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Britlish Library - 77 Vocabulary Lessons

Did you know that there are over 600,000 words in English? That's a lot of words, and far more than any human being could ever manage to learn. Even Shakespeare only used around 55,000 different words in all of his works. Mind you, he did actually invent quite a few of them. To get a good mastery of English, you do need to expand your vocabulary as much as possible. The more words you know, the better your English will be.

77 Vocabulary Lessons

Alphabetical Categories

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The two words adapt and adopt, and their derivatives, are often confused by students. This lesson will look at how we use the two words and what the differences are between them. We will look at the words: adapt, adapted, adapting, adaption, adaptation, adapter, readapt, adaptive, adaptable, adapted, adaptive, adopt, adoption, adopter, adoptee, readopt, adoptable, adoptive...

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There are several fixed expressions using prepositions in English with which we talk about the orientation of things. If you have ever put on a jumper to find that the front is on your back and the back is on your front, or the inside is showing and the outside is hidden, then these expressions are important for you. In this lesson you will learn about inside out, back to front, upside down...

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Fleece is a man-made fabric made from a plastic fibre called polyester. The polyester fleece fabric was first created in the 1970s by the company Malden Mills. As Malden Mills chose not to patent their invention, the inexpensive fleece was soon available to everyone and its popularity has since far exceeded that of wool. This lesson looks at vocabulary associated with fleeces and wool.

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To say that things are in a row means that they are arranged in a line next to one another either in space or time. By extension, the idiomatic expression, in a row, means that several events happen consecutively, one after the other. This lesson will help you to use this common expression. We need to be careful with the word row, however, as it has several meanings a...

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Just as Eskimos have many words for snow, apparently, so, too, do the British, wearied by overwork, have many words for being tired such as drained, exhausted, fatigued, knackered, spent, tired out and worn out. This lesson will help you to learn, remember, and use these words without becoming exhausted in the process.

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The lesson, Do or Make, will introduce you to the uses of the verbs do or make and this lesson will give you some revision of some common collocations with these verbs. The collocations include: a bad job, a comment, a confession, a degree, a fortune, a good job, a joke, a life, a list, a living, a loss, a noise, a point,...

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We have quite a number of words for offspring, or children, and this lesson aims to show you all the common ones and help you to use them correctly. As well as the names for the young of various common animals, the lessons looks at the words: child, children, baby, young, little one, issue, nipper, fruit of your loins, ...

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There are a group of what we can call the worth words in English which cause confusion for many students and which are worth taking a closer look at. These words are worth, worthy, and worthwhile, as well as the expression worth it. In this lesson, I thought it would be worthwhile looking at how each of these words and expressions i...

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We have many idioms in English. One of them is a taste of your own medicine. This common idiom has its roots in Ancient Rome. Gaius Julius Phaedrus lived in the 1st century and translated the fables of Aesop into Latin. He also wrote many fables of his own in the style of Aesop, one of which is the source of the English idiom we are looking at in this lesson.

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There is a group of words in English which I will call the *thing words. These words are anything, something, everything, and nothing. If I’ve learned anything about them, I’ve learned that they cause confusion for students, so I thought I ought to make a lesson to tell you everything about them. Everything you ...

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If you have ever made a mistake or feel that you have faults, then this lesson is for you. You will learn how to use the words, blunder, error, failing, fault, faux pas, flaw, guilty, mistake, to blame, and weakness, without making any mistakes when you do so.

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For the entire duration of the universe you did not exist. Then, one day, you came into existence at the moment of your birth. Now, you are growing older and one day you will die. It’s the one thing in this world that we can be 100% certain about. Is it morbid to think about death? I don’t think so. In fact, I often contemplate my own demise. There is no point in hiding from the fac...

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GPT-3 is a neural network created by OpenAI which uses an autoregressive language model and deep learning to produce text that is indistinguishable from that produced by a human being. I decided to pose a question to the GPT-3 AI to test its capabilities. The question I posed to the AI was: What does it feel like to be a butterfly? The answer I got back was interesting, to say the least. I used...

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I have designed this lesson to look at the vocabulary of wealth. Whether you are poor, wealthy, or stinking rich, you will learn much about the words we use to describe people who do have money. You will also learn about some common portmanteau words. If you don’t know what a portmanteau word is, you really do need to do this lesson. The vocabulary of wealth we’ll look at includes: ...

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Whether you have money or not, there is a lot of vocabulary in English to do with it. This lesson will help you talk about being careful with your money to being miserly with it. Whether you are generous with your money, or a total Scrooge, you will find the vocabulary in this lesson useful.

