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TOEFL & IELTS Writing Essential Words - Part 2 - disadvantage and disadvantageous

Madison Oster October 12th, 2021

In today’s post, you are going to learn the words disadvantage and disadvantageous. These two words are often used in TOEFL and IELTS exams. In this post, you will learn how to use them with proper prepositions and common collocations. So let’s get started!

Okay! The definition of the noun disadvantage reads as follows: A disadvantage is a quality or condition that puts something or someone in an unfavorable or inferior position compared to others. We often use “disadvantage” to talk about the shortcoming of a thing or a person. For instance, the following three sentences use disadvantage to describe a shortcoming of living in the countryside:

  1. The disadvantage of living in the countryside is the poor quality of education.
  2. One disadvantage of living in the countryside is the poor quality of education.
  3. One of the disadvantages of living in the countryside is the poor quality of education.

However, only if disadvantage is used at the very beginning of a sentence we say ‘disadvantage of something’. When using expletive constructions like “There is/are” it would sound wrong or unnatural to say “There are many disadvantages of living in the countryside. Many students make this mistake. Here you should use the prepositions in/to as in the following two sentences:

  1. There are many disadvantages to living in the countryside.
  2. There are many disadvantages in living in the countryside.

At a disadvantage/To one’s disadvantage

The word disadvantage is often used in the following phrases:
  1. At a disadvantage
  2. To one’s disadvantage (= work to one’s disadvantage)

The phrase “at a disadvantage” means being in an unfavorable position in comparison to others. We often use adjectives like ‘competitive’, ‘clear’ and ‘distinct’ before the word disadvantage. For example,

  1. At a clear disadvantage
  2. At a distinct disadvantage
  3. At a competitive disadvantage

Alright! So how do we use the phrase at a disadvantage? The phrase ‘at a disadvantage’ can be used in the following sentence patterns:

  1. _____ (something)  puts/places ____ (someone or something) at a disadvantage.
  2. ____ (someone or something) is at a disadvantage.

Here are example sentences for the first sentence pattern:

  1. His lack of formal education puts him at a clear disadvantage in the business world.
  2. The new tariff policy will place my company at a competitive disadvantage in the marketplace.

And, here are example sentences for the second sentence pattern:

  1. You'll be at a disadvantage playing tennis against someone as skilled as Jimmy.
  2. Children from poor families are at a distinct disadvantage in education.

Okay! Now let’s look at the other phrase to one’s disadvantage. If something is to your disadvantage or works to your disadvantage, it creates difficulties for you. So

___ (something) is to ___(one’s) disadvantage =___ (something) works to ___(one’s) disadvantage =___ (something) puts ___(someone) at a disadvantage

Here are examples

  1. My lack of formal education is to my disadvantage in the business world.
  2. I hope my lack of experience won't be to my disadvantage.
  3. It is to your disadvantage to not take this opportunity.
  4. The new tariff policy will work to our disadvantage.


Okay! Now you know how to use the word disadvantage. Let’s talk about its adjective form “disadvantageous”. “disadvantageous”  describes things that cause somebody or something to be in a worse situation compared to others. Here are examples:

  1. We have to resell the property at a disadvantageous time.
  2. Minority groups find themselves in a disadvantageous position.

Also, we often see the phrase be disadvantageous to.  For example,

  1. Living off campus is disadvantageous to students.
  2. The company believes the new regulation is disadvantageous to the growth of its business.


Another adjective is ‘disadvantaged’. Its meaning and usage are different from “disadvantageous".

The adjective ‘disadvantaged’ describes someone or something lacking the things (such as money or education) that are considered necessary for an equal position in society. So! People who are disadvantaged or live in disadvantaged areas live in bad conditions and lack a good education, resources, or reasonable standards of living. 

Let’s look at some examples.

  1. Research shows that men from disadvantaged backgrounds experience lower rates of marriage.
  2. Nowadays employers are reaching beyond their usual networks and hire more people from disadvantaged populations.
  3. Aborigines are the most disadvantaged ethnic group in Australia.
  4. Scholarships, grants, and financial aid make studying abroad affordable for disadvantaged students.

Also, ‘disadvantaged’ is often used with adverbs like ‘socially’ and ‘economically’ as in the following sentences

  1. Research shows economically disadvantaged children enter school with less developed cognitive skills than their peers..
  2. In addition to higher smoking prevalence, socially disadvantaged workers smoke more heavily and are less successful in quitting smoking compared to other workers.

Alright! This is the end of this post. I hope you enjoyed learning about the various usages of the words disadvantage, disadvantageous and disadvantaged. You should also check out our other post on advantage and advantageous. 




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