Course Content
Private: BA Arabic
About Lesson

Unit 3
Use Vocabulary to Express Thoughts

Learning Outcomes

Upon the completion of this unit, the learner will be able to:

  • realise the importance of vocabulary in language
  • become conscious of the role of vocabulary in expressing thoughts
  • familiarise with the appropriate use of vocabulary


The ability to communicate efficiently, both in our personal and social situations of life, enables us to share our thoughts, feelings and ideas to others. This would strengthen our relationship, fulfil our needs and make our life stress-free. Our efficiency of using language is greatly dependent on our active vocabulary. Building vocabulary does not ideally mean memorising a long list of unfamiliar, complex words. In our daily life, there are plenty of chances to enrich our word power. The ability to use the right words in the appropriate context is an essential skill of an individual. People who can use language with precision have an advantage over others in the competitive professional circles.

Key words

Vocabulary, Thought, Emotional Vocabulary


4.3.1 Definition of Vocabulary

As Collins English Dictionary defines “vocabulary is the total number of words… in a particular language”. Vocabulary is an essential part of language. In the absence of vocabulary , written or spoken communication is impossible. So learning vocabulary is as important as learning language structures and sound systems. Our understanding of a language can be categorised into two: our vocabulary knowledge and our understanding of how to use that vocabulary in sentences.

Vocabulary can be divided into Active and Passive categories. Active vocabulary refers to the words which appear in users’ spoken and written contexts. It is a productive side of the language. A user of language can use his active vocabulary confidently because he knows its meanings and usage. In order to ensure the proficiency of the written and spoken languages, a learner should add new vocabulary to his existing collection of words. Users of a language can use their active vocabulary in its right position, recall it easily, and apply it in a grammatically accurate way. In the case of speech, they can employ it fluently with accurate pronunciation.

Passive vocabulary refers to words which can be understood by users when they appear in the speeches and writings of others. But the passive vocabulary does not appear in the spoken and written expressions of the learner. It is a vocabulary that works only on a receptive level. An efficient communicator can change his passive vocabulary to active vocabulary. In the course of time, a learner can change his passive vocabulary into active vocabulary if he is enthusiastic and passionate in language learning.

4.3.2 Vocabulary and Thought

Vocabulary has a direct effect on thought. Both could be considered as two sides of the same coin. There are debates like whether language determines thought or thought determines the language. The discussion on this link between language and thought dates back to the Greeks.

As it could be easily understood, language functions as a vehicle to transfer the thoughts of one individual to another. Even a simple statement like “the orange tastes great” will have a profound influence on the thought-process of the listener. Most human communications through language modify ideas, thoughts and attitudes of others.

Words can influence human thoughts and actions. According to a Russian proverb, “A spoken word is not a sparrow. Once it flies out, you can’t catch it”, which indicates the need for carefulness in the usage of words. Understanding meanings of the words that we use is inevitable, along with its positive and negative implications. So it is necessary to control the vocabulary that we use, otherwise it may humiliate, inflict and discomfort others. There is an energy, positive or negative, involved in every word. Once we use a word, we accept its energy and transmit it to others.

4.3.3 Frequency of Vocabulary Usage

The categorisation of words in terms of its frequency of usage is to prioritise some words over others for the language learning purpose. A general classification of words into high, mid, and low will help approach these categories independently rather than taking into account each word’s frequency individually.

  1. High Frequency Vocabulary
    High frequency vocabulary or general vocabulary are words employed in everyday life. This category consists of the most frequent 3000 words. Such words recurrently happen in day-to-day communication and literary works. The capacity to use such vocabulary is instrumental in deciding the efficacy of the written and spoken languages of a user. The mastery over these vocabulary is essential for the purposes like reading comprehension, descriptive skills, and using language in contexts. High frequency vocabulary could be seen in any text, irrespective of genres and styles. It consists of a lot of functional words and content words carrying information and having high coverage of usage.

  2. Mid-frequency Vocabulary
    Mid-frequency words range from 3001 words to 9000 words. The category coming under mid-frequency vocabulary covers a range of vocabulary between the high frequency and low frequency vocabulary.

    Generally, some technical and academic vocabulary come under mid-frequency vocabulary. Mid-frequency words are essential to pursue education at the university level where a certain competency in the English language is compulsory.

  3. Low Frequency Vocabulary
    The vocabulary that comes under low-frequency is commonly considered vocabulary beyond the frequency level of 10,000. Low-frequency words occur only infrequently so that it is worthless to spend classroom time on it. These are words which learners can learn themselves if they know the vocabulary learning strategies. 

4.3.4 Building Emotional Vocabulary

Building sufficient vocabulary is very important to express the thoughts and feelings of an individual through language. The capacity to express our emotions accurately through language is essential to improve our communication skills and reduce miscommunications. Emotions are closely connected with our thoughts. Emotions of an individual may vary from time to time in response to various situations that he encounters. You may become happy if your situation is pleasant. When you are in a difficult situation, you may feel annoyed and appear sad. To express your emotions in a balanced and proper way, you are required to have a wide range of vocabulary. The sufficient amount of emotional vocabulary at your disposal may save you from over-reactions and consequent problems.

