Reading is the best way to improve your English vocabulary

corporate english


By David Buckley

Students need to learn new vocabulary. Without the right words, they have no means to express themselves. They need to communicate with others in English so they know they have to expand their vocabulary.

The problem is how students often try to learn new English vocabulary.

Many resort to lists of words or by using an English vocabulary book. There are thousands of these books on the market but it’s probably the worst way to expand your vocabulary.

Just going over endless lists of words or staring at page after page of a vocabulary book is largely a waste of the students’ time. They are not learning any of the words in context and never coming to terms with the nuances of the English language.

I think one of the best ways to improve your English vocabulary — a sure-fire method to broaden your range of new English words — is by reading.

Just read. It is as simple as that.


Why reading to improve English vocabulary?

Let me tell you a little story…

When I was much younger, I studied French at school. Like all kids in England at the time, French was considered the most useful language for us to learn so there we were.

The trouble was we only had our textbooks to use in class and pretty much nothing else. This was long before the internet and so we were stuck with these terrible textbooks and cassette-tapes that had probably been recorded in the sixties.

It was pretty dire.

Then my teacher suggested I read a novel in French. I loved reading, so this seemed like a great idea.

I went out that weekend and found a novel in French. It was 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne.

I went home and started to read it — and got stuck.

Reading in another language is hard. I got stuck every two sentences, and I found I was reaching for the dictionary more than I was reading.

Back at school on Monday, I told my teacher, and he just looked at me and said — keep trying.

So I did. It was hard.

But it got easier.

And I found I was reaching for the dictionary less and less as the days and weeks passed by.


Why it works

The reason reading this French novel worked in helping me to improve my French language skills is because I was reading something that I enjoyed reading.

I read novels in my free time so it didn’t feel like studying.

And this is what you need to do too.

Read what you enjoy reading in English. Whatever that may be.

And because you like reading in that subject you will find it easier when trying to read a book or other reading material in English.

It feels less like studying and more like leisure.


Reading in context

Another reason that it helps you is that you are reading English in context.

You are reading all the words used as we should use them in the right context for each sentence. Reading repeated use of vocabulary used in the right way. And reading English grammar in context and sentence structure too.

All of this is great conditioning and helps you to remember without going over huge great lists of vocabulary.


How to do it

Choose the right things to read

This is basic common sense. If you like reading novels then read novels. If you are a big fan of crime stories, read those. If historical romance is your thing, that is what you need to read.

Maybe you are not a fan of fiction — there are many other books you can read.

So if you have an interest in sociology, it would be best to read books on the subject. Maybe you like architecture, read books about that.

Essentially, only read the things that interest you. This is why many English students hate reading. Because their teachers force them to read articles or even entire books on subjects or topics that they have no interest in.

Don’t make it hard on yourself. Only read things you enjoy reading.

Find a quiet spot

You should find a quiet place to read every day.

If you have your own room, then make that your reading spot every time you read. If you don’t have your own room, then you need to find somewhere quiet to read.

That’s why we have libraries.

Go to the library, find a corner to sit down and read.

Avoid coffee shops and parks.

You might think these are good places to read but often there are too many distractions. Not a good idea.

Use a notebook and pen

Whenever you sit down to read, make sure you have your notebook and pen with you.

You should make notes of any new words, phrases and unusual sentences that you find. Look them up in your dictionary and make notes of the new words and phrases.

This is essential if you want to see your English vocabulary grow.



Reading is an easy English skill to develop. Read books and other material that you enjoy reading.

There is no need to make reading a chore. It should not be something you dislike or resent doing.

It should always be a pleasure, something you look forward to doing.

Just find reading material you like to read and always read in the same reading spot wherever that may be.

If you maintain this habit, your English vocabulary will grow rapidly.

About the author

My name is David Buckley and I am the owner of  I write about learning English and teaching English. Feel free to visit my site and take a look around.

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