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Study skills: using an online thesaurus to find synonyms

Do these little conversations sound familiar?

A. How are you feeling today?

B. I’m feeling good, thanks.

A. How’s the food?

B. Really good!

A. You’re very good at teaching.

B. Thanks!


Can you spot something? The adjective ‘good’ is used a lot in day-to-day English, but it’d be nice to use a different word from time to time, don’t you think?


For the first Study Skills blog, I’m going to talk you through a great, free, online resource that you can use to extend and upgrade your vocabulary: www.thesaurus.com


Now, I’m sure you’ve tried to use a thesaurus before. You look up your word and there are loads of synonyms that look great, but then how do you know which one is appropriate? This is an issue that native speakers have too, so you’re not alone, believe me! Below are some tips on how to use www.thesaurus.com and www.dictionary.com to find some new words to use in your speaking and writing.


1. Navigate to www.thesaurus.com, enter your word in the search box and click the looking glass icon (or hit ‘enter’ on your keyboard). Ignore the options in the drop-down menu for now.


thesaurus

2. You’ll now be taken to a page with a load of synonyms but, unfortunately, your search doesn’t end here. The word ‘good’ is used as an adjective in several different ways and also as a noun similarly. Thesaurus.com has a very handy function that you can use to narrow down your search:


good

The tabs I’ve indicated for you allow you to narrow down your search. We’ll try the other tabs in a moment but for now, let’s focus on the more common use of ‘good’ meaning something nice, or pleasant.


3. This is where I run into a little problem. As I’m sure you’ve noticed, speakers of English don’t always say exactly what they mean and when they say something is ‘good’, they can mean ‘ok’ or ‘excellent’ (they leave the real meaning to tone of voice and facial expression. For learners of English though, I’d recommend just choosing a more suitable word.


4. So, if I’m looking for another way of saying “the food is ok” I might choose “acceptable” or “satisfactory”. If I think the food is very good, I might go for “marvellous” or even “exceptional”. Red signifies a common synonym, orange less common, and so on, but just because it’s less common doesn’t mean you can’t use it! Remember than some words are more formal, and some are slang words so keep in mind the context.


5. If you click on the word, you get some advice on how best to use it. I’d recommend a right-click and opening a new tab, so you don’t lose your synonym list. What you will see now is a list of synonyms for ‘exceptional’. You can either scroll down the page for examples of how to use the word, but I’d recommend checking the definition with dictionary.com by following this link.


exceptional

8. Remember to check the definition before you decide to use your synonym because lots of these words have slightly different meanings.


9. Now it’s over to you. Try to find some new words to replace good, in these conversations from the start of the blog:


A. How are you feeling today?

B. I’m feeling good, thanks.

A. How’s the food?

B. Really good!

A. You’re very good at teaching.

B. Thanks!

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