Vocabulary Review

Hi Everyone,

English vocabulary is challenging to learn. Here you’ll find  an overview of some of the more difficult vocabulary  in English.  In addition to single words there are the following  elements of  vocabulary that you need to learn.

Idioms (time on my hands)

Phrasal verbs (get in, go out)

What makes these so challenging is that there is no logical way to figure out their meaning from the individual words. The best way to learn idioms, phrasal verbs and set phrases is by memorization.  Keeping your iPod handy is a good idea so that you can enter any new idioms or phrasal verbs you may hear, and practice them later.

The Academic Word List contains a listing of the most frequently used words in the English language.  Reviewing it occasionally would be helpful, as would the link to the vocabulary exercises for practice.

If you need further assistance go to the Help Center.

The Academic Word List

Vocabulary Exercises to use with the Academic Word List


Strategies and Activities for Learning Vocabulary

I. Guessing Meanings From Context

II. Using Graphic Organizers

III. Antonyms, Synonyms and Homophones

IV. Breaking Down Compound Words

V. Affixes: roots prefixes, suffixes

VI. Idioms and Phrasal Verbs

VII. Word Games/Crosswords

Word Meanings: Practice Exercises

I. Guessing Meanings From Context

Learning how to guess the meanings of words from context is important. It helps you to read and decipher words independently, outside of class.

The following are steps taken from Paul Nation’s book New Ways in Teaching Vocabulary:

1. Look at the unknown word and identify its part of speech. Is it a noun, verb, adjective, or adverb?

2. Look at the sentence containing the unknown word. If the word is a noun, what adjectives  describe it ?  If it is a verb, then what nouns go with it? Is it modified by an adverb?

3. Study the relationship between the sentence containing the unknown word, and the other sentences. Are there cues like conjunctions (because, but, if)? Are there any adverbs (however)? The possible types of relationships are cause and effect, contrasts,  and summary .

4. Use the knowledge from 1-3 to try and guess the meaning of the word.

5-Use an English-English dictionary to see if you were correct.

II. Using Graphic Organizers and Mapping Techniques

Another effective strategy for  learning the meanings of words is  using graphic organizers. Graphic organizers are visual representations such as charts, maps, graphs, diagrams and tables  used to organize information, concepts and ideas, In Education they are frequently used to show representations of information used in reading, writing, speaking and vocabulary words.

An example would be a vocabulary map  for analyzing words and their associations.


To analyze a new word:

On your paper  draw a circle or a square and write the word:

Draw a circle next to it and place the part of speech

Draw another for a synonym

Draw one for antonym

Under draw a square for a sentence using the word

A picture representing the word

The definition of the word

Link to various kinds of graphs for vocabulary

Vocabulary Graphs

III. Antonyms, Synonyms and Homophones

Another area of interest in vocabulary are the  antonyms, synonyms and homophones. Here’s a review.

Antonyms are the opposite meanings of words.

Example:  the antonym of the word long is short.

Synonyms are words the have similar meanings.

Example: some synonyms for the word  long are lengthy, and elongated.

Homophones are words that sound the same, but spelled differently.

Examples: new, knew

Homographs (or Homonyms)  are words that are spelled the same, but are pronounced differently and have different meanings.

Examples: wind (noun, air current)  wind (verb, operate by turning a key or handle)

Not all words are homophones or homographs.

IV. Breaking Down Compound Words

An effective method for understanding word meanings  is breaking down compound words. A compound word  is a word made up of two other words.

Examples: drugstore, lifeboat

 V. Affixes: Roots, Prefixes, Suffixes

Learning how to understand the meanings of  words  by analyzing the roots, prefixes, suffixes is a very worthwhile strategy.

Roots are the base word. Words are made up of a base word and a prefix, and/or suffix.

Example: Port = to carry

Prefixes are placed at the beginning of a word to modify its meaning.

Examples: The prefix ex = out, out of (export)

Prefix im =  in, into (import)

Example: The suffix able = to be able (transportable)

Examples of Prefixes:

re= again, back  (Recall, regroup)

pre = before  (preview, pre-read)

mis = wrong, bad  (mistake, mislead)

de= reduce, remove (deactivate, debark)

tele= distant, far (telescope, telegraph)

un = not  (unacceptable, unable)

bi = twice (biweekly, bimonthly)

uni = one, whole (unicycle,

octo= eight (octgon, octave)

sub= under, low (subway, submarine)

multi=many ( multiply, multicolored)


Suffixes are placed at the ends of words to modify the meaning.