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We all seem to be worried these days. We're worried about the coronavirus. We are worried about the effects of the virus on the economy. We are worried about our futures. Worries are a natural human response to circumstances which arise because, unlike most other animals, we are capable not only of agonising over the past, but also of looking into the future and thinking about how things might ...

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Many English multisyllable words are made up of many parts including prefixes and suffixes, and if you learn the most common prefixes and suffixes, you can expand your vocabulary dramatically. The word unpredictability has two secondary stresses as well as the main stress that is found in all English words. It’s unusual for a word to have more than one secondary stress, but this ...

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Words like hundred, thousand, million, billion, and trillion cause confusion for students who are not sure if they should use hundreds, thousands, millions, billions, and trillions instead. This lesson will help you to avoid this mistake. It gives you the simple rules to follow and some exercises to help y...

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There is a set of words in English which end in the letters age and which cause pronunciation problems for students. Students see the letter combination age and try to pronounced the ends of these words as the word age. Few of these words do end with age and most end in / ɪdʒ /. This lesson will help you to make sure you always pronounce the words correctly.

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Vocabulary that we use when talking about frozen food. This lesson was inspired by a student of mine, Monica from Italy, who asked why, if we freeze things, don't we unfreeze them? I decided to make a microlearning lesson that would provide the answer and give students the necessary vocabulary for talking about defrosting, thawing, freezing, and melting food ...

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What I call irregular F plurals are nouns that end in the /f/ sound and are irregular plurals. Words like leaf, wife, and wolf. Not all nouns that end in /f/ are irregular plurals, however. Words like gulf, turf, and clef are regular plurals. Regular plurals in English simply add an S to the noun. Boy become boys, girl ...

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Comfortable is not an easy word to say, is it? While comfortable only has 3 syllables, many students try to use 4. Comfortable is so uncomfortable a word to pronounce that in 1829 someone decided that it might be better to use only the first syllable and a -y suffix. The informal word comfy was born and what an improvement, I’m sure you’ll agree. ...

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Do you ever have problems specifying dates in English? This lesson will help put an end to any such issues. I’ll talk you through the way we specify future and past dates in English. I’ll give you some practice with choosing the best way to specify what date you want to talk about. I’ll show you how we reduce complex consonant clusters which form between words in speech segmen...

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Prepositions are difficult for students of English and when they are used with two very similar expressions they can be especially difficult. This lesson will show you how we use the two expressions attracted to and attracted by and will give you practice using both. I have selected real examples of the expressions from the British National Corpus, and have included several ac...

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The two words fur and fir are homophones in English and cause a lot of pronunciation confusion for students. I mean, how can two words that are radically different have exactly the same sound? There are many homophones in English and this lesson is designed to help you master these two. Not only does it deal with the words fir and fur, but it also deals with words like fur...

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A short lesson using a video I made of a beautiful haiku poem some years ago. The lesson will help you to learn, remember, and use some vocabulary and expressions in English. I hope you enjoy both the poem and the lesson, as well as the video, as much as I enjoyed making them for you.

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This is my retelling of Aesop’s fable, The Ant and the Grasshopper. It tells the tale of the hardworking ant and the apparently lazy grasshopper and presents the moral message that we ought to enjoy our lives while we can. The lesson is also packed with vocabulary which you can test yourself on in the two activators in the lesson. There are lots of useful vocabulary items to lear...

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The sea covers two thirds of our planet. The sea has always been an important source of food. Any food that we take from the sea is called seafood. There are various types of seafood and many idioms related to seafood in English. In this lesson, I will introduce you to idioms like blue around the gills, loan shark, a find kettle of fish, holy mackerel, a beached whale, red herring, hook, line and ...

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In this lesson, we will look at two of my video English lessons, one showing you how homonyms can be the basis for English jokes, and the other looking at the two words minute and minute. If you don’t know why these two words are different, then this lesson is certainly for you. The first video takes just one minute and 216 words to teach you all about the words minute and minute. The other video ...

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Blood is the vital fluid found in humans and other animals. There are many expressions in English that use the word blood. The expressions in this lesson include get blood out of a stone, blood is thicker than water, bloodshed, cold-blooded, in cold blood, hot-blooded, blood up, blood boils, blueblood, fresh blood, new blood, half-blood, run in the blood, own flesh and blood, young blood, blood...

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When do we use the /s/ sound and when do we use the /z/ sound, and what’s the difference? Let’s find out… The two sounds /s/ and /z/ are very close and cause endless confusion for students. There are some rules and the rules are normally to do with the voiced and unvoiced sounds. A voiced sound is that made when we use our vocal cords. /z/ is the voiced form of the sound /s/,...

