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Expanding Vocabulary through the Parts of Speech

When teaching lessons on parts of speech, I often bring along word tables (showing different forms of each word) that have blanks for students to fill in. At first, they groan at the long lists of nouns, adjectives, adverbs and verbs. Then they realise, the activity is like a game. Students who enjoy finding patterns love to see the links between words in the same part of speech.

For instance, some nouns and adjectives can be converted to verbs by adding the prefix ‘en-’. There are many words that fit this pattern, and students can try out the prefix at the front of words they know to see if this creates a verb.















A similar thing is very common with the suffix ‘-ly’. How many adverbs can you think of that are formed by adding ‘-ly’ to an adjective?

These prefixes and suffixes are easy ways to expand our vocabulary. You can find tips on using them in a recent article from our Grammar Series.


This isn’t only useful in English, but in many other languages too! At school, I studied Latin (a popular new subject here at i-Learner), and I still remember lots of the vocabulary because I learned the rules for converting between parts of speech.

Of particular relevance was the creation of gerunds and gerundives. Gerunds are when we need to use a verb as a noun and gerundives are when we need to use a verb as an adjective.

Take the verb ‘to call’ for example. In Latin, it’s vocare. (We get the English words vocal and vocabulary from it). The present participle is vocans. The gerund is formed by replacing the ‘-s’ with a ‘-d’ and adding the appropriate noun ending to the present participle. i.e. vocandum. The same pattern is used in many words:

Infinitive Verb

Present Participle


vocare (to call)


vocandum (the calling)

habere (to have)


habendum (the having)

audire (to hear)


audiendum (the hearing)

I find patterns like this very pleasing, and if you look hard enough they are scattered all over both Latin and English. Why not make it a game to find how many hidden connections you didn’t realise were right under your nose!