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Expressive v. Receptive Vocabulary
It is helpful to distinguish between expressive and receptive vocabulary.

A word is in your receptive vocabulary when you understand it when others use it. A word is in your expressive vocabulary when you think to use it. Well over half of the average adult's vocabulary is receptive.

In addition to using to add words to your vocabulary, you can use it to move words from receptive to expressive vocabulary. To add a word to your expressive vocabulary, leave it on your short-term review list until you develop the habit of using it.

Usually, you'll add words to your review list by checking them after the computer has presented them to you. But if you hear a word elsewhere that you want to add to the list, use the Find a Word link in the Other menu at the top of many screens, to find the word and flag it for review.

You may also encounter this concept under other labels such as active v. passive or productive v. receptive vocabulary.
Also see:
What is a Word?
Average Vocabulary Size
Return to "About Vocabulary"
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