Synonyms: A quick way to expand your vocabulary

door Regina Coeli

Once you have mastered the grammar of a foreign language reasonably well, you can quickly improve your language skills by expanding your vocabulary. Grammar can be seen as the rules of the game for a language; the words get used within those rules. More vocabulary will make your language richer.

Only learn relevant words

When expanding your vocabulary, the art is to learn relevant words. So do not just learn standardised lists by heart: firstly, because you may already know some of those words, and secondly, because you may never use many of them. So, then, how should you go about it?


One way to enrich your vocabulary is to create your own, personalised list of synonyms for words you frequently use. For example, do you often use the verb 'organise' in English? According to, there are many other words you can use instead. Write down the synonyms which are useful for you and start using them. The Dutch word ‘organiseren’ also has many synonyms. Use for example

Write by hand

You can create a digital file for your list of synonyms, but you can also use a notebook with alphabetical tabs. Writing by hand has many advantages when learning a language. Read more about it in this article.

Compiling your personal list of synonyms

How do you create a personal list of synonyms?

  1. Make a list of words you often use. Look through emails you have written, for example. If you do not write many emails, but you do speak English a lot, write a piece off the cuff about a subject you often speak about, or record yourself talking about it. What words do you frequently use?
  2. Look up each word in a thesaurus or dictionary. Does the synonym mean exactly the same thing, or is there a subtle difference in meaning? You can only judge this by seeing the word in context.

Good luck in expanding your vocabulary!

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