How I Improved My Active Vocabulary

English is the most spoken language in the world in terms of total speakers. It also boasts one of the most voluminous vocabularies. Working towards having a rich vocabulary is not a singular task. It is developed over a while. Remember, consistency is critical when trying to improve your active vocabulary. You may never run out of words to learn to.

Let us get on this journey to discover how you can increase your active vocabulary. We will be discussing practical steps which might seem small at the moment, but over time these will mount to become your large active vocabulary, helping you both in English writing and speaking. It is not necessary that only after learning 20-30 words per day you will be able to increase your active vocabulary. It is critical to understand that this is a process and a habit that needs to be cultivated, and before you know, you will have a wide array of words. Let’s jump right into it.

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What is Active Vocabulary?

Before we begin, it is imperative to understand what does active vocabulary signify. We all know a bunch of different words. We might understand what they mean, but that doesn’t mean that they are a part of your active vocabulary. For example, you might understand what the word “coherent” signifies, but what’s of importance is your use of the word. If you understand what most of the words mean but don’t use them frequently while speaking or writing, these add up to your passive vocabulary.

Active vocabulary consists of words that you commonly use while writing and speaking. It is crucial to make that shift of words from passive to active vocabulary. This is something that you will achieve after practice, but thinking about it with intent will definitely help. It would be best if you started thinking about what words you commonly use while writing and speaking. Writers try and turn as many as words from their recognition vocabulary into the active vocabulary.

A common test to find if a word is in your active vocabulary is to try and make sentences using the word. If you can quickly form a sentence instantly, the word is a part of your active vocabulary. But, if you are struggling to form sentences, it is likely a part of your passive vocabulary.

The objective of defining the difference between active and passive vocabulary is to make you understand that what you are trying to achieve is very much in your sight already. It just requires you to give conscious effort to understand what makes up your active and passive vocabulary.

Why Improve your Active Vocabulary and Why I Did it?

Improving your active vocabulary doesn’t signify using fancy words all the time. It is to make you more comfortable while talking, writing and listening. Yes, listening is an essential skill that often gets…. Oh! What’s the word for that? Neglected, the word is neglected. We often find ourselves in situations like these. Not only are these moments awkward, but they also act as barriers to a meaningful conversation.

This is just a simple demonstration of why everyone or you should work on your active vocabulary. It sure was one of the reasons why I did it. I also like to write. So having a rich active vocabulary is a great tool. If you don’t have the same interests, it is okay. Having an excellent active vocabulary can help anyone, depending upon what are your reasons for working on it.

Honestly, it is not necessary that you need a reason to work on your active vocabulary. Active vocabulary is a part of the daily routine. Communication is an integral part of our lives, and active vocabulary constitutes a significant part of it. So whoever you are and wherever you are, working on your active vocabulary will help you.

Steps to Improve your Active Vocabulary

The objective of this article is to suggest some simple yet effective techniques that you can use to improve your active vocabulary. These are all tried and tested methods which are bound to give you the desired results. You need not practice all of them at once. Go through these suggestions and follow the ones you find fun and interesting.

The key is to have fun and make this process enjoyable. It is not necessary that you will only achieve results by putting yourself under a strict routine. Keep the process flexible and enjoy while you are at it. One thing to keep in mind is that this isn’t a sprint but a marathon. So you might not want to start with 100 words in a single day if you can’t continue it. Start slow and keep at it consistently.

Read everyday

The easiest and probably the most commonly used method is to develop a habit of reading daily. You can read newspapers, novels, magazines, self-help books, autobiographies etc. Start reading whatever interests you most and start slow. Remember, the key is to develop a habit and to make a routine. Reading allows us to get familiar with the uses of words in sentences. Also, the more familiar we get with the words, the easier it is for us to make that shift from passive vocabulary to active vocabulary.

Passive Vocabulary

This is pretty obvious and probably what are we trying to do with all of these techniques that are given. But even then it is imperative to give a conscious thought of what words are there in your passive and active vocabulary.

You can make a list of your passive vocabulary words every day and try to use them in sentences to make yourself more familiar with their use. Look for their meanings on online dictionary and also try to find how they are used in sentences.

