What does it mean to know a word?

time to complete: 15-20 minutes

Let’s now turn to what it means to know a word. Obviously, knowing a word means to be able to identify it when reading or listening and use it when writing or speaking. But, what kind of information do you need to know to do all this successfully? In other words, what is it about a word that you need to know?

To answer this question, do the following tasks. The first one introduces you to the basics, while the second covers more advanced information.

Types of vocabulary knowledge I

Types of vocabulary knowledge II

Formal vs. informal

At this point, it is worth mentioning that some of these types of vocabulary knowledge might be more relevant or useful than others, depending on the context and how much you already know. For example, idioms tend to be informal and therefore not appropriate for academic writing, but they can help you sound more natural when socialising with your fellow students:

❌ (in writing) 

Researchers have been scratching their heads over the sudden decrease…

✔️ (in speaking)

-Munirah, could you help me with Question 5? I’ve been scratching my head over it all morning!

Similarly, you should always consider whether a word you are learning is formal or informal and appropriate for your studies. For example, the verb ‘get’ is in the Oxford3000 list but it is rather informal. When writing, you would need to use more formal synonyms e.g. obtain, receive, acquire, gain, earn, collect, etc., depending on the meaning of course. 

Task: To practise formal and informal vocabulary, do the following task.