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This vegetable idioms activation pack will help you to learn remembers and use some common English idioms related to vegetables. The idioms include, spill the beans, veg out, couch potato, without a bean, carrot and stick, know your onions, in a pickle, hot potato, two peas in a pod, red as a beetroot, and as cool as a cucumber.

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A look at the phrasal verb, pick up, with a listening activity to help you develop your listening skills, a video to sit back and enjoy, and some interactive questions to help you learn, remember, and use this important phrasal verb.

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Learn about the history of our use of electricity as well as some very useful vocabulary including amber, atom, attract, battery, charge, conductor, current, electricity, electron, flow, frog, generator, Leyden, magnet, negative, neutral, neutron, positive, potential, proton, repel, scrap, shell, shock, spark, and static.

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However you prefer to travel, be it by car, by plane, by bike, or simply walking, transport of some form is part of your life. If you don't know the vocabulary to use when travelling or deciding on which transport to use, you're going nowhere. This lesson will teach you much of the language you need to know to talk about transport. The lesson looks at canoes, boats, walking, horse riding, horse...

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The language in this lesson is very important and yet it is never covered in any English textbooks or English classrooms. It is the language of the toilet and it is language that you need to learn if you are ever to call yourself proficient. It's not surprising that students never learn this language and that teachers never teach it as almost everyone in Britain is too shy to talk about it. Thi...

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Political correctness or PC is a term used to describe language designed not to cause offence to members of a particular group in society. The term is usually used to imply that the language is unwarranted and unnecessary. Political correctness extends beyond language to government policies and measures which are supposed to be more inclusive towards those traditionally discriminated against. T...

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In today’s virus-ravaged world, it is important to learn the language you need to speak about viruses and illness. This lesson will give you all the information you need. It’s based on a video English lesson I made in 2011 when I came down with flu. I thought I should revisit it during the Great Lockdown of 2020. After watching the videos, do the quiz to practice what you have learnt.

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It's a source of great confusion to both natives and non natives alike when writing its and it's. This lesson will explain how to know which one to use and why it's needed. It's got questions to help you practice, too. Learn when to use it's as the contracted form of it is or it has, and when to use its as the possessive adjective.

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The fruit idioms in this lesson include a real lemon, sour grapes, another bite of the cherry, a peach, tree is known by its fruit, bear fruit, drive someone bananas, the apple of my eye, the fruits of my labours, forbidden fruit, rotten apple, Adam’s apple, life’s a bowl of cherries, and as brown as a berry. It also contains some English humour.

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Learn some common English idioms with this vocabulary activation pack. The idioms are: Give someone the cold shoulder, To have broad shoulders, Rub elbows or shoulders with, Shoulder to cry on, Shoulder to the wheel, Have a good head on your shoulders, Carry the world on your shoulders, Look over your shoulder, Stand on the shoulders of giants, Shoulder to shoulder, A chip on your shoulder, Fall s...

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Question tags are short questions placed at the end of statements in informal writing and normal speech, and they are used to indicate that we want some information or that we want confirmation of something we believe to be the case. Usually we use positive question tags with negative statements and negative question tags with positive statement. We can, however, use positive with positive in s...

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How to talk about the weather in English using a video lecture and some self-test questions to help you learn. This lesson also looks at some English idioms related to weather and will help with your listening skills and your pronunciation. If you want to learn how to talk about the weather in English, you need to do this lesson.

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A common mistake that students of English make is the use of the words fun and funny. Both can be used as adjectives, but they are not interchangeable and have some important differences of meaning. Only fun is used as a noun. This lesson will help you to understand the difference between fun and funny and give you some practice to help you better un...

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Learn some common British English idioms in this video English lesson from Britlish. The idioms are: As plain as the nose on your face, Keep your nose out, Turn your nose up at, Stick your nose in where it’s not wanted, Can’t see further than the end of your nose, Under your nose, Cut off your nose to spite your face, Brown-nose, Put someone’s nose out of joint, No skin off my nose, Look down your...

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If we look at the words homophone and homonym we see that they both start with homo which means same. In the last part of homophone, phone means sound and in homonym, nym means name. Homophone means words that have the same sound but different meanings. There are several hundred homophones in Engl...

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Learn some common British English idioms with this lesson from Britlish. The idioms are: Pay lip service, Lick your lips, Bite your lip, Give someone lip, My lips are sealed, Smack lips, Slip of the lip, Tight-lipped, Lock lips, Pass my lips, Stiff upper lip, A bit lippy, Read my lips, Loose lips, Button your lip, and On everyone’s lips. This lesson is part of the Body Idioms series at Britlish.co...

