Do you wonder how to increase your vocabulary? These vocabulary strategies can help you learn and remember new words.
Different strategies work best for different people. So try them all, then use the ones that work best for you every day to speed up your English learning.
Learn as you Read
The best way to increase your English vocabulary is to read (or watch or listen to) some English every day.
Try the news, articles, books, podcasts, or videos on a variety of subjects that interest you.
(Choose subjects you care about so you'll keep on reading, even if it's a little hard.)
When you see or hear words you don't know, use these strategies to figure them out, and to learn the ones that are important to understand what you're reading-- or that you see over and over.
- Use Context Clues. Try to guess
the meaning of a new word from its context (the words around it.) See Improve (Your) Reading Skills for more information.
- Analyze word parts (roots and affixes.) Also see if any of its parts are like other
words you know. Maybe you can figure out its meaning from similar words.
know that spectators are people
watching (looking at) an event, you might be able to guess that an inspector is someone who looks into
things and watches to see that things are done properly.
(More than 25 pages on EnglishHints explain different roots and affixes. Word Families is a good place to start.)
- Watch for cognates. If you know a
European language, whether it is a Germanic language or one
that comes from Latin, you may be able to guess at English words that are cognates (words that are similar because they have the same roots.)
- When necessary, use a dictionary. If you're still not sure, then look it up. (If you're online, listen to the word as well as reading its definition. Hearing and repeating will make extra connections in your mind.)
- Start a vocabulary notebook. Try writing new words and their meanings in a vocabulary notebook or on a flash card. Write an example sentence too. If you can, add a drawing that reminds you of its meaning.
- Make a
mental picture, rhyme, movement, or other clue to help you remember a word-- whatever
works for you. Connect it in your mind with related words you already
- Then review
it-- often at first (at least once the same day), then less often once you know it fairly well. You
can use flash cards for this (or spaced repetition software like Anki), or a vocabulary notebook or checklist.
Watch for the word when you read. (Is the use and
meaning the same?)
Keep your review sessions brief. A
few minutes every day will help you learn much more than 2 hours once a week.
Learn Words in Groups
- Learn related words together. Although memorizing
lists is a common vocabulary strategy, it's not an effective one by itself.
However, learning related words as a group can be. Think about the words and how they are related, categorizing or grouping them
and then sorting them by their relationships within the groups.
- Notice their differences in usage. (Talk, shout,
scream, and whisper all use your voice to communicate, but some are louder than
Some related words may not be polite or appropriate in certain situations. Shouting to a friend in class would be rude, but it would be necessary if you see a fire starting and need to warn people to
Learn a New Word Every Day
It chooses really useful words-- not just unusual ones-- and gives standard dictionary information like the meaning plus a recent quote from the New York Times that uses the word. A bonus-- the page lists more than a week's earlier entries in case you miss one. Try bookmarking it right now.
Keep Building Vocabulary
- Subscribe to EnglishHint’s free newsletter, English Detective. (Of course, you could take an English class instead, or join a regular discussion group-- anything that regularly exposes you to new words and ideas in English...)
You'll receive two issues a month, with interesting reading, review activities, and sometimes games, puzzles, or quizzes, to reinforce what you
learn and make it yours!
As mentioned above, the best way to learn new words is to read or hear them
several times in context (not just study a list of words.) It takes a number of repetitions for most people to remember a new
word and be able to use it.
The main purpose of English Detective is to give you multiple opportunities to read,
hear, and work with common academic vocabulary in interesting, real-life
For more information, see Building Vocabulary Week by Week, or sign up on the form below.)
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Vocabulary >Effective Vocabulary Strategies
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