How to Learn English Synonyms and Antonyms Effectively

By Robby

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Video Transcript Below:

Hi guys, hello boys and girls, hello my dear foreign English speakers and welcome back to Robby’s English Harmony video blog!

In today’s video I’m going to address the following topic: how to learn English synonyms and antonyms effectively.

And the reason for me recording this video I got asked this question by one of my blog readers and I decided that I have to record this video because I haven’t actually addressed this question in any of my videos or articles over the last 8 years if I’m not mistaken.

So synonyms and antonyms. Let’s address the synonyms first. And I’ve taken a simple word which is CONTROVERSIAL in our case. And I’ve entered it up in a website called where you can find a large number of synonyms and antonyms for any word imaginable, right? So controversial, and the synonyms as per this website are as follows: contentious, disputed, dubious, questionable, arguable, argumentative and so on and so forth.

So it begs the question how can you learn them all, right?

How Can You Learn All Those Synonyms?

So first things first, you don’t have to approach the whole thing from this perspective. You don’t have to think that you have to learn a lot of synonyms for every single English word out there.

Because if you start thinking that way, if you go down that road, you are done as an English speaker. And the reason being you’ll get so overwhelmed because of the sheer number of words that you don’t know, it is just going to overwhelm you. And it’ll make you feel as if you’re a useless English student, English learner for that matter.

And here’s a good example. A couple of days ago I was doing some research online for one of my blog articles that I was creating at that time and I came across some word list or something and I realized that when I was looking at the word list I didn’t know more than half of those words. It wasn’t a synonym list but it was some sort of a – I can’t actually remember, right? But it’s irrelevant at this stage.

Suffice it to say that for a first split second I started kind of feeling that way. I felt a bit overwhelmed. I was thinking, hold on, how come that I didn’t – that I don’t know this word or that word.

But obviously me being me and knowing how all these English fluency issues manifest themselves and how to keep my fluency in check, I just dismissed it immediately. I just told myself “Robby, your English is perfect! It’s good enough for you. You don’t need to know those words.”

And that’s the truth guys. You don’t need to know hundreds upon hundreds of synonyms for various English words, right?

Thing is – You Don’t Need to Learn Hundreds of Synonyms!

All that you need is to know how to use this number of words comfortably in your speech, in your writing and then you build upon it overtime.

You don’t necessarily have to make it your goal to learn like 5 synonyms for each and every single English word you know. It serves no purpose, okay? If you have this idea that you have to enrich your vocabulary and that that’s going to make you into a real intellectual – well, here’s what I’m going to answer to that.

Over time, over the next like couple of decades, provided that you constantly deal with the English language, that you enjoy your life through English, that you get exposed to plenty of English content, films, music, whatnot, read in English, speak in English; your vocabulary will naturally grow. Okay? It’s not if you have to accomplish some life mission now. Right now, within the next couple of months you have to learn hundreds upon hundreds of synonyms. You don’t have to do that. Okay? So make it easier for yourself!

But when it comes to learning a few synonyms and now let’s forget about the whole massive task of building vocabulary consisting of thousands of synonyms, let’s talk about something manageable, learning a couple of words here and there. How to manage it?

Never Learn Many Synonyms at the Same Time!

Bear this in mind my friends – each synonym normally goes in a different context. So never ever – this is rule number 2 – never ever learn a number of synonyms at the same time. Never write them down just like in this case – don’t write controversial, contentious, dubious or argumentative. Don’t write them in a single line and then learn them all because it will serve no purpose. It will all get mixed up in your brain!

You have to compartmentalize that knowledge. You have to take each individual word and learn it as part of a different context. Because all English words normally go together with other words, forming phrases, word collocations, word groups; the so-called collocations.

So that’s what you’ve got to do. Take the word for instance DUBIOUS and learn in what context it’s used. Do a Google search and see what sentences the word DUBIOUS comes up with.

