English Synonyms and Antonyms

The way towards improving your English grammar, and add to your conversational vocabulary is through an understanding of Synonyms and Antonyms.

Synonyms are words meaning the same or similar to one another, whilst Antonyms are their opposites.

English people dislike repeating words in sentences, either spoken or written down. The number of synonyms in particular, is testimony to their inventiveness and creativity. Nevertheless even native speakers have trouble remembering every one. It is not unusual to hear speakers using "um" or "er" sounds as they take time to think of another word, so don't be worried if you cannot find exactly the synonym you require every time. [The amount of swearing has been ascribed to people with poorer education substituting profanities for verbs or adjectives they cannot remember.]

A tip for students is to practise speaking English with your friends or fellow students for a set period, perhaps 20 minutes, each day, or over a coffee or breakfast. Compete with each other to expand your vocabulary of synonyms and antonyms. Be prepared for speaking more slowly than in your native language at first, and avoid the temptation to slip back into your first language during these set periods - the first to do so has to pay the bill.

Below is a simple list of synonyms and antonyms (there are many more) with suggestions for their use. Practise substituting the synonyms and antonyms given with others, or using those given to create different sentences.


ORIGINAL            SYNONYM          ANTONYM                 EXAMPLES

big                          large                      small                         It was a big mansion house.

                                                                                                 It was large enough for our needs.

                                                                                                 It was a small basement flat.

difficult                 hard                       easy                          He found the exam difficult.

                                                                                                She finds English hard to learn.

                                                                                                Finding your way on the Tube is easy.

new                       recent                   used                          She has just bought a new dress.

                                                                                                The article is in a recent publication.

                                                                                                He drives a used car.

clean                     tidy                        dirty                          The kitchen was clean again.

                                                                                                The back garden was tidy.

                                                                                                 If you get the car dirty, you will have to clean it.

safety                   security                 danger                      They found safety on a mountain ledge.

                                                                                                Trust the security of your investment portfolio.

                                                                                                There is a danger that food prices will rise again.

friendly                outgoing              unfriendly                  Our cat is always friendly.

                                                                                                She has an outgoing personality.

                                                                                                They were so unfriendly towards us.

good                      great                     bad                            She made a good deal on E-bay.

                                                                                                It was a great win for their supporters.

                                                                                                This was a very bad idea.

cheap                    inexpensive       expensive                   The cheap furniture had already broken.

                                                                                                The decor was inexpensive but well presented.

                                                                                                She was wearing expensive jewellery.

interesting          fascinating          boring                          I read an interesting article about Shakespeare.

                                                                                                There was a fascinating interview in the newspaper.

                                                                                                The movie was so boring, I fell asleep before the end.

quiet                     still                         noisy                         The siesta was the quiet time of day.

                                                                                                They were all keeping very still for the photographer.

                                                                                                The home supporters were very noisy after the goal.

student               pupil                      teacher                      The student challenged every idea I put forward.

                                                                                                The pupil stood up to read his essay.

                                                                                                The teacher checked the class register.

owner                   shareholder       employee                   The car owner looked at the damage they'd caused.

                                                                                                The shareholder checked the dividends being paid.

                                                                                                The employee punched in for the last time.

earth                     ground                 sky                               Feel the earth beneath your feet.

                                                                                                The ground is too unstable to build here.

                                                                                                The meteorite fell from the sky and through the roof.

day                         daytime               night                          It was yet another boring day in the small town.

                                                                                                Vampires never go out during the daytime.

                                                                                                Even the owls stayed in the warm last night.

answer                 respond               question                    If that is the question, what is the answer?

                                                                                                How do you respond to his accusation?


ORIGINAL            SYNONYM          ANTONYM                EXAMPLES

start                       beginning            end                            The cars are all lined up for the start of the first race.

                                                                                                We will have to go right back to the beginning.

                                                                                                Is this going to be the end of our heroes?

man                       male                      woman                     I know a very nice man who can help.

                                                                                                She had no time for the young males in the pride.

                                                                                                When a man loves a woman.

dog                        puppy                   cat                              It's your turn to take the dog for a walk.

                                                                                                The puppy is not yet house-trained.

                                                                                                The cat had not moved from the bed all day.

food                      cuisine                  drink                          I really hate fast food, it gives me indigestion.

                                                                                                I would suggest Italian cuisine then.

                                                                                                Would you like to go for a drink after work?

boy                        lad                          girl                            Her father had never allowed her to be with a boy.

                                                                                                He took the lad into the workshop.

                                                                                                All she wanted was to look like a girl, not a tomboy.

fast                        quickly                  slowly                        It had been a fast drive from Glasgow tonight.

                                                                                                Jenson Button drives very quickly on wet circuits.

                                                                                                The bus crawled slowly up the steep hill.

carefully               cautiously            carelessly                  They opened the packing very carefully.

                                                                                                She stopped at the alley then walked on cautiously.

                                                                                                He tossed the can carelessly out of the car window.

always                  often                     never                         We always go for lunch at the same time.

                                                                                                They had often met here before they married.

                                                                                                I've never seen those before, officer!

considered         thoughtfully       thoughtlessly              It was a considered risk on his part.

                                                                                                She thoughtfully answered the cross-examination.

                                                                                                He is indiscrete and speaks thoughtlessly.

colourfully           brightly                 plainly                       He spoke colourfully about his time on board ship.

                                                                                               She has been talking brightly about her future.

                                                                                               Let me tell you plainly: I will not do it.



You might decide to consult a Thesaurus to find further examples, for instance:  http://www.collinsdictionary.com/english-thesaurus and make flash cards to test yourself.


 The following pages contain quizzes to help you practise and learn more Synonyms and Antonyms.






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