6 Great English Vocabulary Books

While it’s true that English language learners have a plethora of resources available to them that will help increase the number of words they know, these books stand out because they’re specifically designed for these types of learners and approach teaching vocabulary in a creative way.

1. “McGraw-Hill Essential ESL Dictionary”

The first thing you’re going to need is a good dictionary so you can look up those interesting words you come across.

The advantage of this dictionary is that it has been created specifically for the English language learner. This means that the book has been designed in a way that’s easy to understand so that nothing gets lost in translation.

There are also a number of additional resources that come with the dictionary. There are sections that cover grammar rules and conversational English. There’s even a section filled with vocabulary words and pictures showcasing different themes like electronics, animals or classroom vocabulary.

If you really like the book and want to sound like a native English speaker, consider using this book alongside “The American Idioms Dictionary” and “Dictionary of American Slang and Colloquial Expressions,” which are also books by McGraw-Hill. These vocabulary books will help you learn the funny, unique and sometimes strange expressions that (American) English speakers say in conversations.

2. English Vocabulary in Use Series

The English Vocabulary in Use series is a best-selling series of books by Cambridge University Press that help English students of all levels improve their vocabulary and work towards mastering the English language. One of the nicest features of this series is that students can choose to study American English or British English, which is great for people preparing for IELTS or TOEFL.

Another thing that’s nice is that the books are tailored for different skill levels. The series includes:

“Basic Vocabulary in Use“
“Elementary Vocabulary“
“Pre-intermediate and Intermediate Vocabulary“
“Upper-Intermediate Vocabulary“
“Advanced Vocabulary“
“Basic Vocabulary in Use” teaches 1,200 of the most important English words and is perfect for beginners. The rest of the series introduces thousands of words unique to the skill level, with terms getting technical and more specific with each new book.

3. “Oxford Picture Dictionary”

If you’re a visual learner like me, you can really appreciate a dictionary that relies on beautiful photos and illustrations to teach vocabulary. “The Oxford Picture Dictionary” is perfect for this and also includes target vocabulary sections, pre-reading questions and stories to help you see the context of the words covered.

They even have bilingual versions of the dictionary, so you can find one that uses English and your native language.

4. “504 Absolutely Essential Words”

This vocabulary book is best for people who want to learn survival English or need to build a strong foundation before moving on to more advanced material. Like the name suggests, it covers more than 500 of the most important and frequently used words in English.

This book is also great for students preparing for English proficiency tests and comes filled with supplemental material that makes learning vocabulary quick and painless. You get easy-to-understand sample sentences, short reading passages and world-building exercises that help you learn how to understand words in context.

5. “NTC Vocabulary Builders”

Another easy-to-use vocabulary book by McGraw-Hill is “NTC Vocabulary Builders.” This book is designed for advanced English learners who need assistance with English vocabulary used in a professional setting. This makes this series of books perfect for students who are learning business English or need to be a proficient English speaker at work.

The “Blue Book” is the advanced version and is for upper-intermediate and advanced learners. There’s also a “Green Book” for high beginners and the “Red Book,” which is designed for intermediates students. All three levels are quite challenging compared to other books, which is why they’re only recommended for serious learners preparing for proficiency tests or need to learn English for their profession.

6. “Word Power Made Easy”

Do you want a fun way to learn 1,000 of the most frequently used words in the English language? “Word Power Made Easy” is the right book for you! It has various games and activities that’ll help you learn in an enjoyable way.

The vocabulary words come with a number of explanations that put definitions into context, so you can get a better idea of how to properly use these words in conversation and writing. If you’re a big-picture thinker, you’ll love how these descriptions provide you with helpful background information. Additionally, this book is loaded with valuable tips on how you can maximize your study habits and learn more words in less time!

Tips to Help You Increase Your Vocabulary

Are you having a difficult time building your vocabulary?

If so, you’re not alone.

Many English language learners feel that vocabulary exercises are one of the most challenging parts to mastering English.

Building your vocabulary is one of the most important parts of learning a new language. In some ways, having a large vocabulary is more important than knowing the right grammar rules and word order.

Your extensive vocabulary allows you to be understandable, which is important if you’re in a situation where you’re in dire need of expressing yourself.

