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Advanced Dictionary Skills Exercises

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Exercise 1: Abbreviations and Acronyms
Common ones are found in dictionaries.

Put the following into an appropriate box. Look them up if you don't know them (N.B. 'SAR' won't be in but you SHOULD know that one!)

        UN,   PRC,    YMCA,    PhDs,    SAR,   Capt.   ASAP,     FC.

  1. Manchester United has supporters all over the world.
  2. Britain, France, the U.S.A, the and Russia form the 5 permanent members of the Security  Council.
  3. Some Universities are now offering Masters degrees and  online.
  4. Many people working short-term in the find temporary accommodation at the Tsim Sha Tsui .
  5. Tell  Carruthers to deliver this telegram " commanded the Colonel.




Exercise 2: Idioms and Proverbs

Look up their meaning in a specialised dictionary if possible or choose the noun or verb as the head word. It's often best to look under the most unusual of the nouns/verbs: in i) here, 'stable' or 'bolt' is more likely to give results than 'close' or 'horse', which have a wider usage. Read the example given in the dictionary for correct usage and try to think of a couple of examples of your own. Note the definition and examples in your personal vocabulary book.

Under which headword would  you  look these up?

     i) To close/lock the stable door after the horse has bolted.          

     ii) To make a pig's ear of something.                                     

     iii) To open up a can of worms.                                           

     iv) To blow the whistle on something or someone.                

     v) To get one's just deserts.                                                


Exercise 3: Word Classes (Parts of Speech)

To understand what part of speech a word is, look at the sentence as a whole. It will contain a subject (noun or pronoun), at least one verb and probably an object noun or pronoun. Adverbs may qualify or describe verbs, adjectives do the same for nouns. Conjunctions link parts of a sentence (e.g and, but, although, because) prepositions are used before nouns or pronouns and often show place, position or time  (e.g in, over, before, out of). The position of a word in a sentence is usually significant. Endings can also help: adverbs often end in 'ly',  nouns in 'tion' or  'ience' for example.

One or two words in each sentence is the wrong part of speech (e.g verb instead of  noun).  Find it and correct it in the box.

     i)      My friend didn't know what kind of computer to buy so he asked for my advise.            

     ii)      I ran so fast to catch my train that I could hardly breath.                                                

     iii)     The HSBC building in Central is over 300 metres height.                                               

     iv)    She's a  very well dancer.                                                                                               

     v)     She sings good too.                                                                                                        

     vi)     He's got lots of friends and I've got none: I'm jealousy....                                                 

     vii)                                                                                    ... of his popular.                            

     viii)  Accountants need a lot of patient in their job.                                                                    

     ix)  The economy climate changes quite rapidly.                                                                       

     x)   If I've done something wrongly, I'll try to put things right.                                                    



Exercise 4: Phrasal Verbs

These are common and varied and simply have to be memorised! Many have particles which give a clue to meaning (e.g sit down, get on) but others are idiomatic (e.g. get on with someone, crop up)

The particles are not correct in these contexts. Type the appropriate particle in the box. 

     i)     I met my husband when my car broke off outside his house.    

     ii)    I'm looking after to going on holiday next week.                      

     iii)   Before her marriage, she threw up all her old love letters.        

     iv)  It's late: let's put up the meeting until tomorrow.                        

     v)  "Hold out a minute, I'm coming"                                                


For more practice using phrasal verbs, click here.

Phrasal Verb Dictionaries

Collins COBUILD Dictionary of Phrasal Verbs
By J. Sinclair and R. Moon, et al. London: Collins.

Collins Cobuild Concordance Samplers 2: Phrasal Verbs
By Malcolm Goodale. (1995). London: HarperCollins.

Oxford dictionary of current idiomatic English, vol. 1: Verbs with prepositions and
particles. By A. Cowie and R. Mackin. London: Oxford University Press.

Longman Dictionary of Phrasal Verbs


Exercise 5: Alphabetical order

Give yourself 1 minute to decide how many of these are true.

    Dowse comes before doze in the dictionary.  

    Forum comes before forward in the dictionary.  

    Sediment comes before sedge in the dictionary.  

    Swing comes before swine in the dictionary.  

    Ukelele comes before ulcer in the dictionary.

     i)  1 of these  

     ii)  2 of these

     iii) 3 of these  

     iv) 4 or more of these  


Exercise 6: Prefixes:

These prefixes give a negative or opposite meaning to a word. You can also check in a thesaurus, under 'antonyms' (which means opposites).

    de-    dis-    in-     il-    im-    ir-    non-     un-

Use them to make words which mean the following:

     i) The opposite of increase                                      

     ii) The opposite of  existent                                

     iii) The opposite of  natural                                 

     iv) The opposite of encourage                            

     v) The opposite of responsible                            


Exercise 7: Prepositions:

These go with nouns or noun phrases and often show position, place or direction, time or method.

Put the correct one into the box in the following sentences:

        in       on      at       since     for     until      during     to     under      through

  1. Petunia has 2 weeks holiday August  and   she wants to go stay with her sister in China.
  2. He died his sleep the night.
  3. iii) I've loved you ever I first saw you sitting a bench the park.
  4. Wait outside the PolyU library I get there and we'll take a bus the cross harbour tunnel together.
  5. That dog's been asleep that tree about six hours now, lucky thing!


Exercise 8: Collocation

From the drop down menu, choose the word that collocates best.

i)  For a Buddhist, a murder or  suicide  is an especially serious action.   

ii) When we were camping in N. China the temperature dropped to minus 7. We were frozen !

iii) The pirates searched for the treasure in every nook and

iv) "Safety " is an important priority in the workplace.

v) Few people were forced to come to Hong Kong: they came of their own will.

vi) "Everything will be alright now, you'll see. From now on it's plain .
vii) Parental guidance is advised for T.V films containing  sex, violence or language.
viii) Anarchist and neo-fascist groups ran on Labour Day in several countries.
ix)  It was clear the democrats would have no problem winning the election: in other words, they were home and       
x) On the music scene, many 'boy bands' have a clean image which appeals to a very young, female audience.