Here are some categories of emotional vocabulary:

  1. Vocabulary to Express Happiness
    Words to express happiness are to be judiciously employed in accordance with its required level. If you are only mildly happy, you can say things like “I am comfortable,” “I am glad,” “I am pleased,” “I am gratified,” etc. You might use phrases like “I’m joyful,” “cheerful,” “in great spirits,” etc. if your happiness is moderate. If your joy is intense, words like elated, euphoric, delighted, enthusiastic, overjoyed, thrilled, etc., may be used.
  2. Vocabulary to Express Sadness
    vocabulary to express sadness are to be properly selected in accordance with its required emotions. If the feeling of sadness is mild, some of the words that can be used are down, disappointed, uncomfortable, etc. If it is moderate, the possible words that can be used are distressed, fed up, upset, sorrowful, regretful, crestfallen, etc. If the feeling of sadness is intense, the choice of words can be depressed, dejected, woeful, desolate, etc.
  3. Vocabulary to Express Angry Mood
    If your anger is mild, some of the words that you can use are irritated, resentful, impatient, etc. If your anger is moderate, the words that you can use are annoyed, ill-tempered, spiteful, etc. If the anger is intense, the words that can be employed are furious, outraged, infuriated, belligerent, vengeful, etc.
  4. Vocabulary to Express Loneliness
    If your feeling of loneliness is mild, some of the possible words that you can employ are detached, withdrawn, separated etc. If the loneliness felt is moderate, it can be expressed as excluded, neglected, isolated, estranged, etc. If the loneliness is intense, words like abandoned, deserted, shunned, outcasted, etc., can be used.
  5. Vocabulary to Express Fear
    If your fear is mild, then you can use the words disquieted, anxious, etc. If your fear is moderate, you may use words like fearful, scared, tense, etc. If your fear is intense, words like frightened, horrified, terrified etc., can be used.

4.3.5 Vocabulary Development Tasks for Learners

Stuart Redman suggests four tasks for improving vocabulary power of a learner

  1. Keeping Vocabulary Records
    A learner of vocabulary can keep his notebook for recording vocabulary. He can follow different methods and techniques to remember new words: Picturise, graphically represent, find out pronunciation, provide its opposite words, and write down associated words.
  2. Word Grammar
    In addition to learning the vocabulary of a language, the grammar related with vocabulary can also be mastered so as to avoid mistakes in writing and speaking. In order to use words appropriately, we need to understand the types or categories of words, such as nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, etc.
  3. Taking Risk with Vocabulary
    If we use only a minimum amount of words and ideas in our communication, our language will not improve. It is better we take risks rather than following easy methods. If we want to improve our active vocabulary, we need to take risks by using new words to share new information.
  4. Using Dictionaries
    A Dictionary can help a long way in improving vocabulary. Referring to a dictionary is necessary to understand the proper meaning of a word which can be used in different situations with different meanings. Look at the two sentences given below:

    Johnson has been working at a coal mine since March.
    This is your bag, not mine.
    In the first example, mine is a noun which means a place underground from where minerals are extracted. In the second example, mine is a possessive pronoun which is used in the sentence in order to show the possession.


  • Ability to communicate – share feelings, thoughts and ideas
  • Strengthen relationship – life stress free
  • Right words in appropriate context
  • Using language with precision – advantages over others
  • Thoughts of an individual – create his life
  • Negative and positive energy of words
  • Words and thoughts – two sides of a coin
  • Classification of vocabulary 1) Basic, 2) High Frequency, 3) Low Frequen-cy
  • Building emotional vocabulary
  • Happiness, sadness, angry mood, loneliness, fear
  • Vocabulary development tasks
  • Keeping vocabulary records
  • Word grammar
  • Taking risks with vocabulary
  • Using Dictionaries

Objective Questions

  1. What is active vocabulary?
  2. What is passive vocabulary?
  3. What is meant by high-frequency vocabulary?
  4. What is meant by mid-frequency vocabulary?
  5. What is meant by low-frequency vocabulary?
  6. Why is taking risk preferable in studying vocabulary?


  1. Words which appear in users’ spoken and written contexts
  2. Words which can be understood by users when they appear in the speeches and writings of others
  3. These are general vocabulary employed in everyday life
  4. It is range of vocabulary between the high frequency and low frequency
  5. Low-frequency words occur only infrequently
  6. To improve learners’ vocabulary power


  1. Define vocabulary.
  2. Differentiate between the active and passive vocabulary.
  3. Explain the reciprocity between words and thoughts.
  4. Explain emotional vocabulary.
  5. What are the classifications of vocabulary?
  6. Write some of the important tasks to enhance vocabulary for learners.

Suggested Reading

  1. Quinley, Elliott. Vocabulary: Everyday Living Words, Saddleback, 2002.
  2. Mc Carthy, Michael and Felicity O’Dell. English Vocabulary in Use, Cambridge, 1999.