You never know if you’ll ever need to say, “My passport is lost,” or “I have food poisoning.” Even if you haven’t mastered English grammar, your vocabulary knowledge may mean the difference between getting help or not.

Here are some tips to help you increase your vocabulary:

  • Know the context of the words you learn. Pay attention to how they’re used in sentences.

  • Use new words as much as possible. Mention them in your conversations and include them in your writing.

  • Start simple. Learn the words that you use the most in your day-to-day activities. Things involving time, food and daily routine are good.

  • Learn in groups. Types of food, modes of transportation, vocabulary for hospital visits are all great groupings. Learning words randomly, like “cheese” and then “submarine,” is only going to confuse you.

  • Stay away from opposites. Don’t mix opposites in with your groupings, it’ll only confuse you. Stick with synonyms.

Also check these chart to find some other useful tips for enlarging your vocabulary:

The best series of books in English, from beginner to advanced, for people learning it as a second language

Here you can find a list of books for improving your English based on your English level.

Advanced English books

English books for beginners

Intermediated books

Reported Speech

Reported speech 

When we report someone’s words we can do it in two ways. We can use direct speech with quotation marks (“I work in a bank”), or we can use reported speech (He said he worked in a bank.)

In reported speech the tenses, word-order and pronouns may be different from those in the original sentence.

Present simple and present continuous tenses

  • Direct speech: “I travel a lot in my job” Reported speech: He said that he travelled a lot in his job.
The present simple tense (I travel) usually changes to the past simple (he travelled) in reported speech.
  • Direct speech: “Be quiet. The baby’s sleeping.” Reported speech: She told me to be quiet because the baby was sleeping.
The present continuous usually changes to the past continuous.

  • “I work in Italy” Reported speech: He told me that he works in Italy.
It isn’t always necessary to change the tense. If something is still true now – he still works in Italy – we can use the present simple in the reported sentence.

Past simple and past continuous tenses

  • Direct speech: “We lived in China for 5 years.” Reported speech: She told me they had lived in China for 5 years.
The past simple tense (we lived) usually changes to the past perfect (they had lived) in reported speech.
  • Direct speech: “I was walking down the road when I saw the accident.” Reported speech: He told me he’d been walking down the road when he’d seen the accident.
The past continuous usually changes to the past perfect continuous.

Perfect tenses
  • Direct speech: “They’ve always been very kind to me”. Reported speech: She said they’d always been very kind to her.
The present perfect tense (have always been) usually changes to the past perfect tense (had always been).
  • Direct speech: “They had already eaten when I arrived” Reported speech: He said they’d already eaten when he’d arrived.
The past perfect tense does not change in reported speech.

You can find more information below:

Reported Speech

A Short History of the English Language

History of the English Language

Do you remember, back at school, when you’d walk into the classroom and see a TV set up and you’d know, with a surge of joy, today’s class was going to be a video?

Today is one of those days.

Behold, a wonderful little video from the Open University that gives us the history of the English language in about ten minutes. It’s animated and narrated brilliantly and addresses such questions as

-How did we wind up with such a mish mash of Latin,
-French and German (and loads of other languages we’ve brushed up against)?
-How many words did we get from the Normans?
-What did Shakespeare do to the English language, apart from provide angst for high school students?
-What did the King James translation do to the English language?
-How did English come to be the dominant language?
-What about the American English (or as the video says – American English, not really English, but somewhere in the ballpark)?
-What effect has the internet had on English? And now, that it’s so global …

whose language is it anyway?

It is a clever, informative and very funny video. Pour a coffee and check it out, you will learn so much. I certainly did.

Adjectives and Prepositions

Adjectives & Prepositions

Some adjectives go with certain prepositions. There is no real pattern – you need to learn them as you meet them. Here are some examples but remember that there are many other adjective + preposition combinations that are not covered here.
With ‘at’
  • I’m quite good at English but I’m bad at maths and I’m terrible at physics.
With ‘for’
  • Jogging is good for your health but smoking is bad for you.
  • The town is famous for its cheese.
As well as ‘good for’, ‘bad for’ and ‘famous for’ we also say ‘qualified for’ ‘ready for’, ‘responsible for’, ‘suitable for’ and several others.
With ‘of’
I’m perfectly capable of doing it myself, thank you.
I’m very fond of this old sweatshirt.
As well as ‘capable of’ and ‘fond of’ we also say ‘aware of’, ‘full of’, ‘tired of’ and several others.
With ‘with’
  • We’re very pleased with your progress.
  • You’re not still angry with me are you?
As well as ‘pleased with’ and ‘angry with’ we also say ‘bored with’, ‘delighted with’, ‘satisfied with’ and several others.

