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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

After you know what a word means, 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 (e.g., a, an, the).

A verb... a word that shows action.

...can be described with adverbs.

...frequently follow subjects (or come before objects). the only type of word that can be changed to show past or future tense.

An adjective... a word that describes a noun.

...usually comes before a noun or after a verb like "be."

An adverb... a word that describes verbs, adjectives, and sentences.

...can be in many different places in a sentence.


A collocation 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 sometimes in your other textbooks. Using these lists while you make sentences will help you remember the words. Use the practice as a chance to memorize the collocations, rather than worrying about finding lots of other ways to use the word.