Learning Synonyms

by Kate Woodford

Many of our About Words blog posts aim to provide our readers with a range of interesting words and phrases for saying the same or a similar thing.  We’re talking, of course, about synonyms – or near-synonyms. This week, we’re still focusing on this approach to vocabulary expansion but we’re looking at the way that Cambridge Dictionary +Plus can help with the process. Continue reading “Learning Synonyms”

Comical and hysterical (Words that mean funny)

Melody A/iStock/Getty Images Plus

by Kate Woodford

‘A day without laughter is a day wasted,’ said Charlie Chaplin, the comic actor and filmmaker. Whether or not you agree with him, you’ll almost certainly want to describe, in English, things that are funny. In this week’s post, we’ll provide you with a range of words to help you do just that. Continue reading “Comical and hysterical (Words that mean funny)”

Shrewd or cunning, modern or newfangled? Connotation in English

by Liz Walter

RoughShod/iStock/Getty
RoughShod/iStock/Getty

It has been said that there is no such thing as a synonym in English. That’s quite an extreme view, but it’s certainly true that words that look like synonyms often have subtle differences of usage. The one I’m going to look at in this post is that of connotation, i.e. the way the words we choose can reflect our own views on the subject we are talking about.

To give a rather obvious example, most people would probably be happy to be described as slim, slender or svelte (which all describe an attractive appearance), less happy with thin or skinny (which are more neutral or could even imply unattractiveness), offended by lanky or scrawny (negative descriptions), and upset by haggard, gaunt, or emaciated (which have connotations of ill health). Continue reading “Shrewd or cunning, modern or newfangled? Connotation in English”

Scared, frightened, afraid and terrified: talking about fear

by Liz Walter

Robert Daly/OJO Images/Getty
Robert Daly/OJO Images/Getty

The other day I was teaching a lesson on things that make us afraid. We started by looking at the common ‘synonyms’ afraid, scared and frightened. One of the things I frequently do with my students is ask them for other words in the same word family because this is a skill they are likely to need in English exams. Continue reading “Scared, frightened, afraid and terrified: talking about fear”

It’s Terrible! (Words that mean ‘bad’)

by Kate Woodford

Credit: Getty
Credit: Getty

Some of you may have read a recent post here on words and phrases used for saying that things are good or great. This week our mood is a little less positive and we’re exploring the language that we use for saying that things are bad.

We’ll start with some very frequent words that can be used to describe most things that are very bad, (‘bad’ in this case meaning generally ‘unpleasant or causing difficulties’). The adjectives awful, dreadful, terrible and appalling are all commonly used for saying that something is very unpleasant. The weather was absolutely awful./I’ve had a dreadful cold./We had a terrible time./The way they treated her was just appalling. Continue reading “It’s Terrible! (Words that mean ‘bad’)”

That’s fantastic! (Words meaning ‘very good’)

by Kate Woodford

Credit: Getty images
Credit: Getty

We all need words and phrases for saying that things are good or great – that we find them nice or very nice. This post aims to give you more ways to say that you like, or really like, something.

Starting with a very frequent adjective; lovely is used a lot in UK English for generally good things and experiences: That’s a lovely dress you’re wearing!/It was so lovely to see you again!

Moving on to words that express stronger approval; two very common adjectives meaning ‘very surprising’ are also used slightly informally to mean ‘extremely good’. Incredible and amazing are both used to praise things, sometimes describing a thing that is so good, you cannot quite believe it: It was an amazing performance – I’ve never seen anything like it./He was an incredible artist – almost certainly a genius. Other strong adjectives that are commonly used to mean ‘extremely good’ are wonderful(UK) marvellous/(US) marvelous and fabulous: He’s a wonderful cook./It’s a marvellous story./The food was fabulous. The word excellent is also used a lot, often describing something that is of extremely good quality: The service was excellent./I thought the acting was excellent. Similarly, superb is used to describe something of the highest quality: a superb album/It was a superb goal.
Continue reading “That’s fantastic! (Words meaning ‘very good’)”

A blazing row: words and phrases for arguing and arguments

by Kate Woodford

tolerate_phasalverbsWe can’t always focus on the positive! This week, we’re looking at the language that is used to refer to arguing and arguments, and the differences in meaning between the various words and phrases.

There are several words that suggest that people are arguing about something that is not important. (As you might expect, these words are often used for arguments between people who know each other well.) For example, there’s quarrel, which is both a verb and a noun:

They were quarrelling over whose turn it was to pay.

He’d had a quarrel with one of the other kids.  Continue reading “A blazing row: words and phrases for arguing and arguments”