Before you start this exercise, check that you know the meaning of the following words:
Once you have checked the meaning of the words in the list above, complete each sentence using one of the words.
1. My friend Tom loves activities like mountain climbing, abseiling, white water rafting, bungee jumping and sky diving. In fact, it seems like dangerous situations excite him! Sometimes I wish I could have no fear like him. He is a veryperson. Show the answer
2. My friend has a very important job interview today. He is really worried about it. He keeps biting his nails and seems so nervous. I told him to calm down and try to relax but he said he feels too. Show the answer
3. My friend just lost his job and his girlfriend broke up with him. He is feeling very down and. I’m not sure how to cheer him up. Show the answer
4. My friend’s dog never does what it’s told. It always runs in the house and breaks things. It is very. They need to learn how to discipline it better. Show the answer
5. My friend’s niece always smiles and laughs. She seems so happy. In fact, I don’t’ think I have ever seen her in a bad mood. She’s a veryperson. Show the answer
6. My friend is so untidy. He almost never cleans his room. You should see it! It’s so! I told him he will never get a girlfriend if he doesn’t become a cleaner person. Show the answer
7. My friend didn’t like what his girlfriend got him for his birthday. He looked so! But I told him he should stop being so picky and just appreciate the gift. I think he really hurt her feelings. Show the answer
8. My friend studies so hard. She always gets her assignments done on time and gets great results. She’s so. I think I should try and be more like her. Show the answer
9. Ever since my friend got his new job, all he has cared about is money-money-money!! In the past he was so generous and money and possessions didn’t seem important to him. Now he is a very selfish andperson. Show the answer
10. My friend is a waitress. The job is perfect for her personality because she is always so kind and. Even when the customers are rude to her she keeps smiling and acts very professional. Show the answer
Learning new vocabulary is crucial to improving your ability to communicate in English.
Linguists say that to ‘survive’ in any language, a speaker needs to have a vocabulary of about 120 basic words – this would enable you to do the basics like order food, give / understand directions etc.
Research shows that an average learner is capable or retaining 10-20 words per study hour. Assuming just 15 minutes of self-study per day, that would give a possible weekly vocabulary goal of 20-25 words and phrases.
Did you know that even a native speaker who has graduated from university still only has a vocabulary an average of about 30,000 words? Learning new vocabulary should be a life-long process for everyone!
Finding time to study, especially for people with full time jobs can be a challenge, but using certain stratagies can help to make learning new vocabulary easier and more enjoyable.
The video below has 10 useful techniques for learning new vocabulary.
If you follow these techniques, you will find that learning new vocabulary becomes more effective and your vocabulary will quickly expand.
Having a good vocabulary in English allows you to express yourself more clearly and accurately. The more you learn, the easier it becomes to expand your vocabulary.
Tip 1: Don’t try to learn too many new words at once
Making long lists of words is often not a very successful technique. Words and definitions can become mixed and confused. Focus on only 10 new words at one time, practicing and using them as much as possible. When you are confident you know them, find another 10 words and repeat the process.
Tip 2: Keep a vocabulary list
Make a short list of words that you want to learn, and keep that list with you wherever you go. A pocket-sized notebook, or the ‘notes’ function on a mobile phone, is a good way to start. You can also pin short lists of words around the house – above your bed, next to your computer, even in the back of the bathroom door! Keep your list well organised, with a clear structure. For example:
I think it is easier to use a keyboard than write by hand.
You can also add a translation of the word in your own language, but be careful. Although this can be useful at a lower level of English, the more advanced your English becomes, the more you will find that words are not exact matches between languages, and you can miss subtle differences.
Tip 3: Use the words in a sentence
Research has proven that putting a word in context in a sentence is much more effective than trying to learn a word on its own. Create sentences that are true about you and your life. For example, if you were trying to learn the word ‘garden’, then think about where you live – do you have a garden? Does anyone you know have a garden that you like? Your example sentence should be about something personal to you.
Tip 4: Use a dictionary
Although this is an obvious tip, you can make a dictionary more effective for you by getting into the habit of looking up new words. We recommend using a paper dictionary, as you can then put a clear mark beside the word in a bright coloured pen and look through the dictionary from time to time refreshing your memory. If you find you have forgotten the word, put it back on your list and write another sentence to help you.
