Topic: Vocabulary

These resources relate to the nature of words and word choice, and move towards building student vocabularies in systematic ways.

Word choice: Activity 2

Read this extract from a novel and think about the ways in which the writer has chosen specific words to convey his description.

My earliest memories are a confusion of hilly fields and dark, damp stables, and rats that scampered along the beams above my head. But I remember well enough the day of the horse sale. The terror of it stayed with me all my life.

From Michael Morpurgo, Warhorse

Word clouds in action


  • Examine a poem as a corpus, like a body of linguistic data.
  • Linguistically analyse the words used in a poem.
  • Create a word list based on a poem.
  • Present linguistic findings visually using Wordle.

Lesson Plan

Wordle is a simple corpus tool which allows you to paste in text and create a ‘word cloud’ that displays the frequency of words by their relative size in a cloud.

Word frequency

What are the most frequently used words in English? And could we do without them?

Word frequency: Activity

The 10 most common English words are:











Can you answer the following questions without using these 10 words?

Compounds: Break apart the words

Break down each of the following words into its meaningful parts. Label each part as either a prefix, a suffix, or a lexical base (a part which can typically be used as a word on its own).

Example: unkindness: un- (prefix) + kind (lexical base) + -ness (suffix)

You can check your work by pressing the buttons to see the answers.

Identify the word formation process

Identify the word formation process by clicking the correct answer.

Y6 GPaS Test: Spelling plurals

Select the correct plural form:

Y6 GPaS Test: Word families

Select the correct word for the blank:

Phrasal verbs

What is a phrasal verb? Phrasal verbs consist of a combination of a verb and another word, which we’ll call a preposition. Some examples are come over, look (something) up. The first word in a verb-preposition combination can be just about any verb. The verbs that most commonly appear in such combinations are listed below:

Phrasal verbs: New phrasal verbs

There are many phrasal verbs that you won’t find in any dictionary. This is because we commonly create new phrasal verbs based on the meanings of existing phrasal verbs. Usually, new phrasal verbs are either transparent or aspectual – new idiomatic phrasal verbs would usually be too difficult for listeners to decode. Perhaps you’ve heard examples like the following:

Phrasal verbs: Three categories

Non-native speakers are often told that their only option is to memorise each phrasal verb individually. Is it really necessary to do all that work? No. Not only is it unnecessary, it’s inefficient. And it’s inefficient for three reasons:


We all use different forms of language in different situations. At the most extreme, you’ll probably know that in casual conversation with friends you will use very different language from that which you’d use at a job interview.

The kinds of differences will relate to vocabulary (the word choices you make) but also to grammar (the structures, the complexity, the patterns of words).

Tag questions

Questions like ...isn’t it?, ...haven’t they? and ...wouldn’t you? that sit on the end of a statement are called tag questions in linguistics. There’s a range of different tag questions most people call on, varying by verb, tense, person and whether the tag is positive or negative.

Word structure: Compounds

Compounds are combinations of root words, i.e. words that can occur on their own, to form a new established combination. They are sometimes spelt as one word, but also with a hyphen or as two words.

In English compound nouns, e.g. bookcaselaptopsmartphone, and compound adjectives, e.g. dripping wettax-free, are very common.

English Grammar Day 2016

'Grammar is cool, and it is cool to know your grammar'.

A video about the Third English Grammar Day held at the British Library in 2016.


Englicious contains many resources for English language in schools, but the vast majority of them require you to register and log in first. For more information, see What is Englicious?

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