Do you try to learn new words by reading lists of words? Do you try to memorize those lists of words? It’s not easy, and it’s a waste of time. You shouldn’t be trying to memorize lists of words, you should be learning words in sentences, in context. Many words have 2 or more meanings, and many of those have quite a few meanings, especially when connected with other words, such as in phrasal verbs.
Here are some examples using the word “table”:
- Put the dishes on the table.
- Let’s table this discussion until we have more information.
- The table of contents should fit on one page.
- That option is now off the table.
- Pete claims he can drink Joe under the table.
- He can’t legally work so he gets paid under the table.
- Enter all this data into the table, and then be sure to save your work.
(There are more possibilities but these are the most common.)
Do you understand all of those sentences?
Do you understand the word “table” in each sentence?
Learning new vocabulary is not necessarily a lot of fun, but that doesn’t mean it has to be a drag. By learning in sentences you are learning more than just the one word, you are learning sentence structure and correct usage of many words.
You can see that simply remembering the word “table” is not enough to learn new words. You have to learn them in context. And, the best way to learn new words in context is by doing what? Oh, yeah, reading. Read anything you can get your hands on – newspapers, comic books, novels, magazines, even brochures. It doesn’t matter. They’re all good for learning words in context.
You can read online of course, but I personally recommend you read something tangible – real, that you can write on with a real pen. That way you can make notes to help you remember what you have read. You can re-read your notes at any time, in any place.
You can cut the articles out of a newspaper or magazine and keep them in your English-learning notebook. You do you have an English-learning notebook, right? If not, start one.
You can use the website merriam-webster.com to get all the definitions and sentences examples of any words you are learning. They also have a thesaurus so you can learn synonyms, antonyms, and more which all help you to understand the uses of the word. They also include definitions written for children, for new learners of English, for medical or other industry definitions, and much more. I highly recommend the Merriam-webster.com website for all new learners of English.
Another example is the word “get”. It’s a small word, only 3 letters, but it has many definitions and uses and many phrasal verb forms. Below are a few examples, each one uses “get” with a different meaning:
- I will get a new bike today.
- You will get a bad reputation if you continue to behave that way.
- You need to get permission before you can go.
- Stay away from your brother or you will get the measles.
- We had hoped to get dinner at the restaurant, but we were too late and it was closed.
- Get a pencil from my desk, please.
- A cockroach! Get it out of the house!
- We need to get dinner ready.
- Hey, buddy, back off! Do you want to get your nose broken?
- If you’re not careful you might get fired.
- The delays were starting to get to her.
- Do you get it?
- Did you get the answer to number 4? It’s very difficult.
On the Merriam-webster.com website, you will find these and many more uses of “get”. As you can see, learning “get” from a wordlist would be pointless.