Tip 5: Test yourself
Free vocabulary tests are widely available on the internet, on this website and on our free app. You should also ask a friend to help you (if you followed Tip 4, you can hand them your dictionary and ask them to find a word you have marked and ask you for the meaning – or they can give you the meaning and you tell them the word).
Tip 6: Use the new word
When you learn a new word, it is common to find that you suddenly start hearing or seeing the word a lot more, and it becomes easier to remember. However, there are also times when you learn a new word and then don’t see it or use for a long time, and this will cause is to forget. One way to help you remember the word is to repeat it 5 or 6 times in a row, repeating this pattern every day for three or four days – this will help seal the new word in your long term memory.
Tip 7: Use word families
If you learn a new word – for example, happy – then find all the words in the same family (happily, happiness). That way you can quickly expand your vocabulary.
Tip 8: Read widely
This is definitely the best way to learn new words. It is also good practice to check what the word may mean in context.
Tip 9: Use a variety of ways to remember new words.
You don’t have to write new words to remember them. Some words are better drawn as pictures or acted out like a play, and flash cards, with the word on one side and a definition on the other, can also be very handy. Don’t feel you need to use the same techniques over and over again.
Tip 10: Find your vocabulary level
It can be helpful to find out your level of vocabulary, so you have some idea of what level you are. English vocabulary can be split into different levels, so take a look at the vocabulary section.
This is one of the most common errors you will see on the internet, even when written by native English speakers. To begin, test yourself by deciding whether these sentences are correct or incorrect.
1. You’re looking very well – have you been on holiday? This is correct | This is not correct Show answerThis is correct. See below for the explanation.
2. This is you’re final warning! This is correct | This is not correct Show answerThis is not correct. See below for the explanation.
3. Your friend telephoned this morning. This is correct | This is not correct Show answerThis is correct. See below for the explanation.
4. Your our teacher for the day, aren’t you? This is correct | This is not correct Show answerThis is not correct. See below for the explanation.
Step 1: The first step towards using you’re and your correctly is to understand the difference between them.
You’re – this is a contraction of two words – you are (a subject and a verb)
Your – this is a possessive pronoun, showing belonging or ownership.
Step 2: The easiest way to check the correct form is to expand the contraction you’re into you are. Take a look at the sentences below.
1. You’re looking very well – have you been on holiday? > You are looking very well – have you been on holiday?
2. This is you’re final warning! > This is you are final warning
Step 3: For your with meaning of possession or ownership, you should be able to replace Yourwith Myand the sentence would still be correct.
3. Your friend telephoned this morning. > My friend telephoned this morning.
4. Your our teacher for the day, aren’t you? > My our teacher for the day, aren’t you?
Now test yourself!
1. If you’re often tired, you should go to bed earlier.
Show answerThis is correct. Without the contraction, the sentence reads If you are tired…
2. I think your smile is beautiful!
Show answerThis is correct. Changing your to my, this reads I think my smile is beautiful.
3. I think your beautiful!
Show answerThis is NOT correct. Changing your to my, this reads I think my beautiful. It should say ‘I think you are beautiful, so should be you’re
4. Our staff are available to answer your questions.
Show answerThis is correct. Changing your to my, this reads Our staff are available to answer my questions.
5. Your a lot like your brother in appearance, although you have very different personalities.
Show answerThis is NOT correct. Changing your to my, this reads My a lot like your brother in appearance…
6. I don’t think you’re being very kind.
Show answerThis is correct. Without the contraction, the sentence reads I don’t think you are being very kind.
7. Your going to have to leave soon, so you should get your coat on.
Show answerThis is NOT correct. Changing your to my, the sentence would read My going to have to leave soon, so you should get my coat on. The second your is correct, but the first one should be you’re.
8. I have to say that you’re a terrible driver! Look at all the damage on your car!
Show answerThis is correct, as you can see by using the two techniques mentioned above. I have to say that you are a terrible driver! Look at all the damage on my car!
And to finish, here are some useful tips…
– If the word that follows is an article (a, an, the), then it should be you’re. Compare: You’re the best!Your the best!
– If the word that follows is an adjective (a describing word). then it should GENERALLY be you’re. Compare: You’re beautiful!Your beautiful.
Some people believe that a university education should be available to everyone as a university education will help with employment.
The problem here is that ‘university education’ has been repeated – the sentence would have been better presented using a reference word like this:
Some people believe that a university education should be available to everyone as this will help with employment.
