Vocab tests at school

For my English classes I use a pretty large book containing a lot of basic English vocabulary. When I studied the words my teacher asked me to memorize, I didn’t need to study a lot, for I knew most of the words.
(I have read a lot before.)

However I studied the list, read some phrases, and I subsequently felt I was ready for the test. My brother even questioned me by asking the Dutch translation and then I was supposed to give the English equilavent. I didn’t miss a word. I was really sure that I knew every word and that I could use it in a daily conversation.
So the next day my teacher gave me the test. Then i saw there was a text with some gaps…and we had to fill out the gaps with appropriate words!
I didn’t know which word to write down because in my opinion there were so many different possibilities! Now I have bad marks, only because I didn’t use the right word.
Does this represent your skills?

Thanks. Vincent.

Sounds like you are miles ahead of your class!

English is rich with synonyms, which means that for every Russian or Dutch word, there are probably four English ones. One from Old English, one from medieval French, one from classical Latin or Greek, and one that was made up for an American sitcom.

I struggle a little with Russian because there aren’t enough words. In other words, there is one word to cover four separate English words. I find it difficult to believe that the same word is correct in Russian in all four cases.

If it is any consolation, it is real life that is to blame, not you. Your English is magnificent and will continue to improve.

Nice to meet you!


There may in fact be many words that are appropriate for the missing word. Your problem is not a problem. The greater your vocabulary the more you understand. If you get a test like this, you should just pick one word, and you should pick the first one that comes to mind, and move on.

By the way, Helen, I find that Russian has a lot of words. Not only are there many inflections in the language, but there are many words to describe similar ideas, just as in English. With respect, I suggest that as your Russian vocabulary grows you will be in a similar situation to the one that Victor faced.

I may be true theoretically that English has more words, but in terms of words that are in general usage, I have found all languages more or less equally rich.

I daresay you’re right Steve, in English I know verbs like transmit, transfer, send, deliver in English but haven’t come across all the Russian equivalents yet.

There must be more or less the same number of words in everyday use in every language, mustn’t there? Otherwise you’d get a whole country full of people asking each other to pass the thingummyjig over the whatsname onto the oojamaflip.

The point is, until you get to translator status, you aren’t going to know all the possible translations and pick with unerring accuracy the correct one every time. You just don’t give up when you make mistakes.

Most of the Dutch people I have met who have studied English are about as fluent in English as I am. Your nation are awesome at languages, Vincent!

Thanks. All these comments have reassured me.
I hope my teacher’s opinion will change though.