Improve your English Vocabulary Easily
Having a great English vocabulary doesn't just mean that you can understand lots of words and phrases: it also means that you can use these words and phrases and that you can remember them when you need them.
This is the difference between an active and a passive vocabulary. Generally, most people's passive vocabulary is far bigger than their active vocabulary, and the secret is to try and "activate" passive knowledge.
There are a number of ways that you can activate your passive vocabulary in English, ranging from simple five-minute activities to longer periods of study. Most activities work best if a) you have a good dictionary and b) you keep a vocabulary notebook.
Good English dictionaries
A good English dictionary should be up-to-date (no more than five years old!) and should be easy to understand. Make sure that the definitions are written in clear English. Pictures also help you to understand some words. I strongly recommend the Longman range of dictionaries, as there is good coverage of spoken and written English, British and American English, as well as clear example sentences.
When you come across a new English word or phrase, make a note of it! Look up the meaning in the dictionary, making sure you are aware of any grammatical information. (For instance, if you are looking up a verb, check to see if the verb can be used in a passive form, if it is followed by any particular preposition, and so on.) Check also for the pronunciation and use of a word. Is it particularly formal or informal, or used in certain word partnerships? For example, we say "do housework", but "make an effort".
When you find a new word, check to see if you can use it in other ways. English is a flexible language – nouns, verbs and adjectives often share the same stem. For example, a house, to house, housing policy, and so on.
When you write down your new word in your notebook, try to include an example sentence in English.
Some people find it helpful to organise notebooks into themes. So rather than having a list of words without any obvious connection, you divide your notebook into themes, with one page containing words to do with the house, another page with words to do with jobs, and so on.
Quick English vocabulary booster activities
1. An English word a day
Choose a new word or phrase from your notebook and try to use it as often as possible in one day. Think of situations where you would need to use it, and write down a couple of example sentences. Go back to this word or phrase after a week, to make sure you still remember it.
Some people find index cards useful. You can write down the word on the card and carry it around with you for a day, taking it out of your pocket whenever you have a moment and trying to put it into a sentence.
The next time you have a spare couple of minutes, flick through your notebook. You'll be surprised how much comes back to you! Choose a page where you have already stored a number of words and expressions, cover the page, and try to remember what you wrote. Then look at the page and see how many you remember.
3. One word at a time
When you read a page of a book or newspaper, decide you will only look up one word in a dictionary. When you write it down in your notebook, also make a note of any synonyms (words that mean the same) or the opposite of the new word.
4. English word building
Take a prefix (such as "en", or "pre") and make a list of all the words that can follow. (For example, encircle, enclose, enlist; prenatal, premature, pre-war.) Here are some more prefixes you can use:
dis, il, im, ir, pro, anti, de, un, con, re
Longer English vocabulary learning activities
Read something that interests you. It could be a newspaper, a novel, a magazine, or even an English graded reader (a simplified book). Working page by page, underline the words or phrases that you don't know. Look up only those that are important for understanding, or which are repeated. Use a good dictionary, and make a note in your English vocabulary notebook.
Focus on a theme, such as sport. Divide one page of your notebook into three columns. In the first column write down as many sports as you can think of. In the second, write down all the equipment you need for the sport. In the third, write down the scoring systems. You might end up with something that looks like this:
tennis racquet, ball, net umpire, love, linesman
football pitch, ball, goal posts referee, offside, penalty
You can use this method for many different themes: houses (rooms of house, furniture, styles); jobs (names of jobs, places where these jobs are done, characteristics of the job) and so on.
3. Word association
Write a key word in the middle of a page and draw a bubble around it. Then draw lines out from this word connected to smaller bubbles. In the smaller bubbles you can add words associated with the main word.
For example, you could write "email" in the middle of a page. Then the smaller bubbles could contain words such as "write", "compose", "receive", "delete", "reply" and so on.
4. Learn synonyms
A good way to expand your vocabulary is to learn alternative words. This will make what you say more interesting. For example, check out our page on Synonyms for Very.
Check out our video on 2 easy ways to learn new English vocabulary:
61 commentsyazan ksheek
this was nice wasn't a waste of my time
They are good advise!!! Thanks a lot, we need them!!
hello I'm so glad to find your site in the internet. Your lessons are so useful and practical. Thanks a lotniloufar
thanks a lot
thank u very much!!!
valuable advise and knowledge thank very much
Very good advice! Thank you so much.
eye opener tips, thank you very much
Thanks a bunch!
Although I read them in study skills book beforebut it was very useful to be repeated.thanks a million.
wonderful, this is verygood
Thank you so much!
Really very helpful
thanks an advance
It's very useful to improve my English skills. Thank you.
very very useful.Thanks
Thanks! Reading is a great way to improve our English vocabulary and I will get a good dictionary!
thank you , I learned it to my students .
yhank youvery good traingood luck
Wonderful, thank you very much
NICE ,PROMISING AND COMPREHENSIVE
Thanks! :) +1
big thanks, it's very helpfull for me :)
It is the best way to learn English vocabulary!Thank you very much!!!
a brilliant suggestion to learn connected English words
how many papers should the notebook have?!! :) :) kidding...these advises were awesome thanks alot
thank you very much for your advise
yeah...! its very usefull...!
It is realy helpful for me thanks alot
Great help full a lot, gorgeous advice. i will used it for traditional language too okay thanks
great lesson for me
the tips given on this website are very easy to understand and very useful, thanks a lot to the owner of this website.
so much happy, i can learn everyday.
thank a lot i am going to learning english and your words is so helpful
top bahadur thapa
good ! deferent method.
Very interesting exercises. Functional, too. Are these exercises/lessons for free?
Everything on the site is free!
Thanks for your helpful web site
Very helpful! Thank you.
it is very useful for me and thank you .. very much
Thanks, so useful!! I love the web page is great ;)
So great! :)
I need to improve my language
well done. thank you. we are hungry for more.
Really nice things to do for improving my vocabulary....
Very useful ...... They are really interesting
thank you very much,this tips are wonderful
very helpful thanks so much
it is very usefull.thanks.
it's very use full to me...thanks lot of
A little advice, words in English very rarely end with a double letters. So there is just one l in useful, thankful,helpful and so on. Hope this helps too :)
Thanks for your helpful comment, Marianne!
Get a FREE English Short Story!
Like to learn English? Join 19,600+ people who read our newsletter and get more help with:
We won't share your email address and you can unsubscribe any time.