Reference words (words that refer back to a previous word or phrase but without repeating it) are very common many reading texts and can often cause some confusion. An important part of understanding a text is being able to identify the reference words and their relationship to other words, phrases or sentences.
Test your skills – what do the underlined words refer to? Choose the correct letter A-C.
New Zealand is becoming an increasingly popular destination for overseas visitors. Itattracts tourists and people on business, but the vast majority come as students. Mostly from Asian countries, theystay for anything from a few weeks to a few years or more, studying at language schools, colleges and universities. New Zealand can offer good homestay accommodation, a clean and beautiful environment and a reasonable cost of tuition. These factors attract an ever-increasing number of overseas students, accounting for millions of dollars in revenue for New Zealand.
(b) New Zealand
(c) a popular destination
Show answer(B) – New Zealand
They refers to
(a) Asian countries
(b) tourists and business people
Show answer(C) – students
These factors refers to
(a) accommodation, environment and reasonable tuition costs
(b) schools, colleges, universities
(c) increasing overseas students
Show answer(A) – accommodation, environment and reasonable tuition costs
Now try using reference words the other way round. What reference word could replace the underlined words?
Professor Edwards has been lecturing for 16 years.
Overseas students often find university courses difficult.
The IELTS test is becoming increasingly popular.
Professor Edwards … Show answerHe
Overseas students … Show answerThey
The IELTS test … Show answerIt
Tip 1: Subject or object reference words
Be careful – reference words can change depending on whether they are the subject or the object of the sentence. For example:
Overseas students often find university courses difficult.
Theyoften find university courses difficult.
Overseas students often find themdifficult.
Mr Smith works with Mr Jones every day.
Heworks with Mr Jones every day.
Mr Smith works with himevery day.
Tip 2: Singular and plural
When talking generally, you may find that some singular nouns take a plural reference word. For example:
A teacher (singular) should always be prepared. They (plural) should also be punctual. Tip 3: The dummy subject
Sometimes ‘it’ can appear in a sentence but it is not a true reference word – it doesn’t refer back to anything specific. This is called the dummy subject. For example:
It is commonly accepted that people with a higher education generally work in higher paid jobs.
In the sentence above, ‘it’ does not refer to anything specific, just the general situation.
Practice by reading the sentences below and deciding whether ‘it’ is used as a reference word or a dummy subject.
Look at those clouds. It’s going to rain.
Homework is essential. It allows students to review work they have studied in class.
Admittedly, student depression is hard to investigate as few people are willing to talk openly about it.
Itcan take up to four years to complete a degree.
Otago is a very popular university. Itwas the first university in New Zealand.
1. Show answerThis is a dummy subject
2. Show answerThis is a reference word
3. Show answerThis is a reference word
4. Show answerThis is a dummy subject
5. Show answerThis is a reference word
Now test yourself. Read the text below and decide what the underlined reference words refer to.
Student life is becoming increasingly difficult. Not only are students expected to perform and compete within the class, but also to devote time and energy to extra-curricular activities as well as struggle with an increasing load of homework. The push to get into the top universities has caused many overachieving students to take on heavier workloads and more challenging classes.
This push, however, doesn’t end once students reach university. In fact, when theyreach the top places they have worked so hard to get into, many students are forced to work even harder than they did in high school. Once in the top universities, the pressure is on to secure a place in the top graduate school. But itdoesn’t end there. Once students have graduated with the best results, they find that they must continue to overextend themselves in order to secure the top jobs in their particular field. Such is the emphasis on academic success.
There are many who claim that thisentire system is wrong because it puts too much emphasis on measuring achievement and not enough on true learning. This in turn has inevitable effects on the students themselves. In such a high-pressure learning environment, thosethat find the pressure overwhelming have nowhere to turn. In an academic world measured only by academic success, many students begin to feel a low sense of worth, yet they fear to turn to anyone for help as this would be perceived as a signal of failure, an inability to cope with that which other students appear to have no problem. Thiscan be particularly hard for foreign students as they find themselves isolated without familiar cultural or family ties in their new environment and thus they concentrate solely on their work.
Perhaps the main thing to remember is that although itis important to study hard, school life should also be fun.
