Image courtesy of Chris Dlugosz via Flickr (CC 2.0)
A decent dictionary, be it printed or electronic, can be an invaluable tool when trying to improve your English. Sadly, not many language learners exploit it to the full.
So, what can you typically expect to find in one?
- The meaning(s) of an English word or phrase
Most words in the English language have more than one meaning, and dictionaries usually list them out.
- to move quickly using legs
- to manage a business
- to use a computer program
- (of liquid) to flow in a particular direction
- to try to get elected to a job
- to drive somebody to a place
- Part of speech
This refers to one of the grammatical groups that a word belongs to depending on how it is used in a sentence. Remember, a word could have different forms.
drive – verb (= when used to talk about operating a vehicle)
drive – noun (= when used to talk about someone’s energy or desire to do something)
The phonetic transcription of a word usually appears alongside it to help users pronounce the word accurately. Alternate ways of pronouncing the word can also be found in some dictionaries.
(North American English)
|sure||/ʃʊə(r)/ or /ʃɔː(r)/||/ʃʊr/|
- Verb forms
Most verbs in English have between 3 and 5 forms; knowing them is essential to be able to make different grammatical structures.
I / we / you / they
he / she / it
|Past simple||Past participle||-ing form|
- Other grammatical information
A comprehensive dictionary may also contain other important information, such as the plural form of a noun, or whether a noun is countable or uncountable.
thief (singular) – thieves (plural)
If you’ve just started learning English, using a dictionary regularly can help stretch your limited vocabulary, so be sure to use one.
|Meaning||:||of good enough quality|
|Example||:||Is there a restaurant nearby where I can get a decent meal?|
|Meaning||:||to use something well in order to get benefit from it|
|Example||:||I don’t think students exploit the study resources in our library enough.|
|to the full|
|Meaning||:||to the maximum|
|Example||:||Youngsters usually want to enjoy life to the full.|
|Meaning||:||including many details|
|Example||:||He’s writing a comprehensive guide to tourism in Asia.|