How To Use Your Dictionary!

There are many different dictionaries for English learners to use and today most of them follow almost the same format and shape. The important thing is to use them all the time and properly.(Why? Click Here)I personally prefer Longman dictionaries like Longman Activator, Longman dictionary of English Language and Culture, Etc and the dictionary that I recommend is Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English.

So let’s get it started!

Many students may want to know if it is a good idea to open the dictionary to page 1, start from the first word and memorize the words to the end of the book. No no no !!

Dictionaries are references and you should refer to them when you need them.

How to find words in paper dictionaries?

Paper dictionaries are somehow better than electronic dictionaries on your computer because they do not need electricity and they can be used anywhere, anytime!

Here how you can find a word more easily:

You must look at the words on the upper corners of the pages the left word shows the first word on those two pages and the word on the right corner show the last word on those two pages.


It makes your word search faster. When you find the your word whose spelling is somewhere on these 2 pages  then look for the word on these two pages.


A good dictionary shows the correct spelling and sometimes the correct spellings of one word! Sometimes a word’s American and British spellings are different.


traveller (British English) ; traveler (American English) /tɾævɐləɾ/
1- Someone who is on a journey or someone who travels often
ex: There are frequent travellers to France.


The phonemic symbolsthat are in front of words may look strange, hard to understand and unimportant at first. But remember that the pronunciation of a word in a language is very important!


boy/bɔɪ/ [countable]

1-a male child or any male person in general (See girl)

ex: The boys wanted to play football.

Words and sentences sometimes get a different meaning with a different pronunciation!


bird/bɜ:rd/ [countable]

1-a creature with wings and feathers that can usually fly. Many birds sing and build nests, and female birds lay eggs

ex:The dawn was filled with the sound of birds.

beard/bɪrd/ [countable]

1- hair that grows around a man’s chin and cheeks (See mustache)

Part of Speach

There are some letters in front of the words that show you which parts of speech they are.

for example look at this word:

talk/tɑ:k/ (v.)

1-[intransitive]to say things to someone as part of a conversation

ex: i I could hear my father talking to my teacher

The letter  (v) shows that this word is a verb.

Here are some other letters for parts of speech that you can find in any good dictionary:

n = nouns like teacher/student/zoo..

adj= adjective like good/bad/ugly..

adv =adverbs like happily/fast/hard

aux = auxiliary verb like do/did/have/be…

conj = conjunction like and/but…

determiner like the/this…

interj= interjection like Wow!/Gee!…

modal verb like must /can/should…

phr v= phrasal verb like take off/get on…

prep= preposition like on/under/of….

Pron= pronoun like him/she/theirs….

Past and Present Participle

Present participle is the ing for form of a verb

Past participle: go –went—gone/talk—talked—talked/

If the word is a verb, a good dictionary shows the past and present participle of the verb in front of it with its correct spelling.


shop past tense and past participle: shopped, present participle: shopping

1- [intransitive]to go to one or more shops to buy things

ex: She always shops at that supermarket.

British / American English

There are also some small differences between American and British English. And a dictionary is the best place to look up those words.


crib /kɾɪb/

[countable](American English)a bed for a baby or young child, with bars on the side to stop the baby from falling out (See cot )

Formal /Informal/Literary/…

Sometimes you are talking to your friends after school or work and sometimes you want to write a letter to your professor another big person. Do you use the same words in these situations? Most probably not! Some words are good only for some situations.


buddy / bʌdɪ / plural buddies [countable]

informala friend

ex: We are good budddies.

Transitive and Intransitive

If the word is a verb, it has one of these letters in front of it in brackets … [T]means that the verb means an object and [I] means the verb does not need an object


take /teIk/ past tense took , past participle taken  (v.)

action [transitive]used with a noun instead of using a verb to describe an action. For example, if you take a walk, you walk somewhere

ex: Would you like to take a look?

Countable or Accountable?

A noun can have either of these letters in front of them[C] or [U] and sometimes a word can have both one meaning is countable and the other meaning of the word is uncountable.


furniture / fɜ:ɾnɪtʃəɾ / [uncountable]

large objects such as chairs, tables, beds, and cupboards

ex: I helped him choose the furniture for his house.

Synonyms Antonyms

Did you know that synonyms are not exactly the same meaning? They are different! (There is no absolute synonymy). For example, are these two Farsi words exactly the same?


We can just say that words come from the same (meaning) family and some of them are very much like the other like a real family where some brothers and sisters look more like each other!

But most dictionaries show the synonym and antonyms in front of the word if it is necessary. It helps you link the words together in your brain and learn them better when you know the opposite or another word with almost the same meaning.


large /lɑ:ɾdʒ/

big in size, amount, or number small

ex: Los Angeles is the second largest city in the US.


Many words in the English language have only one definition and one meaning But there are other words that sometimes have up to 30 different meanings!! like the word get/ take/.. When you are using a dictionary, it is very important to sometimes look at the passage or the sentence that you are reading and then look at the dictionary to and find the best definition and meaning for the that word . But remember that the first definition in a good dictionary is usually the most common one in.


happy /hæpɪ/

1- having feelings of pleasure, for example because something good has happened to you or you are very satisfied with your life

ex: It’s a lovely house and we’ve been very happy here.

2-a happy time, relationship, event etc is a good one that makes you feel happy

ex:This has been the happiest day of my life.

Collocations and “Word Formula”

All this information that you have got from your dictionary would be almost useless this for talking in English if you do not know how to use the word in a sentence! Here “word Formula” comes to help


suggest /sə’dʒɐst / [transitive] (v.)

to tell someone your ideas about what they should do, where they should go etc

suggest doing sth

suggest (that)

suggest how/where/what/…


When you learn a word for example a verb, a good dictionary shows you some other parts of speech from the same family. This helps you remember all of them better in the future and you will know more words this way.


interest (v.) [transitive]

to make someone want to pay attention to something and find out more about it

ex: Here’s an article which might interest you

see also interesting/interested/interest(n.)


After you have learned the “word formula” and collocations, your dictionary gives you some good example sentences or phrases with that word. These sentences and phrases can be very very very useful when you want to understand the word better or make your own sentence with the word.


suggest /sə’dʒɐst / (v.) [transitive]

1- to tell someone your ideas about what they should do, where they should go etc

suggest doing sth

ex: She suggested going out that night.

What dictionary is good?

There are many dictionaries and all of them are more or less good. But the most famous and popular ones are Oxford Dictionary of English


Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English

If you ask me, I would say personally, I like the second one better! 😉

Remember that the things that we talked about in this article are the most important ones that you need for using a dictionary. In advanced levels and for university students that major in English there are a lot more things to learn from a dictionary.

Good Luck!

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By | 2017-09-08T14:28:37+00:00 July 24th, 2014|Blog|32 Comments

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  4. ali mahmoodabadi January 1, 2014 at 21:44 - Reply

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    • Hossein Mofidi January 5, 2014 at 21:52 - Reply

      Hi..Let’s use it for our better English??

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    • Hossein Mofidi July 20, 2013 at 20:48 - Reply


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