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  • Writer's pictureAlex

"I describe everything as 'Good' or 'Bad.' How can I expand my vocabulary?" (audio included)

Updated: Jul 6, 2021

It's natural to use the same vocabulary again and again when you're learning a new language, or even when you're a native speaker of that language. This is how you master it and commit it to your long-term memory. However, almost every student reaches a point where they want to expand their vocabulary. They don't just want to say "very" all the time, or describe everything as "good" or "bad."

To be clear, this is an issue for native speakers of any language as well. We depend on general words that give people a basic idea of how we feel about something. The words "good" and "bad" are shortcuts we use to quickly convey our judgments--and our brains love shortcuts. And sometimes, shortcuts are fine. So are exaggerations like "wonderful," "incredible," "amazing," and "horrible."

But what if we want to be more direct? What if we want to be more specific and precise? Well, that's when we have to relax our brains, consider things more carefully, and find the words we're really looking for.

The movie wasn't just bad. It was dull.

That hamburger wasn't just good. It was juicy and flavourful.

Your weekend wasn't just good. It was eventful and rejuvenating.

When we describe something as "good" or "bad," we are describing the quality of it. This means we are describing how it made us FEEL. And what registers those feelings? Our senses. When we are describing something we experience or experienced, our brains do a quick calculation:

How did it smell?

How did it taste?

How did it feel?

How did it sound?

How did it look?

How did it make me feel?

And we quickly want to jump to the simple binary judgment of "good" or "bad." But if we want to expand our vocabulary, we have to take a step back and consider those quick calculations more carefully--more mindfully.

How did your lunch smell? Was it pleasant? Or maybe you want to get a little hyperbolic and say it was heavenly or intoxicating?

How did that cake taste? Was it delicious? Fluffy as a cloud? Rich? Or did it have too much sugar and was sickly sweet?

How did your new coat feel? Was it comfortable? Was it too tight or too loose? Light or heavy?

How did the YouTube video sound? Was the audio quality muffled? Was it staticky?

How did the new office look? Was it cramped or spacious?

How did that series make you feel? Was it captivating or mundane? Thrilling or bland?

Think of your senses and ask yourself similar questions. Stop your brain from taking shortcuts. I know this is tough in the heat of conversation (meaning: in the most intense or active part of a conversation), but we can prepare--By reading articles. By listening to reviews of things we care about and want to discuss with others. By using translators and resources like and The tools are there! We just have to be willing to use them and find the time to practice and study with them.

So, now it's your turn. Scroll down to the comments and tell me: How did reading this article make you feel? Don't hold back (meaning: don't hide your true and most intense feelings). Was it too idealistic? Was it motivating? Or was it something else entirely? You tell me.

Until next time, I wish you success in your studies.


Roxana Peralta
Roxana Peralta
Jul 07, 2021

Hi Alex. I think this article is quite interesting because I realized that I should be more relaxing when I am talking with others. I think I get stressed because I am ordering my ideas in my brain, Still I keep thinking in Spanish, and at the same time I am trying to order those ideas in English. That's why I use to create a short circuit in my mind. Your paragraphs make me reflexing on it. These texts are clear, direct, but warm and full of empathy. You make me feel understood, maybe you made the exercise of putting on others' shoes. Thanks for your advice and I'll try to do these exercises with more frequency. in the he…


Moh Kadouri
Moh Kadouri
Jul 04, 2021

Interesting article...Thank you Alex, you are one of the best English-language teachers in the world.


Maria Cristina Grandi
Maria Cristina Grandi
Jul 03, 2021

Thank you Alex! Your article was crystal clear and precise. Have a lovely weekend! M


Jun 25, 2021

The article was beneficial and it made me want to read and learn more English

Thank you

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