Today we will learn about a quick and easy way to sound more natural when speaking English. Improving your vocabulary for the most commonly used English words and phrases will make a tremendous difference to how engaging and articulate you sound. Listen to this English lesson and what you say will immediately sound more appealing. Listeners will understand what you are saying more clearly and want to hear more.
We all know that if someone uses the same word again and again in a conversation, it quickly becomes boring to listen to. Using the same limited vocabulary tells listeners you are a new language learner. Native English speakers vary their use of vocabulary to express their thoughts and feelings.
It’s easy to get some quick and painless wins. Start by identifying common vocabulary in your conversations, words you “over use” in your conversations. These are the ones you will need to work on. Practice substituting these common “generic” adjectives with more precise adjectives, which are a better way to show what you mean.
Using more precise adjectives in the speaking section of IELTS and TOEFL exams will show your examiner that your grasp of English vocabulary is good and it will improve your score.
In this podcast, I’ll share more examples of vocabulary substitution. I will provide you with a step-by-step example of what you should do when you’ve found the vocabulary you rely on too much and over use in your conversations. So jump in and start listening!
Tremendous Engaging Articulate Precise Perfect Outstanding Exceptional Wonder Fantastic Superb Excellent
Hi and welcome to this podcast from Adept English. Do you want to sound less like a beginner speaking English and more like a native speaker? Of course you do - that’s why you’re here. English is a very rich and varied language - but beginners often use a limited range of vocabulary.
Simple vocabulary will mean the other person does understand you, but if you want to sound more like a native speaker, increasing your vocabulary is important. Today, let’s take a phrase that English learners say a lot - and give you some different words for it.
Do you ever say ‘very good’ to describe something? I’m sure you do. But if you use ‘very good’ all the time, it’s not very descriptive, it’s not very interesting. So let’s look today at some other words for ‘very good’, a phrase which all English language learners know. Let’s look at some alternative, more descriptive ways of saying this.
This will help you sound more expressive when you speak English and more like an English speaker - and your conversation will sound more interesting.
So when you’re learning English, of course you learn basic vocabulary first. And there’s nothing wrong with saying ‘very good’. People will understand what you mean of course. But I’m going to give you nine different ways to say ‘very good’, which are really worth learning. They’re all slightly different in meaning, so you might use them in different ways. It will help you to understand their specific meaning - but that doesn’t mean that you have to stick with the rules. It’s fine to mix these ones up - they’re almost the same.
So here goes. Where there are two words with a very similar meaning, I’ll pair them together. So these are words for ‘very good’.
The first pair of words which mean ‘very good’, and which are similar in meaning - ‘superb’, SUPERB and ‘excellent’, EXCELLENT. Most of the time, you can use either of these words to mean ‘very good’, but let’s have a look at their slight differences. With ‘superb’, there can be a sense of magnificence, majesty even!
The thing is so big or so beautiful, it impresses you. It might make you say ‘Wow!’. So you might say ‘The view of the mountains from the hotel room window was superb’ - meaning that you were impressed by it and you said ‘Wow!’ when you saw it. Or you might say ‘The skiing was superb!’ ‘Excellent’ means ‘of extremely high quality’, ‘the best of its kind’.You can understand ‘excellent’ better when you know that there’s a verb ‘to excel’ EXCEL. And if someone ‘excels’ at Maths for example, it means that they’re one of the best, if not the best at maths in their group.
So if something is ‘excellent’, it is ‘excelling’ in its class, in its group. And there’s a noun ‘excellence’ too, EXCELLENCE. ‘Achieving excellence’ may be the kind of thing you hear as big company’s goals, ‘mission statements’ for their workers.
There’s a lot of skill and talent going into something that’s ‘excellent’. So back to that hotel room, you might say ‘The view out of the hotel room window was superb - and the service in the hotel was excellent’. So if there’s any difference at all, ‘excellent’ has more of a focus on someone having worked hard to arrive at that ‘very good’ standard’, but ‘superb’ can happen naturally. But you can mix and match ‘superb’ and ‘excellent’ too, I think.
The next two words that mean ‘very good’ are also similar to each other. They are ‘fantastic’, FANTASTIC and ‘wonderful’, WONDERFUL. The adjective ‘fantastic’ comes from the word ‘fantasy’, FANTASY.
A ‘fantasy’ is like a dream - a fantasy is you thinking about something which might happen, but imagining it happening in the best way possible. So if we say something is ‘fantastic’, we mean that it’s the stuff of fantasy, it’s something that we can only dream of. And ‘wonderful’ is similar - it means that whatever we are describing - well, it fills us with ‘wonder’.
The noun ‘wonder’, WONDER is a word to describe that sense we get when something is so good, it just stops us in our tracks! We look round with ‘wonder’. Perhaps like a child in a fantastic toy shop, perhaps looking round with eyes wide and mouth open! That’s ‘wonder’ and the toy shop would be ‘wonderful’.
What about these two - ‘outstanding’, OUTSTANDING and ‘exceptional’, EXCEPTIONAL? You can use these two adjectives instead of ‘very good’ when you’re talking about someone’s achievements, peoples’ successes. Both of these words work if you were describing a very successful student or someone with a very successful career or other achievements.
