Using the Macmillan dictionary 2

Previous: Using the Macmillan dictionary 1

Many people have problems using verbs, especially phrasal verbs. This is often because they see a verb they don’t know, go to an online translation website and see that, for example, trust means ufać, and then stop.

The result is that they only learn one meaning of the verb, probably won’t remember it a day or two later, and don’t know anything about how to use it in a sentence.

To give a simple example, imagine I want to find the Polish verb which means to trust. I look online and see that the verb is ufać. So I now try to write a very simple sentence.

Ufam Agnieszkę.

Is this correct? No, because I didn’t know that ufać is followed by komu? czemu? and should instead be;

Ufam Agnieszce.

The same thing can happen when you want to say something in English. For example, when you have two verbs together, the second verb is usually to infinitive. However, there are exceptions and if you didn’t check to see the pattern (wzór) a verb uses, you will make mistakes.

I watched them to play in the garden. – I watched them play in the garden.

I hate to go shopping. – I hate going shopping.

These sorts of mistakes are very often made with phrasal verbs. Look at some of the information which is available for the phrasal verb take out, and you can see that there is a lot of information about this phrasal verb, its different meanings, and how to use it in a sentence.

You can see that this phrasal verb can mean two very different things – zabrać and zabić kogoś. However, if you look at the definition meaning zabrać, you can see that we normally say why we are taking the person out, so that we know this is the meaning we are using.

take someone out for somethingShe’s taking her parents out for dinner.

Look at the two example conversations below to see the difference.

A: My friend met a gangster.
B: What happened?
A: He took her out for a drink.
B: Did she enjoy herself?.
A: Oh yes. She had a great time.

A: My friend met a gangster.
B: What happened?
A: He took her out.
B: What! He killed her?
A: No, I mean he took her out for a drink.

This is the sort of mistake you won’t make if you use an English dictionary to check for different meanings and look at the different ways the verb is used.

Using the Macmillan dictionary 1

If you are learning English, you should use an English dictionary. A good dictionary to use is the Macmillan Dictionary. This dictionary is written for people learning English and contains a lot of information to help you.

Why should I use an English dictionary when it’s easier to just translate the word in Google translate or some other website?

Imagine you see the word interested and you want to know what it means. You can look online and quickly find that the translation is zainteresowany.

The problem is that you don’t know any of the other information you need to actually use this word in a sentence and you don’t know other ways this word can be used in English.

  1. be interested in somebody/something – interesować się kimś/czymś
  2. be interested in somebody/something – być (osobiście) zainteresowanym w czymś
  3. get somebody interested in something – zainteresować kogoś czymś

Using an English dictionary is a good way to get good information about how to use a word and is also a good way to practice and use English every day, when you check new words which you see.

On the Macmillan website there isn’t only a dictionary, There is also a blog with interesting facts about English, different word games you can play, and lots of other things for you to do.

What information can you find in the Macmillan English dictionary?

If you go to the Macmillan website and enter the word ‚want’, you will get the definition for that word. You can also enter more than one word so you can check phrasal verbs too. At the top of the page you will see the headword, the word you want to check. Here are two examples:


​About 80% of everyday English uses only 7,500 words. These words, such as want, are written in red and, because they are used so often, it is very important to learn these words. The number of red stars tells you how important the word is. Three star words are the most important, two star words are less important.

Words written in black, such as take out, are in the remaining 20% of words used in everyday English, are not used so often and are less important. This doesn’t mean you don’t have to learn them!

Below the headword you will see important information about the word. Here is the information for want:

You can see that want is a transitive verb (it needs an object), you can click the Pronunciation button to hear the word (the pronunciation is also written using the IPA symbols). There is also a Word Forms button you can click to see the different forms of the verb.

On the right side of the page, you will see a list of words and phrases which are connected to want.

The next thing on the page is a list of the different meanings for want.

When there is more than one definition, the definitions are listed, from the meaning which is used most often to the meaning which is used the least often. The number 1 tells you that this is the meaning which is used the most often.

Each definition is written using simple English, suitable for somebody at an Intermediate level. There are also example sentences, to show you how to use the word in a sentence, and there are examples of the different patterns (wzory) for using the word e.g:

want something for something

What do you want for your birthday?

What are you wanting for your birthday.Wrong!

Lower on the page you can also find examples of different phrases which use want and an Explore Thesaurus button which you can click to see other words which mean the same thing as that definition.

The information you will find for different words will be different depending on the type of word, for example an adjective doesn’t have different forms.

Next: Using the Macmillan dictionary 2