Add Variety to Your English Vocabulary!

When you’d like to say what people said, especially if they said what others said, you may feel the need to vary your vocabulary to express yourself more precisely and less clumsily. Here’s how: make use of some verbs that report statements by interpreting the author’s meaning, or by indicating your viewpoint regarding what the author says.

However, it’s not as easy as to simply learn the meanings of these verbs. You must also get the understanding of how they work in a sentence, because some verbs are followed by a preposition (e.g., to, for, with, of), some by that, others by a gerund (a verb with an –ing ending) and yet others by a noun and to-infinitive (a basic form of a verb preceded by to). To make things even more confusing, some verbs can fit more than one category. For example, advise can be followed by that, a noun with a to-infinitive, and the preposition against or on. Yes, English is not always a piece of cake, but brace yourself —the enlightenment is coming! ;)

You must have heard it more than once. English teachers often advise / propose / recommend / suggest / urge that English learners should keep a record of new vocabulary. They advise / urge the students to revise the vocabulary and propose / recommend / suggest doing it regularly. I admit / concede / acknowledge / agree / concur that it sounds dry. However, there are way more enjoyable methods of vocabulary building.

First of all, when you do write a new word down, do it on a small card. On the back of such a card, make a definition of the word and/or a gap sentence (you can also copy them from a website or a dictionary). If you do that with all the new words, you’ll create a stack of vocabulary cards. The next thing to do is to test yourself. Take one card, look at the gap sentence and try to think of the word that fits in it, or look at the definition and see if you remember the word it defines. If you get the answer right, put the card aside, creating the “learned” stack. If you get it wrong, put the card at the back of your “to learn” stack, and take the next card. Try to repeat this process frequently. Look at your “to learn” words every day and come back to your “learned” ones every few months just to make sure you haven't forgotten them. In case you have, put the card back to the “to learn” stack and start the process again. I promise / swear / guarantee / assert / give you my word that whatever time you invest in this activity (and it is not as time consuming as you might suspect), it’ll pay.

What’s more, to learn how an English word works in a sentence, simply use Google Search, because the search bar offers you suggestions before you've even finished typing. It lists the most popular search terms beginning with the word given; at the same time it also shows / demonstrates / illustrates / indicates / reveals / specifies the words that go together. So when you want to find out how to use a new word in a sentence, Google it. For example, when you type the word blame into the Google search bar, you’ll see a number of search terms come up. The first one is “blame it on the boogie”, which is a Michael Jackson’s song, and the next two are other song titles “blame it on the rain” and “blame it on the girls”. This way you’ll learn that the verb blame is followed by an object and the preposition on and you can memorize such ready-made phrases so that you can use them later on in a suitable situation.

On top of that, in order to remember the word, it’s useful to build a mental image or draw a picture to associate the familiar with the unfamiliar. I’m sure / certain / convinced / confident / positive that you’ve had such moments when you’re craving for chocolate and an image of a chocolate bar appears in front of your eyes. This is how the human brain works. If you link a new English word to an image of that word in your mind, you’ll build your confidence about the word’s meaning. For instance, the term contest refers to a competition in which people try to win something, as in a beauty contest. However, it may also be used as a verb meaning to disagree. In order to remember this, I associated the verb contest with an image of beauty contests’ participants, because I happen to disagree with / object to / disapprove of / be against / oppose / contest the idea behind such events. This works for me all right, but you’re free to create your own unique associations. (Note that the noun contest is stressed on the first syllable, while the verb contest on the second.)

There are of course more ways to learn new words and the list above is by no means exhaustive. Try out these methods and analyse / examine / investigate / scrutinize some others that people around you use. I think / believe /feel that you’ll find the ones that work best for you!