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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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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
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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.

1 Answer

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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