This push refers to…… Show answerThe push to get into top universities
They refers to…… Show answerOverachieving students (not just ‘students’)
It refers to…… Show answerThe pressure
There refers to…… Show answerAt top universities
This refers to…… Show answerOverachieving / overextending / pressurised (system)
Those refers to…… Show answerStudents who have overextended themselves
This refers to…… Show answerThe situation where students feel depressed, have low self esteem, feel that they cannot talk to anyone
When you have a problem and you need to complain, there are ways of expressing yourself politely as you look for a solution. Being too direct is considered rude and will often lead to the staff in the shop being less willing to help.
Imagine you have just bought a new mobile phone, but when you get home and open the box the screen is cracked. When you go back to the shop, which of the sentences below is best to say?
A. This is broken. Give me a new one or a refund.
B. I hope you can help. I have just bought this phone, and the screen seems to be cracked. Would you be able to replace it or provide a refund?
Hopefully you would have selected the second sentence (B). There are a number of reasons why this is a better sentence, as explained below.
Tip 1: Avoid giving commands
‘Give me a new one’, ‘Fix it now’, ‘Give me my money back’ – these are all commands which are less likely to end well. It is much better to phrase your request as an indirect question. In the examples above, the command ‘Give me’ in Sentence A has changed to ‘Would you be able to…?’ in Sentence B.
Tip 2: Start in a friendly way
When complaining in English, it is common to start your sentence with a friendly expression like ‘I hope you can help’. In fact, it is even common for English speaking people to apologise before they start to complain! ‘Sorry, but this phone seems to be broken’. Here are some other expressions that are commonly used when complaining:
I’m sorry, but this doesn’t seem to be the correct change.
Excuse me, but I don’t think you gave me the correct change.
I’m afraid that there may have been a mistake with my change.
Sorry to bother you, but I don’t think you gave me the correct change.
Tip 3: Don’t be too dogmatic (too strong)
In our example sentences at the top of the page, the speaker is sentence A says ‘This is broken’, while the speaker in sentence B says ‘The screen seems to be cracked’. Clearly, the screen is either cracked or not – how can it be ‘seems to be cracked’? The reason is that when complaining in English, we tend to avoid being too dogmatic, softening the sentence with words like:
The screen seems to be cracked.
The screen appears to be cracked.
It looks as though the screen has cracked.
I think the screen may have cracked.
So what happens if you have politely expressed your point of view and you still don’t get a suitable response? For example:
Customer: I hope you can help. I have just bought this phone, and the screen seems to be cracked. Would you be able to replace it or provide a refund?
Shop assistant: It’s your fault. It’s not my problem.
At this point, it’s important not to start aggressively arguing. You need to state your case calmly and clearly. For example:
Customer: Actually, I didn’t open the box until I got home, and it was in this condition before I even touched it. I understand that I have the right to request a replacement or a refund. If you are unable to help, I would like to talk to your your manager or supervisor.
Although they have similar meanings, there are significant differences that you need to know!
Listen / Hear
We ‘listen’ to something when we focus on it and pay attention to it.
We ‘hear’ something that comes into our ears. It is not necessarily deliberate or intentional.
I was trying to watch television but all I could hear was my neighbour playing his guitar.
I went outside so I could listen to my neighbour play his guitar
Test yourself! Select the correct answer from the list for each gap
When you ask someone for directions, it is important towhat they are saying.
Ia noise outside – perhaps you should go and take a look?
I was trying toto the teacher’s instructions, but she has a very quiet voice and I couldn’ther.
to that! It sounds like John’s car!
Where I work, we canthe radio if we want to.
I think there’s a storm coming – I justsome thunder.
I was talking to friend who is overseas, but she couldn’tme because the phone line wasn’t clear.
The problem with some people is they nevergood advice!
Click here to see the answers
1. When you ask someone for directions, it is important to LISTEN TO what they are saying.
2. I HEARD a noise outside – perhaps you should go and take a look?
3. I was trying to LISTEN TO the teacher’s instructions, but she has a very quiet voice and I couldn’t HEAR her.
4. LISTEN TO that! It sounds like John’s car!
5. Where I work, we can LISTEN TO the radio if we want to.
6. I think there’s a storm coming – I just HEARD some thunder.
7. I was talking to friend who is overseas, but she couldn’t HEAR me because the phone line wasn’t clear.
8. The problem with some people is they never LISTEN TO good advice!