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Increasing your vocab - The value of different Parts of Speech Options
LifeButBetter
Posted: Sunday, February 28, 2010 4:50:42 PM
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Joined: 2/28/2010
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Location: United Kingdom
I'm keen on self improvement but lazy. I tried to increase my vocabulary by learning a word a day from a website. I learned that nouns are the least useful types of words to learn because they are only used to name specific things. Adverbs and adjectives, I feel, are much more useful because you can use them more broadly to describe a variety of things.

Do people agree or disagree? What are the most useful parts of speech to learn?
Geeman
Posted: Sunday, February 28, 2010 5:41:22 PM

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Joined: 10/2/2009
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LifeButBetter wrote:
I'm keen on self improvement but lazy. I tried to increase my vocabulary by learning a word a day from a website. I learned that nouns are the least useful types of words to learn because they are only used to name specific things. Adverbs and adjectives, I feel, are much more useful because you can use them more broadly to describe a variety of things.

Do people agree or disagree? What are the most useful parts of speech to learn?

In general, verbs are the most important part of speech. Verbs are where language gets its action, and the use of good, descriptive, active verbs makes your speaking/writing more interesting and persuasive. The proper verb can be used in place of a adverb and even an adjective. Consider:

The drunk man walked unsteadily home.

The man staggered home.

With a good, descriptive verb you get both that the man is drunk and characterize the way he walks. Consider:

I have strong, positive feelings toward you.

I love you.

Which would you rather hear?

However, I think the best way to deal with vocabularly is to address words as the four major parts of speech they can occupy. That is, when you get a good word you should learn its noun, verb, adjective and adverb forms. Is it nominalized, used in past tense, or a gerund as a noun or adjective? Are there irregularities in the spelling? Is it one of the exceptional adverbs that can be used without -ly on the end of it?

For example, the word "decimate" is a verb. As a verb we know that word means "to destroy" and comes from the Latin origin in which it was a punishment by the Roman Empire in which they'd kill 1/10th of a group, hence "deci-" in the word. Some people argue that the word should be used in that sense, rather than the more modern way it gets used, meaning to completely nor nearly completely wipe out. (Such factoids stick in the memory and make it easier to remember a word.) Along with that definition, you should also learn that "decimation" is the noun form, and that "decimated" is the adjective. We'd probably not say "decimatedly" at all.

So, when you learn a new word you should learn its major forms and usage, not just one form or the other. At first, this seems like a more complicated method than just memorizing a word and the definition, but in the long run I think it helps you retain and actually employ those words more effectively.
uuaschbaer
Posted: Sunday, February 28, 2010 5:43:49 PM

Rank: Advanced Member

Joined: 10/18/2009
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In my experience such a method of increasing one's vocabulary has never worked well. I can't remember much more than 'bonjour' and 'baguette' of all the hours I spent meticulously studying lists of french words. However, to read! To read is a different story. The words you'll read come back to you with a feeling, or better described as an urge to employ them when you need a word to match a concept.
I don't think it's useful for me to answer your questions because every word you'll want to learn is superfluous. The reason you don't know the words you'd like to know is because you don't need them.
kenishka
Posted: Monday, March 29, 2010 9:07:35 AM
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Joined: 3/27/2010
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Location: Afghanistan
partly right uuaschbaer
Ketardously
Posted: Tuesday, March 30, 2010 4:00:22 PM
Rank: Advanced Member

Joined: 6/13/2009
Posts: 68
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Location: Sweden
Geeman, I liked your post very much! I've never thought about it like that. I'll try this method, and I'm sure it'll fit my way of learning perfectly.

Otherwise, reading is the way to go. Reading is how you learn idioms, the usage of words you didn't know existed.
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