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Learn some common British English idioms in this video English lesson from Britlish. The idioms are: Tail between your legs, On its last legs, Get a leg up, Pulling your leg, Shake a leg, Break a leg, Not have a leg to stand on, Stretch your legs, Legwork, and Sea legs. This lesson is part of the Body Idioms series of idioms lessons.

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The problem of using in to, or into is a problem that even native speakers of English face. It’s a problem because in spoken English there is no difference in pronunciation between the two. Nevertheless, both into and in to have different meanings which are important in written English. In this lesson I’ll explain t...

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The three verbs, look, search, and seek, are very similar but are used in different situations. In this lesson, I will first look at how the verbs are used, then we will see some examples of usage, then I will give you some exercises to help you learn, remember, and use the three verbs correctly. If you have been searching for the way to use these three verbs, you need look no further. As we sa...

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Rocío from Spain, and several other students, have asked me to recommend the best ways to use the word recommend. The verb recommend is used to offer suggestions as to what to do or where to go. We recommend things to others based on our personal experiences. I recommend that you do this lesson and see how we use this verb and I recommend&...

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The lyric poem, I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud, also commonly known as Daffodils, is Wordsworth’s most famous poem. I have designed this lesson as a way of showing you the rhythm of English. Because of their structure, poems like this one are a very useful way of demonstrating the typical rhythm of the English language. In this lesson you will first listen to the poem, then read it, and the...

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Fixed pairs, or fixed binomials, are pairs of words separated by a conjunction, which are always used in the same order. They sound unnatural if they are used in the wrong order. If you learn how to use these fixed pairs, your English will be more natural and fluent and, as with phrasal verbs or idioms, you will have learnt an important aspect of English. So, if you are sick and tired ...

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I’d like to thank Monica, in Italy, for requesting this lesson. The verbs, bring, fetch, get, and take, cause confusion for many students of English. Part of the confusion arises from the fact that these verbs all seem to be fairly similar in meaning. The verbs all describe the action of moving an object from one place to another. What you need to do when using these verbs is to consider where the...

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Numbers can be difficult for students, particularly big numbers and dates. I have designed this English lesson at the request of Nataliya in Moscow who said that she was having difficulty listening to and transcribing dates and numbers. There are over 1000 audio files in this lesson. You can choose to test yourself on British English dates, small numbers, big numbers, and decimal numbers. There...

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Idioms are expressions that are natural to native English speakers. They are very confusing for non-native English speakers. They're confusing because idioms don't mean what the words say. You cannot literally translate English idioms into another language. For example: A black mark has a literal meaning of a black mark on clothing or any other material. It also ...

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The poem is written with 8 syllables per line, and a rhyming word at the end of a pair of lines.oOoOoOoO is the stress pattern and this is a good poem with which to practice the rhythm of English.You can listen to the poem, then read and listen, then listen while you read the IPA transcription.There is also an English Activator at the end of the pack to give you some p...

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The three words, both, either, and neither, are very important in English, but they are confusing for both native speakers and students alike. In this Vocabulary Activation Pack, I will show you how to use these three word correctly. They are not very difficult to use once you get the hang of them. The difficulty lies in the fact that e...

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This Vocabulary Activation Pack will help you to learn, remember, and use the following vocabulary items: a wealth of information, around, at your fingertips, bite off more than you can chew, blow your own trumpet, brush up on, chuffed to bits, coding, get a buzz out of, get your head around, get your teeth into, lean, make headway, mind you, no spring chicken, put off, reach the end of life, r...

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An essay by George Orwell which will help you improve your reading while developing your vocabulary. This essay is from one of my favourite English authors, George Orwell. Eric Arthur Blair, as Orwell was christened, was born in British India in 1903, and sadly died terribly young in 1950 in London. He died of tuberculosis, back then, an untreatable infection of the lungs. Orwell gave us such w...

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Matthew Gregory Lewis (9 July 1775 – 14 or 16 May 1818) was an English novelist and dramatist, who wrote Gothic horror stories. He was often called Monk Lewis, due to the success of The Monk, a Romance, his 1796 Gothic novel. The book, The Monk, a Romance, was first published in 1796 and has become required reading in many literature courses. I have edited the text to modernise some of th...

