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Steps to Success » Vocabulary

Expand Your Vocabulary with Ease

I was green with envy yesterday after my brother told a white lie and my mother gave him a candy. Today, out of the blue, my mother saw red when I repeated the white lie! White lies are such a grey area for me.

Speaking of which, is the use of colours in English a grey area for you? Did the idioms in the previous paragraph leave you feeling in the dark? You’re not alone. These are phrases we only use once in a blue moon, and it’s easy to forget exactly what they mean.

Research indicates that English speakers only use about half the vocabulary they know. With a language that’s packed full of synonyms and idioms, it’s easy to understand why. But if we keep using the same words and phrases, our language soon feels dull and repetitive. So how can we make better use of our language?

A great way to stretch our vocabulary is to focus on words we already know and to add new definitions or learn phrases it’s used in. Using the simple word ‘red’ as an example, we have three common sayings: red with embarrassment, to see red, and to be caught red-handed. These mean: to be very embarrassed, to be angry, and to be caught in the middle of doing something bad.

If you’re looking for an easy way to expand your vocabulary, start with the words you already know. Why not find more meanings of colour words? The phrases in the first paragraph are a great place to begin.