And then learn how to use that word dubious without associating it with other synonyms. Because just like I said, if you start doing that, your fluency will go down the drain. You know, whenever you start to speak, you’ll be constantly analyzing, trying to choose between those synonyms. You’ll be thinking “Which one should I be using now?”

And that’s not fluent speech! That’s very bad hesitant speech when you get stuck for words. And that’s the kind of issue we want to eradicate, not facilitate, okay?

Learn Only Individual Synonyms Contextually!

So only learn each word individually in its relevant context and actually in relation to this I want you to check out this article called “Learn Only One Way of Using New English Vocabulary Words at Any Given Time” which is pretty much the same thing I just told you, right? And there’s a video as well, click on the link.

So don’t learn multiple synonyms at the same time and don’t learn multiple meanings of the same word at once. Okay? Only one meaning, one word at any given time. So that it gets compartmentalized. I struggled with the pronunciation of this word a little bit, right?

There has to be an individual compartment in your brain for each word. And obviously they would go together with other words but you can’t just mix them all up with other synonyms in different meanings. Okay? Because if you start doing that, just like I told you, your fluency will go down to drain definitely.

So that’s the synonym, it’s pretty much covered, right? Don’t try to learn a huge number of them because it will happen over time anyway that you will pick up different words here and there and build your vocabulary quite naturally. And secondly, learn only one word at a time, okay?

Never Learn Antonyms and Synonyms as Word Pairs!

And as for antonyms – it’s definitely advisable that you never learn synonyms and antonyms like word pairs, the synonym and the antonym. In this case “controversial” and “certain.” Never learn, never memorize the word pairs because what it’s going to do is it’s going to create the so-called unnatural vocabulary associations in your head. And in this regard I want you to read this article called “3 Ways of Hard-wiring Unnatural English Collocations into Your Brain” Click on that link, read the article.

But how the whole antonym thing ties in with what I’m saying now is it’s also a non-natural word string. If you learn “questionable, arguable, certain, definite” – it’s an unnatural word string. And then when you speak and when you try and pick one of those words, antonyms will start getting mixed up with the synonyms and all that kind of issue will happen, right?

So as for antonyms, you have to make sure that you never learn them grouped with synonyms basically, right? And also take one antonym at a time, one word at a time and learn it within the context, in its relevant context, in a phrase, collocation, you know the drill, right? You’ve been following my blog I would imagine for quite some time now so you’ll know how important these collocations, phrases and English idiomatic expressions in general are, right?

Don’t Even Look at Words as Synonyms or Antonyms!

So you don’t really have to be looking at the whole antonym and synonym thing from the synonym and antonym perspective. You just have to perceive each word the way it is. It’s just a new word! That’s all.

And then going from that you’ll learn what context it’s used in. You’ll learn relevant phrases and collocations containing that word but forget about the whole connection between that word and some other word. Okay? Because the more connections you create, the more difficult it’s going to be for you to speak fluently, right? Because the only real connection that you want to learn is how that word acts in a sentence, in a phrase, right?

That’s the only connection you want to build in your brain because when you speak, one word will lead to another word and that’s how fluent speech happens.

But when you learn a word string like “certain, definite, sure, agreeable and then questionable, arguable, dubious, disputed”, you learn those words and then they will all go together in your brain. And that’s not what you want, right? You don’t want to be a struggling English speaker!

So I hope that I’ve made this whole picture clear, that I painted a clear picture which is another English idiomatic expression.

But if you have any further questions about antonyms and synonyms, please don’t hesitate to publish them in the comment section below my friends.

So thanks for watching and chat to you soon. Bye-bye!


P.S. Would you like to find out why I’m highlighting some of the text in red? Read this article and you’ll learn why it’s so important to learn idiomatic expressions and how it will help you to improve your spoken English!

P.S.S. Are you serious about your spoken English improvement? Check out my English Harmony System HERE!

English Harmony System

P.S. Are you serious about your spoken English improvement? Check out the English Harmony System HERE!

English Harmony System
  • Senay

    How can i learn words in contex if i don’t know a word before?