Vocabulary Skills.

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The more we use a new language the more we try to do. At the beginning we need to familiarise ourselves with the grammatical forms so that we can shape our meaning but the more advanced we are the more we need to know how to use vocabulary.Here are a series of activities to help you learn more about vocabulary or lexis and to learn how to use your dictionary more effectively. Have fun!

What is Collocation?

Watch this video and answer this question:
What are two good ways of working on collocation?

Now practise using collocation:
Think of a person you know well and describe this person's appearance:
Use the dictionary to check the adjectives that you can collocate with these different things:
manner etc.
Then write your description in the discussion thread (Look at the discussion page above, on the right.)

Fixed Collocations


Binomials are items that consist of two words linked with a conjunction (usually "and") or a preposition. Many of them have a fixed word order, which differs from language to language. If we think of the example "Black and white" for instance this is the normal order in English. It would be strange to see "White and black". Is this the same in your language? Think of this example:

"They had an amazing old, black and white TV, that actually still worked!"
Look at the two activities below to practise a few of these:

Activity One

Activity Two

Some Useful Links for You
If you want to see some more of these expressions follow these links:


Words have different meanings depending on the context we use them in. Of course, it is not a good idea to try to remember all the meanings for a word when you first meet it. You generally learn the meaning for one context at a time. This means that some "meanings" are more appropriate at A1 level and others at B2, for example. Think of a word like "put". A beginner learns the basic meaning of the verb and then learns that it can go with prepositions:
I put my keys in my bag.
The higher the level you are the higher the level of complexity you become aware of for different words and expressions. At an A2 level you might use phrasal verbs like this:
I put my sweater on this morning.

Look at this image. Can you make it into a "poem" by separating different lines (all with the verb "held").
The title of the poem is:
The language learner's dream
1. Before you start think about what you would expect in a poem like this.
2. Find as many lines as you can
3. Decide which uses of the verb "hold" correspond to the different levels from A1-B1
4. Check your ideas by looking up "hold" in The English Vocabulary Profile. (You need to subscribe to this first)




1. Which dictionary do you need?

Watch the presentation to see some ways of using bilingual and monolingual dictionaries. The Presentation videos below will show you some parts of the Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English (LDOCE), which is useful if you do not have access to the dictionary itself. There is also an online version of this dictionary but it is not as complete as the book plus DVD version. To use the videos simply exit the presentation when it asks you to look at theLDOCE and click on the videos:

Watch this series of videos which go with the Powerpoint presentation above if you cannot access the actual Longman Dictionary:
Presentation Video 1: Join or reach?

Presentation Video 2: Recover: looking at lexical structure

Presentation Video 3: Using the Activator: WALK

Presentation Video 4: Using the Activator: FAT

Presentation Video 5: Using the Exercises for review or exams practice


Advanced Dictionary Skills:

How much do you know about lexis? Do this worksheet to find out?

Collocation and Semantic Prosody

Dictionary Skills 1 Using the Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English (LDOCE) for collocations Collocation is a useful tool to make your language more effective. Watch this video to see how to use the Londman Dictionary of Contemporary English, in particular to study collocations.

Dictionary Skills 2 Using the LDOCE examples bank to see semantic prosody

This shows how we can look at the dictionary corpus to understand the ways words work in combination with each other.

Looking at patterns: Possibility Worksheet

By looking at the videos you will have seen how useful the examples bank of the dictionary in corpus mode can be. Here is a worksheet with the concordance lines for "Possibility". Look at this and work through the exercise.

Another Useful Resource

The Compleat Lexical Tutor

This is a really interesting, useful site created by Tom Cobbs. It is based on the idea that learners need a basic 2000 words (the most frequent) which they can then build on according to their needs or interests. The site provides tools both for teachers and learners and here is a quick introductory video I made about it to help you get started:

Exploring Corpora

To see a whole range of different corpora, working together, look at COCA The Corpus of Contemporary American English
To learn how to make basic use of the COCA website work through the worksheets we did together.

If you have looked at this work and have learned something interesting, please go to the discussion page to share your insights with others

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Phrasal Verbs

If you want to revise or extend your phrasal verbs you can have fun at this link to a Cambridge University Press resource. Choose three verbs a week to learn and then use them:

Phrasal verbs

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