If something is ‘outstanding’, it ‘stands out’ - you see it as above the rest. It’s noticeable because it’s better than what’s around it. You might make an ‘outstanding contribution’ to your particular science or area of study. Your contribution stands out from the rest. ‘Exceptional’ is similar - if something is ‘an exceptional circumstance’, it means when something’s not the norm, it isn’t usual.
So when we’re using ‘exceptional’ in a positive way about a person or an achievement, we mean that they or it are far better than the usual - it’s an exception, because it or they are so good. If you go into the school for a parents evening and your daughter’s teacher says that she is ‘an exceptional student’, it means that you have a very clever child!
Another two words, which you can use pretty much anywhere you might say ‘very good’ - ‘awesome’, AWESOME and ‘amazing’, AMAZING. You’ll hear these words used all the time - but often in contexts which don’t really deserve it.
You might be on the phone to a helpline and they’re helping you set up your mobile phone or some function on your laptop. And when you follow their instructions and it works, the person might say ‘Awesome’! It’s what we call an over-statement - it’s too much, but they’re meaning to be encouraging to you. So in their pure form, these two words again mean ‘very good’.
The word ‘awesome’ is related to the noun ‘awe’, AWE - and a bit like ‘wonder’, ‘awe’ is a feeling that you get in response to something. If you think of a cartoon character, seeing something which is (here we go) ‘fantastic’ or ‘wonderful’ - you might see that their mouth is open as they look around. They’re speechless. Well, in this moment, you could say they have a ‘sense of awe’. If you feel ‘awe’, you can hardly speak.
Now ‘awe’ is more commonly used to mean something positive, but this one can also have a negative feeling - if a huge brown bear suddenly was in front of you in the forest, about to eat you, you might feel awe, as well as terror. ‘Awe’ at its size, perhaps. Whereas if something is ‘amazing’, then that’s almost always positive. And of course, it’s related to the verb ‘to amaze’, AMAZE and the noun ‘amazement’.
If you think of the verb ‘to surprise’ and then increase the level of surprise - you get to ‘amazement’. So if someone says ‘you cooked an amazing meal’ - it means that it went beyond surprise, just how good it was.
And the final word for today, meaning ‘very good’ is ‘perfect’, PERFECT. Again, if someone is talking you through a set of instructions - and you’re following them and it works - they might say ‘Perfect’. Or if you arrive at an arrangement, what time you’re going to meet someone, they might say ‘Perfect!’.
Again, it’s being used as friendly encouragement. If you use the adjective ‘perfect’ in its more pure sense, it links better to the noun that goes with it, which is ‘perfection’, PERFECTION. And if something is ‘perfect’, if something has ‘achieved perfection’ - it means that ‘everything in it, everything about it, is correct, is good, nothing is wrong, nothing is out of place’.
You might talk about someone having ‘perfect hair’ - this means that there’s absolutely nothing wrong with their hair. ‘Not a hair out of place’, we say. Or ‘That car is perfect for me’. That means that the car has absolutely everything you could wish for - every detail suits you. You and the car are a perfect fit together! And ‘perfection’ is used where there is just nothing you could do to improve a situation - it’s already ‘perfect’.
OK, so those are nine adjectives I’m suggesting you can use instead of ‘very good’. They’re pretty interchangeable - that means you can use each of them for most things. I’m just giving you extra meanings to help you remember them. But here are some practice sentences for you. I’ll give you sentences which use ‘very good’, and you need to substitute a different word for ‘very good’.
The easier way to use this exercise is to see if you can remember all nine of the words and put them in. And if that’s easy for you and you want to stretch yourself, see if you can choose the most appropriate word, that’s more in line with its origin. Here goes - you’ll understand the downside to using ‘very good’ all the time when you hear this! Using ‘very good’ all the time makes it sound boring!
Going skiing in Austria? That will be a very good opportunity for you and I’m sure you will have a very good time.
Your son is a very good student. His work, particularly in Science is very good.
People enjoyed travelling on the Orient Express. The food used to be very good and the scenery was very good.
My father would practise his piano pieces until they were very good.
We enjoyed the underground boat tour because the caves themselves were very good and our guide told us some very good stories about the caves.
OK - did you remember all nine words? If you want to have another go, do it now, as I’m about to give you those sentences with the nine adjectives for ‘very good’ - so now’s the time to pause and try it again if you want to.
A photograph of a man playing a piano. Today we will learn about how to sound more natural when speaking English. Your listeners will notice a huge difference if you use these common words and phrases regularly.
OK, those sentences again? Notice how much better this sounds!
Going skiing in Austria? That will be a wonderful opportunity for you and I’m sure you will have a fantastic time.
Your son is an exceptional student. His work, particularly in Science is outstanding.
People enjoyed travelling on the Orient Express. The food used to be excellent and the scenery was superb.
My father would practise his piano pieces until they were perfect.
We enjoyed the underground boat tour because the caves themselves were awesome and our guide told us amazing stories about the caves.
That version sounds much better, doesn’t it?! You can hear that that’s much more descriptive, much more expressive and more likely to have your listener’s attention. If you use those words, it’s no longer beginner’s English.
OK. Don’t forget, if you would like to consolidate your basic vocabulary, our Most Common Five Hundred Words Course is available to buy on our website at adeptenglish.com. Lots of lovely listening, which helps you practise just the five hundred most common words in English. Wonderful!
Anyway, enough for now. Have a lovely day. Speak to you again soon. Goodbye.