ACET: Make the most of your Dictionary!!


A good dictionary is invaluable when learning English. A monolingual dictionary is preferable and provides a lot more than the meaning of words.

With a good dictionary you can:

• check the spelling of a word (k-n-e-e)
• check the plural of a noun or past tense of a verb (go – went – gone)
• find out grammatical information about a word ( is it countable or uncountable)
• find the synonym or antonym of a word (similar word or opposite word)
• look up the collocations of a word (worried about – interested in)
• check the part of speech of a word (noun – verb – adjective – adverb)
• find out how to say a word (phonetics)
• find out about the register/style of a word (informal – slang – old-fashioned)

Which type of dictionary?


Using online and electronic dictionaries are becoming more and more popular. Electronic dictionaries are a good choice as they provide native language equivalents and explanations, as well as definitions and example sentences in English. Also, they can sound the word out in English and they are lighter to carry to class. However, they can be quite expensive. With a computer, you can use online dictionary. There are many good ones for ELT learners. A high level (advanced) monolingual dictionary is highly recommended for ELT learners with a high standard of English and a keen interest in language and word use. Modern dictionaries are based on large corpora of naturally occurring language which helps ensure the information is up to date and informative.

As well as knowing how to use your dictionary – you need to know when to use it.

Looking up every word you don’t understand is not recommended. You have limit yourself and choose the most useful words to check and the right time to do it. Try to guess the meaning from context and if you can’t and it seems important, then look it up. Don’t interrupt your reading for too long or too often.
In class ask your teacher to write new words on the board in context which you can then record in your notebooks. Better not to look it up in the dictionary in class as you may miss something else – check it at home later, if necessary.
Use your dictionary now to look up some of these adjectives. Have Fun!


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