The number of words you do is not what is of importance. Do what you feel you are most comfortable with. If you think you can do 20-30 words daily, go for it, and also if you feel you can do only one word a day, that’s good enough.

Word roots

Many words in the English language have a common suffix and prefix. If you club these words together, you probably can enrich your vocabulary faster. Some of the common suffixes are- ment, ship, ness, etc. For example- argument, punishment, embodiment etc.

Some of the prefixes that are commonly used are auto, dis, de etc. For example – disagree, disqualify, discharge, disarm etc. Building your vocabulary using suffix and prefix can be a smart way to have more words at your discharge.

Vocabulary tests

You can look up online for vocabulary tests which will allow you to check your growth. These are a great tool to measure progress. Don’t get disheartened if you don’t score well in the beginning. Remember that this is a marathon, not a sprint.

You can make up your own tests with the words you have learnt to cement them into your memory. Try to switch up things and look for new and exciting ways to learn new words.

Word Games

Here’s the fun part about building your active vocabulary. It’s not that only by looking for words every day and writing sentences; you can improve your vocabulary. This step can be made more fun using fun games. Word games like word puzzles challenge you to form words. The crosswords puzzles make your brain work hard to find words which is how you become familiar with it.

Try these games with your friends or in groups. Parents should also try and play games like these with their families which will help in cultivating a good habit in your younger ones. Challenging your friends to a word game can also be fun, which will make your brain work even harder to beat up your competition all the while improving your active vocabulary.

Carry a dictionary or a thesaurus

We come across newer words every day. If we study about them when they are fresh in our memory that will increase the probability of us memorising the word. So carrying a pocket dictionary with you can be particularly helpful.

Thesaurus lists the word in certain groups such as synonyms and other related concepts which allow us to learn about words which are closely related.

Synonyms and Antonyms

Synonyms are words with similar meanings. These are the best ways to improve your active vocabulary. With better knowledge of synonyms, you can better express yourself while writing or speaking. For example, in a formal setting using the word fruitful can be used but using the word productive will make you sound more formal.

Antonyms are words which are opposite in meaning to each other. Vocabulary is wholesome. Words are connected, and they interact with each other as well. They express feelings, and improving our active vocabulary allows us to express our feelings better.

Word of the day

Adding even just a single word to your vocabulary every day will take you a long way. A study revealed that on an average an adult adds around 25-30 words. So if you are adding just a single word a day to your active vocabulary, you are better off than most of the people. To put that into perspective, you are adding ten times more words to your vocabulary library.

A suggestion is to subscribe to the word of the day via apps, websites or emails etc. whatever suits you. There are many apps which give you the word of the day, its meaning, its use in a sentence and the history of the word itself.

Practice newer words in conversation

Learning newer words will add up your passive vocabulary, but that is not the objective. We are trying to put words in our active vocabulary. A common way to do this is to start practising using these words around people. It may sound a bit overwhelming at the moment, but it’s a practice that will pay its dividends fast.

The objective of improving our active vocabulary is to become more efficient during conversations, so to practice using them in the conversations only might sound a bit illogical, but it does make perfect sense. It will surely strengthen that word deep into your memory.

Your vocabulary journal

Improving your active vocabulary as discussed is a habit we are trying to cultivate. One thing that can help you a lot is to maintain your vocabulary journal. You can write new words every day with meanings and use in sentences all in one place.

What it will do is cement the word in your memory plus it will also allow you to revise quickly. You can read through your journal and keep revising those words before you feel comfortable in using them in conversations. Writing down words allows that familiarity to grow.

Why is a Strong Vocabulary Essential?

A robust active vocabulary is relatively important because it allows you to read, write, talk and understand more clearly. When you work on your active vocabulary, you are making your brain work harder to move those words from passive vocabulary to active vocabulary. With more practice, you will feel this process also becoming easier for you, but that demands constant practice. Take the first step and practice daily.


Developing an active vocabulary is not a monumental task. It only requires consistency. Consistent effort each day will help you go a long way. Having an active vocabulary has become somewhat necessary in the modern age where you are required to adhere to some of the rules of communication and language. Working on your vocabulary is like investing in an asset, and you are the asset. You will feel more confident while communicating to different people and will be able to get into meaningful conversations as well.

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