectangles - each will have a much smaller area.
  • that was what I want to clarify to begin with, Is it a particular shape which is referred to as "area" and used within architectural terminology because what has first come in my mind so far about this word is that this imply a particular region, or field ,place etc. Oct 3, 2016 at 13:56
  • 2
    This seems a contrived way of justifying what looks to me like a poor choice of word. Oct 3, 2016 at 14:07

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