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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.

Vocabulary notebooks

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.

2. Review

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

1. Read

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.

2. Blitz
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:




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61 comments

yazan ksheek
thanks
Immanuel
this was nice wasn't a waste of my time
kety
They are good advise!!! Thanks a lot, we need them!!
niloufar
hello I'm so glad to find your site in the internet. Your lessons are so useful and practical. Thanks a lotniloufar
ARA
thanks a lot
Aibarsha
thank u very much!!!
saranga Gamlath
valuable advise and knowledge thank very much
khoa than
Very good advice! Thank you so much.
Yang
Thanks.Nice tips
diana nkhulembe
eye opener tips, thank you very much
Awais Musavi
Thanks a bunch!
Mohsen
Although I read them in study skills book beforebut it was very useful to be repeated.thanks a million.
DIANA
wonderful, this is verygood
jihane
Thank you so much!
ali
very good
isa
thank you
Angel
Really very helpful
sabir
thanks an advance
wetch
It's very useful to improve my English skills. Thank you.
Vivek
very very useful.Thanks
Mayfang Chen
Thanks! Reading is a great way to improve our English vocabulary and I will get a good dictionary!
z.hadi
thank you , I learned it to my students .
mehran
yhank youvery good traingood luck
Sadek
Wonderful, thank you very much
HUSSAIN
NICE ,PROMISING AND COMPREHENSIVE
Chloe
Thanks! :) +1
fitri
big thanks, it's very helpfull for me :)
HUY
It is the best way to learn English vocabulary!Thank you very much!!!
Barbara
Thank +1
Sreedharan
a brilliant suggestion to learn connected English words
sahand
how many papers should the notebook have?!! :) :) kidding...these advises were awesome thanks alot
mukul verma
thank you very much for your advise
ravindran.r
yeah...! its very usefull...!
rahmat gul
It is realy helpful for me thanks alot
Meysam
Great notes
Usman Haider
really fabulous
natha baskara
Great help full a lot, gorgeous advice. i will used it for traditional language too okay thanks
Haksreng
great lesson for me
vijay
the tips given on this website are very easy to understand and very useful, thanks a lot to the owner of this website.
Mary
so much happy, i can learn everyday.
hossein
thank a lot i am going to learning english and your words is so helpful
top bahadur thapa
good ! deferent method.
Efgie
Very interesting exercises. Functional, too. Are these exercises/lessons for free?
Clare
Everything on the site is free!
Neda
Thanks for your helpful web site
Aadya
Very helpful! Thank you.
hariom
it is very useful for me and thank you .. very much
mar
Thanks, so useful!! I love the web page is great ;)
Ali
So great! :)
Amanullah
I need to improve my language
Hashim
well done. thank you. we are hungry for more.
Ali youssef
Really nice things to do for improving my vocabulary....
Yacine
Very useful ...... They are really interesting
teezkid
thank you very much,this tips are wonderful
subomi grams
very helpful thanks so much
pradeep
it is very usefull.thanks.
Rajeswari
it's very use full to me...thanks lot of
sada
thanks
Marianne
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 :)
Clare
Thanks for your helpful comment, Marianne!
sangeeta
helpful page

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