With ‘to’
  • She’s the one who’s married to a doctor, isn’t she?
  • You’ll be responsible to the head of the Finance department.
Notice that you can be responsible for something but responsible to someone.
Other common adjective + preposition combinations include ‘interested in’ and ‘keen on’. It’s a good idea to make a note of new combinations in your vocabulary notebook as you meet them. Remember too that a preposition is followed by a noun or a gerund (‘ing’ form).

Adjectives and Prepositions

Modal Verbs Explained With Examples

Modals Verbs

Permission, Prohibition, Obligation, No obligation

To express permissionprohibitionobligation and no obligation we usually use modal verbs.


Can is often used to ask for and give permission.
  • Can I sit here?
  • You can use my car if you like.
  • Can I make a suggestion?
We can also use may and could to ask for and give permission but can is used more


Both can’t and mustn’t are used to show that something is prohibited – it is not allowed.
  • You can’t park here, sir.
  • You can wear jeans but you can’t wear trainers in that bar.
  • You mustn’t speak when the teacher is speaking.
Can’t tells us that something is against the rules. Mustn’t is usually used when the obligation comes from the person who is speaking.


Have to and must are both used to express obligation. There is a slight difference between the way they are used.

Have to shows us that the obligation comes from somebody else. It’s a law or a rule and the speaker can’t change it.
  • Do you have to wear a uniform at your school?
  • John can’t come because he has to work tomorrow.
  • In Britain you have to buy a TV licence every year.
Must shows us that the obligation comes from the speaker. It isn’t a law or a rule. 
  • I must call my dad tonight.
  • You must hand in your homework on Tuesday or your mark will be zero.
  • You must come and visit us the next time you come to London.
No obligation

We use don’t have to to show that there is no obligation. You can do something if you want to but it’s not compulsory.
  • You don’t have to wear a tie in our office. You can wear a tie if you want to but it’s OK if you don’t.
  • It’ll be nice if you do but you don’t have to come with me if you don’t want to.
  • You don’t have to dress up for the party. Wear whatever you feel comfortable in.

Modal Verbs 

Difference between DO and MAKE

Basic Difference Between DO And MAKE

  • Use DO for actions, obligations, and repetitive tasks.
  • Use MAKE for creating or producing something, and for actions you choose to do.
  • DO generally refers to the action itself, and MAKE usually refers to the result. For example, if you “make breakfast,” the result is an omelet! If you “make a suggestion,” you have created a recommendation.

Common English Collocations With DO

  • do the housework
    After I got home from the office, I was too tired to do the housework.
  • do the laundry
    I really need to do the laundry – I don’t have any clean clothes left!
  • do the dishes
    I’ll make dinner if you do the dishes afterwards.
    (you can also say “wash the dishes”)
  • do the shopping
    I went to the bank, did some shopping, and mailed a package at the post office.
EXCEPTION: make the bed = putting blankets, sheets, and pillows in the correct place so that the bed looks nice and not messy.
  • do work
    I can’t go out this weekend – I have to do some work on an extra project.
  • do homework
    You can’t watch any TV until you’ve done your homework.
  • do business
    We do business with clients in fifteen countries.
  • do a good/great/terrible job
    She did a good job organizing the party.
    (in this expression, “job” doesn’t necessarily refer to work. It simply means the person did something well)
  • do a report
    I’m doing a report on the history of American foreign policy.
    (you can also say “writing a report”)
  • do a course 
    We’re doing a course at the local university.
    (you can also say “taking a course”)
  • do exercise
    I do at least half an hour of exercise every day.
  • do your hair (= style your hair)
    I’ll be ready to go in 15 minutes – I just need to do my hair.
  • do your nails (= paint your nails)
    Can you open this envelope for me? I just did my nails and they’re still wet.
  • do anything / something / everything / nothing
    Are you doing anything special for your birthday?
    You can’t do everything by yourself – let me help you.
  • do well
    I think I did pretty well in the interview.
  • do badly
    Everyone did badly on the test – the highest grade was 68.
  • do good
    The non-profit organization has done a lot of good in the community.
  • do the right thing
    When I found someone’s wallet on the sidewalk, I turned it in to the police because I wanted to do the right thing.
  • do your best
    Don’t worry about getting everything perfect – just do your best.

