English Language Study

Welcome to the English Language Study Set. Here, you can remind yourself of the wonders of English, get an overview of the things and skills you can learn in this study set, and understand through examples how your English language knowledge can be applied to your studies and in the wider world. 

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Table of contents

    Why Study English Language?

    Grammar, figurative language, vocabulary - these are all essential parts of language, but what's the point of studying them? Well, because language is quite literally everywhere. It's the books we read, the movies we watch, and the advertisements we consume. It's how we build relationships, communicate knowledge, assert power, tell jokes, and tell lies. Language can not only share ideas, but it can influence people's behavior and make them believe in certain things and distrust others.

    The importance of language is all around us; we just forget to notice it sometimes.

    By studying language, we can reveal a whole world that has previously been hiding in plain sight and begin to understand the following things a little deeper:

    • The power and influence language can have

    • How narratives are built

    • The history behind words

    • How language can change human behavior

    • How language can be used creatively

    • Branding and marketing

    • The arts

    • Politics

    • History

    Studying language also develops critical thinking skills and encourages us to 'read between the lines' to reveal all the meanings language can carry.

    English Language Study, Image of woman reading a newspaper, StudySmarterFig. 1 - Studying English language can help us to 'read between the lines'

    Why English?

    So, we now have a good idea as to why studying a language can be so beneficial, but why study English?

    Did you know that English is the most widely spoken language and has over 1.5 billion users worldwide, making it the world's official lingua franca.

    Lingua franca - a common language used between people who do not share the same first language. For example, German and Chinese speakers would likely communicate in English.

    Here are a few facts about the result of English being a global language:

    • Over 60% of the internet's content is in English
    • Over 50% of the world's multinational corporations/companies use English as their working language
    • The most widely-read newspaper worldwide is in English

    Studying the English language is a good place to start if you want to understand how the world works.

    There are so many versions of English out there too, from different dialects across the United States to pidgins and creoles in the Caribbean. The learning never ends!

    English Language Study Examples

    Here are some examples of English language study activities:

    1. Reading and analyzing literature: This involves reading a range of texts, from novels and short stories to poetry and drama, and analyzing them for their literary and linguistic features.

    2. Writing exercises: This includes activities such as writing essays, journal entries, creative writing pieces, and academic papers, with a focus on improving grammar, vocabulary, and sentence structure.

    3. Vocabulary building: This can involve activities such as learning new words, creating flashcards, and practicing using them in sentences and conversations.

    4. Grammar practice: This includes studying the rules of English grammar, practicing sentence structure, and reviewing verb tenses and other grammatical structures.

    5. Pronunciation and speaking practice: This involves practicing speaking and listening skills, including activities such as dialogue practice, pronunciation drills, and oral presentations.

    6. Language exchange: This involves finding a partner or group to practice speaking, listening, and presentation skills.

    7. Test preparation: This includes studying for standardized tests and practising test-taking strategies.

    8. Watching and listening to English media: This involves watching films, TV shows, and listening to podcasts or music in English to improve listening comprehension and exposure to natural language use.

    English language study involves a combination of different activities that help learners to improve their language skills and gain a deeper understanding of the structure, culture, and use of the English language.

    English Language Study Topics

    Let's look at the subjects you'll find in the English Language Study Set.

    We'll begin with Modern English - this refers to the contemporary use of English, including the English adopted by the United States and several other countries during British colonization.

    The topics within Modern English include;

    • Figurative language

    • Grammar

    • Punctuation

    • Spelling

    We'll also cover English Vocabulary, looking at;

    • Idioms and proverbs

    • Dictionaries

    • Denotative and connotative meanings

    • Word history

    Finally, we'll look at different registers and dialects.

    Let's now take a closer look at some of these subjects and the types of things you can expect to learn in this study set.


    Grammar is what we use to structure language. It allows us to construct sentences successfully, discuss things that have happened in the past or will happen in the future, describe the state an action or event is in, create new words, highlight precisely who, what, and where we're talking about, and more.

    Grammar is often described as the 'rules' of a language, but it isn't quite that simple. While some people believe there is a right and a wrong way to use grammar (we call these people prescriptivists), others believe grammar is an observation and description of how we (the speakers) use and structure a language (we call these people descriptivists).

    Grammatical features you can study include:

    • Tenses

    • Aspects, e.g., progressive and completed

    • Word classes, e.g., noun, verb, preposition, etc.

    • Types of phrase, e.g., adjective phrases

    • Types of sentences, e.g., simple, compound, complex, and compound-complex

    • Sentence functions, e.g., declaratives (which make a statement), interrogatives (which ask a question), etc.

    • Clauses, e.g., independent and dependent clauses

    • Grammatical voice, e.g., active and passive voice

    • Conditional sentences, e.g., If I were rich, I'd offer to buy Twitter

    • Modifiers, e.g., adjectives and adverbs

    Figurative Langauge

    Figurative language is the use of words and phrases beyond their literal meaning. Usually used creatively, figurative language can help the listener/reader imagine ideas, thoughts, and feelings in a way standard language cannot. For example, saying I'm drowning in assignments paints a better picture than I have a lot of assignments.

