More vocabulary tips…

Last week we looked at several ways to make learning English vocabulary more efficient. This week, we continue with tips on how to:

  • expand the information in your vocabulary notebook to make it more effective
  • use online tools to help you build your range of language

3. When you learn a new word, get to know its family.


 You can increase your vocabulary range with less effort by exploring and recording word families – and what’s not to love about that? In the image above, you can see many words that contain the base word love. Lovable (also spelled loveable), loveless and lovely are all formed by adding a suffix: –able, –less and –ly. Unloved requires both a suffix (-ed) and the prefix (un-).

Some of the love-related words in the image, like lovesick, are compound words, meaning they are formed by adding two words together. Part of knowing what love is, is knowing what other words it loves enough to compound with!

In your vocabulary notebook, you should allow space to record this kind of information for new words. One benefit of learning and studying words with their families is that you will learn the meaning of the various prefixes and suffixes. This can help you to identify the part of speech (noun, verb, adjective, adverb), and understand the meaning, of new words with similar forms that you meet when listening to or reading English.

4. Learn more about the words you learn.

Studying vocabulary shouldn’t make you feel like this:

Image courtesy of lankatroniik

Use the free resources available online to help make learning words, and learning about words, more interesting.

Let’s say you learn the word livid in class, or you come across it while reading at home. To be sure that you understand the meaning, you can look it up using an online dictionary such as the ones mentioned in last week’s post. Or, to get more examples of how to use the word, and to see how people are using it right now, you can check

Here’s their main definition:

If you’re livid, you’re furious, in a black cloud of anger. The Latin root this word comes from means “bluish-gray” or “slate-colored,” and you can also use livid to describe the color, such as a livid bruise or a livid sea.

Here’s a recent example of the word being used from the same page:

I was livid when I found out she had lied.
Time Magazine, April 17, 2013
For many people, being able to ‘see’ the meaning of a word is helpful, and finding an image to associate with it can help you to remember it as well.
Searching on Google Images is the simplest way to do this.
Visual dictionaries offer a different way to explore language and word families. The search results are given in a map or web format. Here is an example of a small one made by looking up the word English on
When you visit the site, you can interact with the map and put the mouse over words to get more information. Make one with livid by clicking here.
A task to help you expand your vocabulary now:
  • find a word in your coursebook, from your notes or one that you heard/read recently that you want to get to know better
  • research and record its family using a good learner’s dictionary, or some of the online resources listed above – see how many variations you can find
  • explore the word further by searching for an image that helps you to understand the meaning
  • Create a  map of the word using a visual dictionary
Come back next week for a look at web-based vocabulary games and more ways to remember and use the language you learn!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s