Using Academic Vocabulary

At a minimum, you need to know the meaning, the part of speech, and the collocates.


Make sure you know what words mean. Sometimes when you use words incorrectly, it is because you don’t fully understand what it means.

Part of Speech

You also need to know what part of speech it is.

A noun... a person, place, thing, or idea.
  ...can be described with adjectives.
   ...frequently follows determiners.
  *common suffixes include “sion/tion” (condition); “ance/ence” (difference); “ment” (development); “ity” (activity)
A verb... a word that shows action.
  ...can be described with adverbs.
  ...follows subjects (or comes before objects).
  ...can be changed to show past or future tense.
  *common suffixes include “ate” (indicate); “ize” (recognize); “ify” (identify)
An adjective... a word that describes a noun.
   ...usually comes before a noun or after a verb like BE.
   *common suffixes include “ive” (effective); “ful” (useful); “ic” (specific)
An adverb... a word that describes verbs, adjectives, and sentences.
   ...can be in many different places in a sentence.


A collocate is a word that is frequently used with another word. Sometimes when you use academic vocabulary, your teacher will tell you that you have a “word choice” error or your roommate may tell you that it “sounds funny.” That is often because you used a word that is not a collocate. You should memorize a couple of collocates with each new word you learn. You can find lists of collocates on the LEAP dashboard,, in collocation dictionaries, and in your LEAP vocabulary packet. Using these lists while you make sentences will help you remember the words in a natural context.

Look at the chart below. You will notice that some words have a noun, verb, adjective, and adverb form that are all a little different. Some words do not. Some words even have the same form for two different parts of speech.

Noun Verb Adjective Adverb
expression express expressive expressively
respect respect respectful respectfully
honesty be honest honest honestly
confidence be confident, have confidence confident confidently

Exercise: Identify word forms.

You need to be careful in your writing to use the correct word form.

Exercise: Revise for word form errors.

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