    Things you can study under figurative language include:

    • Metaphors, e.g., She is life

    • Similes, e.g., He was sleeping like a log

    • Personification, e.g., The wind whispered to her

    • Hyperbole, e.g., We waited for 1000 years

    • Metonymy, e.g., She moved to The Big Apple

    Idioms and proverbs

    Idioms and proverbs are similar in that they are everyday uses of language that have meanings above and beyond their content words; however, there are a few differences between them.

    Idioms are everyday expressions that only make sense as a whole - when they are reduced to each individual word, they usually don't make sense or don't have the same meaning as the expression as a whole. For example, 'It's a piece of cake'. Here the speaker is saying something is easy, not that it resembles a cake.

    Proverbs are short sayings that have usually been around for a while and offer insight, knowledge, or advice. Just like idioms, they should be kept as whole expressions; however, they can be broken down and still make sense but may not give the intended meaning. For example, 'Rome wasn't built in a day'. - this phrase is used to discuss meaningful tasks that take a long time, not to discuss the creation of Rome.

    English Language Study, Image of builder and Rome, StudySmarterFig. 2 - Not all proverbs should be taken literally!

    Dictionaries and Word History

    This subject may not seem that exciting, but there is so much information we can gain from dictionaries. We can learn a word's etymology, whether it has Latin, Greek, or Anglo-Saxon roots (or is a newer word), its word class, pronunciation, and its synonyms and antonyms.

    Etymology - The history of a word, including its roots and any previous meanings in other languages.

    Did you know, as well as traditional monolingual dictionaries, you can also get bilingual dictionaries, multilingual dictionaries, and rhyming dictionaries?

    Denotative and Connotative Meanings

    We all know that words carry meaning, but did you know that many words in English have two different types of meaning? A word's denotative meaning is its literal meaning and the definition you'll likely find in the dictionary. On the other hand, a word's connotative meaning is all the extra associated and implied meanings that word 'carries'. Many words will either carry a positive connotative meaning or a negative one.


    Denotative meaning - A primary color

    Connotative meaning - Sadness


    In language, the term register refers to how we grade or change our language use depending on our audience. Think about the way you would speak to your Principal compared to your best friend - you would likely switch between a formal register to an informal register.

    The registers we use when communicating can tell us a lot about identity, belonging, relationships, and power dynamics.


    Dialects are language varieties influenced by the language users' social factors. The most common type of dialect is a geographical dialect, where the language is spoken and influenced by people who live in the same area. Dialects can differ from the standard form of a language, e.g., American English (AmE), in terms of pronunciation, vocabulary, and grammar.

    African American Vernacular English (AAVE) is one of the most widely spoken dialects in the United States.

    English Language Study Skills

    Studying English Language can help you develop several skills that can be utilized in your day-to-day life and future careers. Some of these skills include:

    • Critical thinking

    • Communication skills

    • Language analysis

    • Empathy

    • Creativity

    The skills and knowledge you can gain from studying English Language would be helpful in several careers, such as writing, teaching, PR and advertisement, publishing, speech therapy, translating, interpreting, and more.

    English Language Study Skills in Your Exam

    In your English language exam, you'll likely be asked to analyze and write about a hidden text. To successfully analyze and 'pick apart' language, you first have to understand it. This means understanding how grammar, figurative language, vocabulary, registers, dialects, and more all work together to create meaning in context and backing up your analysis with evidence.

    You'll also need to show that you can recognize and use the correct terminology, so it's a good idea to take some notes as you study!

    English Language Study - Key takeaways

    • Studying English Language can help us understand the world around us better, including history, politics, the arts, media, power dynamics, and representations of people.
    • Studying language can also improve our critical thinking, communication, and analytical skills, as well as making us more understanding and empathetic.
    • Topics you can find within the English Language Study Set include grammar, figurative language, vocabulary, word histories, registers, and dialects.
    Frequently Asked Questions about English Language Study

    What should I study to improve my English?

    To improve your English skills, you should try studying more grammar. Grammar adds structure to language and can help you form sentences and longer passages of speech. You should also study phrases of speech such as phrasal verbs and idioms. These are expressions that have a different meaning when spoken as a whole compared to the meaning of each individual word.

    What are the 5 language skills?

    The 5 main English language skills are: Reading, Writing, Listening, Speaking, and Grammar 

    What is the difference between English language and English studies?

    English language is a language - when we study English language, we look at grammar, syntax, vocabulary, semantics, punctuation, etc. 

    English studies is a broader discipline that studies the language as well as English literature, culture, poetry, language arts, and more.

    What are the different types of English study?

    There are many different fields within English you can study. Some examples include:

    • Linguistics
    • Literature 
    • Sociolinguistics 
    • World Englishes
    • Rhetoric 
    • English language teaching 
    • Composition studies
    • American literature, British literature, Indian literature, etc.
    • Discourse Analysis 

    Is English easy to learn?

    Unfortunately not, but with help from StudySmarter, you'll be an English master in no time!

    Test your knowledge with multiple choice flashcards

    Fill in the blank:When searching for a word in a bilingual dictionary, you should look for its ____ ____.

    True or false, it's always possible to directly translate phrases?

    Which type of dictionary is best for competent language users?


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