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Why does my English teacher usually point out my mistake when I wrote the following sentence?

  • I learned a lot of new vocabulary. -> I learned a lot of new vocabulary words.

Why do I have to put the word "words" after the word "vocabulary"? and what is the difference between them? How to use them correctly?

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closed as general reference by Matt Эллен, Robusto, Kris, JSBձոգչ, Hellion Jan 16 '13 at 16:47

This question is too basic; it can be definitively and permanently answered by a single link to a standard internet reference source designed specifically to find that type of information.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

vocabulary vs word –  Matt Эллен Jan 16 '13 at 15:06
This question is better suited for our sister site for English language learners, which is about to get created. Feel free to commit and post. Thank you. –  RegDwigнt Jan 16 '13 at 15:08

1 Answer 1

A vocabulary is an abstract collection of words and not any single one of them. It's also singular, and in that context you'd need to use a plural.

You might say I learned a lot of new vocabularies, which would be grammatically correct but would describe a rather unusual situation. It means something completely different than what you're trying to say and would almost always be semantically incorrect. In particular, a vocabulary is more or less an infinite construct, meaning it's impossible to learn "completely" - which also means it's impossible to learn several of them.

The elements of a vocabulary are, as your teacher points out, vocabulary words. These are not infinite, so it is possible to learn them.

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+1, but I think the OP would be better advised just to say I learned a lot of new words. –  Barrie England Jan 16 '13 at 15:22
Agreed, that would sound a lot better. –  Magnus Jan 16 '13 at 15:37
I guess you can learn new vocabularies if you study several languages at once. One vocabulary per language... –  SF. Jan 16 '13 at 16:03
I'd argue you could not "learn" them at all since you'd never complete doing so. And if you only learned parts of a vocabulary, you'd be back to having learned "words". –  Magnus Jan 16 '13 at 16:14
@BarrieEngland I agree with you. I don't know why OP's teacher suggests OP to use "vocabulary words" not just "words." –  code4eight Jan 17 '13 at 3:17

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