Tutor Tips

A forum for SCLC members to share ideas

A Learner’s Dictionary


FIX – A One-Act Play.  Characters: Teacher and Student. Location: Classroom, some time in November

Teacher: Are you going to fix a turkey for Thanksgiving?

Student: Fix?

Teacher: Yes. Are you going to fix — prepare — a turkey?

Student: Fix means prepare?? I thought it meant repair!

Teacher: Well, ah, yes — it means both . . .

A big problem for ESL students is that a single word may have many different meanings in English. Take “fix,” for example. When students look for a translation in their native language, they will probably find one or two definitions.

In Merriam Webster’s Essential Learner’s English Dictionary, there are nearly 30 deessential-learners-english-dictionaryfinitions, if you include nouns, verbs and phrasal verbs. There are other learner’s dictionaries, but Merriam Webster’s is particularly good.

It’s a 4”x7” paperback, 1,386 pages (caution, very small print), cram-full of word explanations, idioms, example sentences and commonly used phrases for every word. It’s available on Amazon for $9.95. But it’s available completely free online at: http://www.learnersdictionary.com/

The book is appropriate for upper-intermediate to advanced students and is a valuable resource for teachers. The online version has a Word of the Day feature, Vocabulary Quizzes and an Ask the Editor capability, where you can pose a question and get an answer.

For example, let’s say you want to know the difference between could, should and would. Ask the Editor and with the response you’ll have a ready-made lesson plan!

Do you have other suggestions for coping with the multiple-definition dilemma? Please leave a comment and share your ideas with your fellow tutors.


4 thoughts on “A Learner’s Dictionary

  1. To inject some humor in the lesson use some jokes that play with the multiple meaning of a word. Ask the students whether they do not have the same phenomenon in their native language.



  2. This post/tip will really be helpful in explaining definitions for our students. Also, the students can get to the website themselves, and also buy the dictionary. Thanks, Jerry. I’m urging my tutors to look at it.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I came across an interesting website with a quiz that will help students understand that there can be many meanings for certain words: https://www.quia.com/quiz/285436.html?AP_rand=1425999028

    Liked by 1 person

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