Examples of Suffixes:

able= can, ability to do something

er  =   job, doer, (waiter, writer)

ful = full of  (hopeful)

phone = sound /audio (telephone)

scope = see or range- (microscope)

Quiz  Prefixes and Suffixes

Directions: Select the correct letter for the word in bold. Answers at the end of page.

1. This paper bag is reusable.

a- throw it away

b- use it again

c- make it smaller

2. A black cat is unlucky in some countries.

 a- the cat brings good fortune

b- the cat brings bad fortune

c- the cat is always hungry

3. The fire chief used a microphone to give directions to the crowd.

a- the crowd could hear him better

b- they could barely hear him.

c-the crowd heard him sing.

4. The boy’s misconduct in school got him a bad grade.

a- the boy was an angel.

b- the boy made a mistake

c- the boy behaved badly

5. The class met biweekly.

a-they meet 4 times a week.

b- they met 3 times a week.

c- they met 2 times a week.

6.  She can predict the future

a- she’s blind.

b- she can think about yesterday.

c-she can foresee what’s going to happen

7. They accidentally deleted his work from the computer.

a- they typed in his work.

b-they removed his work.

c-they read his work.

8. She works at the UN and is multilingual.

a-she speaks one language.

b-she speaks two languages

c-she speaks more than two languages.

VI. Idioms and Phrasal Verbs

Idioms (idiomatic expressions)

An idiom is a phrase or an expression with a special meaning, that cannot be understood from the individual meanings of its words.

E.g., to fly off the handle means to lose one’s temper, or to get angry.

Phrasal verbs

This term refers to a verb + preposition, which together have a special meaning.

E.g., put off means to postpone.

Sometimes a phrasal verb may consist of three parts:

E.g., put up with- means to tolerate something or somebody.

Examples of Idioms

To Take a rain check = you cannot accept an invitation now, but maybe the next time.

Example: “I’d love to attend the party, but I’ll have to take a raincheck because I have a prior commitment.”

A little bird told me = when someone doesn’t want to say where they got certain information they use this idiom.

Example: “I asked Mary how she knew we were all going to get increases in pay, but all she said was that a little bird told her.”

Think outside the box = people who think outside the box find innovative ways or ideas to do things.

Example: “John always comes out with great ideas, no one has thought of…he really thinks outside the box!”

Get the hang of it = when you get the hang of something, you’ve learned how to do it.

Example: “Once you practice riding the bike several times, you’ll eventually get the hang of it.”

Dig in your heels = used for a person who refuses to do something.

Example: “The mother insisted her little son eat his peas, but he dug in his heels and refused to eat them.”

Not a hair out of place =  used for a person whose appearance is perfect.

Example: “She always dresses impeccably, never a hair out of place.”

A pretty penny = used for items that are very expensive.

Example: “Wow! Look at that car, it must have cost a pretty penny.”

Have your cake and eat it too = means someone who wants the advantages of two situations, when only one is possible.

Example:  “Jim lives in that expensive condo, but he constantly complains about the high cost of everything. He wants to have his cake and eat it too!”

Examples of Phrasal Verbs

Put on= turn on, switch on

Example:”Could you put on the light?”

Pick up = collect someone, or something-

Example:” I’ll pick you up from the airport.”

Call off = to cancel something-

Example:”The meeting was called off due to rain.”

Point out = to direct attention to something-

Example: ” He pointed out the error.”

Allow for = to take into consideration –

Example: ” We should leave early to allow for heavy traffic.”

Make up = invent a story/ excuse

Example:”She made up the excuse for being late for work.”

Apply for=make a request formally for something-

Example: “She applied for the job at the office.”

Put off = postpone something-

Example:”We put off going to Spain until later in the year.”

Answers to  Prefixes and Suffixes Quiz

1. This paper bag is reusable.-b- use it again

2. A black cat is unlucky in some countries.- b- the cat brings bad fortune

3. The fire chief used a microphone to give directions to the crowd.-a- the crowd could hear him better

4. The boy’s misconduct in school got him a bad grade.-c- the boy behaved badly

5. The class met biweekly.-c- they met 2 times a week.

6.  She can predict the future-c-she can foresee what’s going to happen.

7. They accidentally deleted his work from the computer.-b-they removed his work.

8. She works at the UN and is multilingual.-c-she speaks more than two languages.