Common English Collocations With MAKE

  • make breakfast/lunch/dinner
    I’m making dinner – it’ll be ready in about ten minutes.
  • make a sandwich
    Could you make me a turkey sandwich?
  • make a salad
    I made a salad for the family picnic.
  • make a cup of tea
    Would you like me to make you a cup of tea?
  • make a reservation
    I’ve made a reservation for 7:30 at our favorite restaurant.
  • make money
    I enjoy my job, but I don’t make very much money.
  • make a profit
    The new company made a profit within its first year.
  • make a fortune
    He made a fortune after his book hit #1 on the bestseller list.
  • make $_______I made $250 selling my old CDs on the internet.
  • make friends
    It’s hard to make friends when you move to a big city.
  • make love (= have sex)
    The newlyweds made love on the beach during their honeymoon.
  • make a pass at (= flirt with someone)
    My best friend’s brother made a pass at me – he asked if I was single and tried to get my phone number.
  • make fun of someone (= tease / mock someone)
    The other kids made fun of Jimmy when he got glasses, calling him “four eyes.”
  • make up (= resolve a problem in a relationship)
    Karen and Jennifer made up after the big fight they had last week.

  • make a phone call
    Please excuse me – I need to make a phone call.
  • make a joke
    He made a joke, but it wasn’t very funny and no one laughed.
  • make a point
    Dana made some good points during the meeting; I think we should consider her ideas.
  • make a bet
    I made a bet with Peter to see who could do more push-ups.
  • make a complaint
    We made a complaint with our internet provider about their terrible service, but we still haven’t heard back from them.
  • make a confession
    I need to make a confession: I was the one who ate the last piece of cake.
  • make a speech
    The company president made a speech about ethics in the workplace.
  • make a suggestion
    Can I make a suggestion? I think you should cut your hair shorter – it’d look great on you!
  • make a prediction
    It’s difficult to make any predictions about the future of the economy.
  • make an excuse
    When I asked him if he’d finished the work, he started making excuses about how he was too busy.
  • make a promise
    I made a promise to help her whenever she needs it.
    (you can also say, “I promised to help her whenever she needs it.”)
  • make a fuss (= demonstrate annoyance)
    Stop making a fuss – he’s only late a couple minutes. I’m sure he’ll be here soon.
  • make an observation
    I’d like to make an observation about our business plan – it’s not set in stone, so we can be flexible.
  • make a comment
    The teacher made a few critical comments on my essay.
EXCEPTION: Don’t say “make a question.” The correct phrase is “ask a question.”
  • make plans
    We’re making plans to travel to Australia next year.
  • make a decision/choice
    I’ve made my decision – I’m going to go to New York University, not Boston University.
  • make a mistake
    You made a few mistakes in your calculations – the correct total is $5430, not $4530.
  • make progress
    My students are making good progress. Their spoken English is improving a lot.
  • make an attempt / effort (= try)
    I’m making an effort to stop smoking this year.
  • make up your mind (= decide)
    Should I buy a desktop or a laptop computer? I can’t make up my mind.
  • make a discovery
    Scientists have made an important discovery in the area of genetics.
  • make a list
    I’m making a list of everything we need for the wedding: invitations, decorations, a cake, a band, the dress…
  • make sure (= confirm)
    Can you make sure we have enough copies of the report for everybody at the meeting?
  • make a difference
    Getting eight hours of sleep makes a big difference in my day. I have more energy!
  • make an exception
    Normally the teacher doesn’t accept late homework, but she made an exception for me because my backpack was stolen with my homework inside it.
To do vs To make