How should I use my dictionary?

What dictionaries do I need?

If possible, you should buy two dictionaries: a good bilingual dictionary and a good English-English dictionary.

  • The bilingual dictionary is quicker and easier for you to understand;
  • the English-English dictionary may give you more information about a word or phrase,

It is also a good idea for you to work in English as much as possible.

Here are some current recommended English-English dictionaries:

Large dictionaries

  • Cambridge International Dictionary of English
  • Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English
  • Collins COBUILD English Dictionary
  • Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary

Medium-sized dictionaries

  • Collins COBUILD Essential Dictionary
  • Oxford Wordpower Dictionary
  • Longman Active Study Dictionary

What information does a dictionary give me?

  • the meaning, e.g. homesick = unhappy when you are away from home for a long time
  • the pronunciation, e.g. chaos /kems/, dreadful /dredful/, island /aitand/
  • the part of speech, e.g. dirty adj {= adjective), lose v (= verb), law n (= noun)
  • any special grammatical features, e.g. advice (U) (= uncountable)
  • common collocations (word partners), e.g. you do homework [NOT you make homcwofk]
  • example phrases or sentences, e.g. It was such a big menu, I didn’t know what to choose.
  • opposites (where they exist), e.g. polite (* impolite/rude)

Note: In most English-English dictionaries for foreign learners, collocations are usually shown in bold or italics, or they are included in the examples given after the definition.

How should I use my dictionary?

Here are some ideas to help you.

• When you look up a word, put a V  next to it. Each time you return to a page with a V  look at it quickly to check that you remember the word.

• If you see an English word in a text, first try to guess the meaning, and carry on reading to see if your guess seems correct. Use your dictionary to check the meaning.

• If you look up a word in a bilingual dictionary and get several different words in your own language, look up the word in your monolingual dictionary. This should help you to decide which word in your own language is the nearest translation in this context.

• Remember that many words have more than one meaning, and the first meaning in the dictionary is not always the one you want. Read through the different meanings.