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In 1843, a man by the name of Samuel Griswold Goodrich wrote and published a book called Famous Men of Ancient Times. In the book, Goodrich looked at the lives of Mohammed, Belisarius, Attila, Nero, Seneca, Virgil, Cicero, Julius Cæsar, Hannibal, Alexander, Aristotle, Demosthenes, Apelles, Diogenes, Plato, Socrates, Alcibiades, Democritus, Pericles, Aristides, Æsop, Solon, Lycurgus,...

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Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus was written by Mary Shelley (1797–1851), an English author, and tells the story of Victor Frankenstein. Victor is a young scientist who creates a creature in a scientific experiment. Shelley started writing the story when she was 18, and the first edition was published anonymously in London on 1 January 1818, when she was 20. Her name first...

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The Importance of Being Earnest, A Trivial Comedy for Serious People is a play by Oscar Wilde. The play was first performed on 14 February 1895 at the St James’s Theatre in London. The Importance of Being Earnest is a comedy farce This play marked the moment that Wilde’s homosexuality became publicly known when it was revealed in a court case. Wilde was sentenced t...

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Activate the three confusing words, See, Look, and Watch. See, Look, Watch - Vocabulary Activation Pack

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English spelling is difficult because the way we pronounce words does not always match the way they are written. Words can also contain letter combinations that sound differently in different words. I have designed this Spelling Activation Pack to help you to spell 189 of the most troublesome words in British English.

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Learn the phrase "in a Jiffy" in just a few minutes. This conversation simulation will help you to see just how we use the common English phrase, in a jiffy.

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My dog’s got no nose! No nose? How does the poor thing smell? He smells horrible! In fact, he stinks! Why is this funny? It’s funny because a dog without a nose would not be able to smell smells, but it could still be a very smelly dog. Smell is both a verb and a noun, while smelly is an adjective. In this Vocabulary Act...

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All of the most common irregular English verbs are here pronounced and spelt to help you master them. The verbs are: eat, awake, beat, become, begin, bend, beset, bet, bid, bite, bleed, blow, bear, buy, bind, breed, break, bring, build, burn, burst, bust, come, cast, catch, choose, clothe, cling, cost, creep, crossbreed, cut, deal, do, disprove, dive, drink, dream, draw, drive, dig, dwell, feed...

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English spelling is notoriously difficult, even for native English speakers. Very often, the letters used to spell the word and the pronunciation of the word differ greatly. It can be embarrassing to make spelling errors in emails or other correspondence. Such spelling mistakes can damage your career prospects. I designed this English Activation Pack to activate your English spelling skills. Fo...

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Learn to use the verbs, see, look, and watch, with this English Activation Pack. The three English verbs, see, look, and watch, are frustrating for many of my students. I think this is because they all seem very similar and are to do with the eyes. This English Activation Pack will help you see how the three verbs differ in meaning. We will look at ways for you to learn, remember, and use these...

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Have you ever wondered how to talk about the wind? If you have, then this English Activation Pack is for you. Activating your English Skills. Wind is a very important feature of the weather. Wind is so important that it has its own measurement system, the Beaufort Scale. The Beaufort scale runs from 0 to 12. This English Activation Pack gives you all the language you need to talk about windy we...

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Bring and Take are two verbs which cause problems for many students. I believe this is because there are so many idiomatic expressions which use bring and take. At the request of my student, Monica, I have made this English Activation Pack to settle your doubts once and for all. Work your way through the theory part and then activate your English with the Activation Quizzes. The Activation Quiz...

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How to say all of the 118 elements of the periodic table while learning about comparatives and superlatives. I’m not a chemist, I’m an English teacher. That much, I hope, is apparent to you by now. I did, however, study Chemistry at school and found it fascinating. I thought it would be fun to make this English Activation Pack if only to refresh my own memory of the names of the ele...

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Do or Make are two verbs which cause frequent confusion for students. I have created this English Activation Pack as the ultimate resource to help you learn, practice, and remember how to use these two verbs. To see what’s in this English Activation Pack just watch the demonstration video. I can tell you that this English Activation Pack contains 3 embedded videos, a do or make quiz to te...

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Some English words begin with the letter H but don’t start with the / h / sound. This is because these words were borrowed into English from the original French. At first, they kept their French pronunciation, but gradually, over time, most of them became Anglicised and lost their French connection. Some of them, however, refused to lose their “posh” French pronunciation. Thes...

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This Activation Pack will help you to learn some of the vocabulary we use for talking about debt. You will not only learn about debt now and in the past, but also vocabulary items such as, afford, bank manager, bitter, borrow, buy, checks, cost, debt, do without, essential, every Tom, Dick and Harry, gallon, interest, left over, lend, luxury, money, on the never-never, on tick, pay bac...