Any user of the social network Twitter will know that "trending" means that people are suddenly talking about a particular topic. Perhaps it’s the latest political controversy or natural disaster? Or maybe it’s just the most recent publicity seeking announcement from a celebrity? Whatever it is, we know that it will be a big talking point online and even in traditional media. But, what is a trend? And what does it mean when something is “trending”?
What is a trend?
First of all, let’s define the term. When we talk about a trend, we are focusing on something that is going up or going down. This could mean going up or down in popularity, or it could mean going up or down in importance. For example, eating food is not a trend. We all do this and have done it since the dawn of time. However, perhaps the “paleo diet” (where adherents exclude dairy, cereals and processed foods) is a trend. Ten or twenty years ago no one would have heard of the paleo diet. And perhaps in another ten or twenty years it will have completely fallen out of favour.
Similarly, exercise is not a trend. Humans have been engaging in physical activity with the intention of getting fit for thousands of years. But perhaps “pilates” or “crossfit’’ or any of the more recent forms of getting in shape are trends. These examples are all things that have grown in popularity over recent years and will, perhaps, fall in popularity as new forms of exercise emerge.
Talking about trends
There are dozens of words we can use to talk about trends. However, we can fit them all neatly into two groups: things going up and things going down. Let’s take a look at the vocabulary we need. They are split into both verb and noun forms (where both exist).
- to increase / an increase
- to rise / a rise
- to improve / an improvement
- to double
- to get better
- to go up
- to decrease / a decrease
- to fall / a fall
- to deteriorate / a deterioration
- to decline / a decline
- to get worse
- to go down
Besides talking about whether things are going up or going down, we can also express the way in which they are doing so. To do this, we need both adjectives and adverbs. The following list includes both the adjective form (the first word) as well as the corresponding adverb form (the second word).
- sharp / sharply: Characterised by a rapid rise or fall over a short time frame.
- dramatic / dramatically: Characterised by a rapid rise or fall over a short time frame.
- steady / steadily: Characterised by a consistent rise or fall over a longer time frame.
- slight / slightly: Characterised by a small rise or fall over a short or long time frame.
There are four tenses we can use to talk about trends and each one is used to express something slightly different. They are the present continuous, the present perfect simple, the present perfect continuous and the past simple. We can also split each of these tenses into two basic structures. These are verb + adverb or adjective + noun.
Let’s take a look at this graph to help us understand.
Here we’re focusing on (the completely fictitious) figures showing the popularity of sushi in London over the past ten years. As you can see, the consumption of sushi has been going up over this time, although there have been a couple of occasions when it has gone down slightly.
We use this tense to express that something is happening at this current time. In other words, it started in the past and we anticipate it continuing into the near future.
Form: Present continuous + adverb
- Sushi consumption is rising sharply at the moment.
Present perfect simple
We use this tense to express that something began in the past and has continued up to the current time. In the examples given below, this change started happening ten years ago and has continued up to the present day.
Form: Present perfect simple + adjective + noun
- There has been a steady rise in the consumption of sushi over the past ten years.
Form: Present perfect simple + adverb
- The consumption of sushi has risen steadily over the past ten years.
Present perfect continuous
We use this tense to express that something began in the past and has continued up to the current time. In the example given, this change started happening ten years ago and continues up to the present day.
Form: Present perfect continuous + adverb
- The consumption of sushi has been rising steadily over the past ten years.
We use this tense to express that a change began in the past and ended in the past. In the given examples, it began in the year 2010 and ended in the year 2011.
Form: Past simple + adverb
- The consumption of sushi fell sharply between 2010 and 2011.
Form: Past simple + adjective + noun
- There was a sharp fall in the consumption of sushi between 2010 and 2011.
Now that we’ve learnt some of the ways we can talk about trends, let’s pick some topics to discuss. Below are seven topics that often experience trends. Pick one and write three or four sentences that describe the rise or fall of its popularity or importance. Don’t worry about the factual accuracy of the statements; you can invent statistics or observations to help you create your own sentences. The first one has been done as an example.
- Consumer spending
- Online movie streaming
- Video games
Examples using the topic “exercise”:
- There has been a sharp increase in the number of gyms opening over the past few years.
- The number of cyclists is steadily increasing as the government builds more cycle paths.
- The popularity of pilates fell sharply last year as more and more people became interested in yoga as an alternative.
- The number of recreational joggers has been rising dramatically for the the past five years.
- There was a dramatic increase in the number of people using exercise apps last year.
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- Graph picture by the author