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The Lexical Approach

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What will you find here? Is this for you?

You will find 

Tips and advice to help you speak English more naturally, using phrases and expressions used every day by native English speakers.

It focuses on lexis - rather than grammar! Lexis is another way of saying vocabulary.

But this is not a dictionary. 

The focus is not on individual words but ‘chunks’ of words strung together in ways that knowledge of grammar is not always helpful in understanding.

Is it for you?

The suggestions and advice on Speak English FLuently assume that you already have, at least, elementary knowledge of written and spoken English language and are familiar with basic English grammar and vocabulary.  They will be even more valuable for those of you who are reasonably comfortable using English at an intermediate level. 

You may have studied English at school, learned it by speaking to other English speakers or watching films and TV programmes. You may even be a non-native English teacher - that is to say, a teacher of English, whose first language is not English. You may or not be a confident speaker, you may feel that your grammar is pretty accurate but, still, you feel that you would benefit from learning more to improve your fluency.

What do I mean by fluency? I’ll come to that in a minute, so please read on.

So, what you won’t find here.

Grammar Lessons

Or not at a basic level, anyway.

You will, however,  find some common grammar usage errors that even more advanced users make.

Why not focus on grammar?

Well, here’s where we need to look at the difference between what we mean by ‘fluency’ and ‘accuracy’.


Accuracy refers to how correct your use of the language is. It demonstrates your ability to use the necessary vocabulary, grammar and punctuation correctly, such as verb forms (past tense, present tense, and so on), articles (a, an, the) and prepositions (in, on, from, at) - and much more.

This skill is particularly important for written assignments at university, such as essays and lab reports.

It is also an absolute necessity in the workplace, where an email or report that is riddled with grammar or punctuation mistakes may be viewed as unprofessional. 

If your English is accurate, you make few grammatical mistakes and your pronunciation will be easily understandable.


On the other hand,  you might be fluent (make your meaning clear) but not accurate (make some grammar mistakes).

Fluency is the flow and efficiency with which you express your ideas, particularly when speaking. A few grammar mistakes may appear here and there in the explanation, but it should be delivered in a way that is easy to understand and shows how comfortable you are with the language.

In an academic or even professional setting, this is one of the skills to focus on for an oral presentation or debate. The way you explain your topic or prove your point – smooth, clear and concise without too many pauses or hesitations – is as important as the content of your presentation.

Outside of the classroom, fluency can help you socialize with native English speakers and avoid misunderstandings. 

So which is more important - Fluency or Accuracy?

Well, they are not competitors! Both are equally important.

So why is the website called

Speak English - Fluently?

Why are you concentrating on Fluency rather than Accuracy?

Because, as I said earlier, the approach assumes that you already have some knowledge of English grammar and vocabulary. That’s not to say you won’t find it useful if your English grammar is not good - you may find the expressions you will find here useful - rather like using a phrasebook. But, unless you already have some grammar knowledge you may find it difficult to use the expressions in context - and also, importantly, how to understand and respond to them.

If you learned English at school, it is likely that, especially in the early years, the main focus was on grammar - probably with a few phrases at the very start, to help your confidence. Then, perhaps, you used a coursebook which would progress through stages of grammar and vocabulary often introduced in situations/contexts, such as introducing yourself, at the restaurant, asking for directions, at work, on holiday, the family - and so on. You learned the present simple, continuous, then past tenses, past simple, present perfect, ways of talking about the future, modal verbs such as should, must, conditionals - and did exercises and drills, practising usage and pronunciation - and focusing on being accurate.

You did this in a systematic way, perhaps with some listening exercises and conversation practise with your classmates.

Sound familiar?

But, then you would watch a TV programme or film in English, read conversations on social media, meet an English speaker, visit an English speaking country - and get lost! I don’t mean physically as in losing your way. I mean losing the meaning of what was being said. And you become frustrated because you thought your English was pretty good! And accurate, even - grammar-wise!


The Speak English Fluently approach takes off* (starts) - where grammar leaves off* (stops, finishes).

*Note the phrasal verbs!

This is not a substitute for grammar and accuracy - it's a supplement, an addition.

When you learned your own language as a child, you didn’t learn grammar. You learned words: Lexis! As you grew older, by listening and repeating, you learned how to string those words together into phrases and sentences.

So now you know some English grammar, let’s take it a step - or a few steps forward - and concentrate on LEXIS.



Very basically, a lexical approach to teaching means the primary focus is on helping you acquire vocabulary - but not just individual words.

So far, grammar has probably been the focus of your English language learning, yet it is vocabulary, or more specifically, lexis, which you need need to discover meaning - that is, to find your way to the real meaning.

Have a look at  the two groups of sentences below:

Incorrect grammar



The sentences in the left column are grammatically incorrect. BUT we can understand what the speaker is saying because meaning is carried not by grammar but by lexis.

Now, see below, in the column on the right, how drastically the meaning of the above sentences would change if “tomorrow” was used instead of “yesterday” or if “park” was used instead of “zoo”.

Correct Grammar, incorrect lexis


Just to make it clear -

Above, In the left column, the grammar is incorrect, but we can understand that the speaker meant:

He/she went to the zoo yesterday.

He/she is going to the zoo now.

But, in the right column, by replacing 'yesterday' with 'tomorrow and 'zoo' with 'park', it's not the wrong grammar that changes the meaning, but the lexis - the vocabulary - the words 'tomorrow' and 'park'!

Can you see that?

BUT ….

VOCABULARY is more than just individual WORDS

A lexical approach focuses not on individual words but clusters of words - or -


   These can be:

  • Fixed expressions

  • Semi-fixed expressions

  • Collocations

  • Phrasal Verbs

  • Idioms

Let's have a look at some of these:

Examples of Fixed Expressions 

•as a matter of fact

•upside down

•If I were you

•a long way off

•out of my mind

•by the way

•all of a sudden

•get a move on!

•Not too bad thanks

Examples of Semi -Fixed expressions  -

in these, words can be changed or can be slotted in.

•It's/That's not my fault.

•Could you pass the ........, please?

•Hello. Nice to see you ...

... I haven't seen you for weeks/months/days or since last year, the party, school.

•What was really interesting/surprising/annoying was ....


Examples of Collocations

(Collocation: a word or phrase that is often used with another word or phrase, in a way that sounds correct to people who have spoken the language all their lives)

•Take a photo

•Do homework

•Make the bed

•A golden opportunity

•Take a risk

•A faint smell

•A heavy smoker

•Sick and tired

•Mechanical fault

•Great fun


Examples of Phrasal Verbs

(Phrasal Verb: a phrase that consists of a verb with a preposition or adverb or both, the meaning of which is different from the meaning of its separate parts)

  • get along with

  • go of

  • keep on

  • put off

  • get around

  • go into

  • take up

  • fill (someone) in

You'll find posts explaining the  meanings of the above

later on the website

Examples of Idioms

Idiom: a group of words in a fixed order that have a particular meaning that is different from the meanings of each word on its own:

So, now having explained the importance of lexis and what the Lexical Approach is, let me ask you ...



And you might say, "What's he on about?"

(Which is another Engish expression simply meaning, "What is he talking about?")

OK, so he's asking are we on the same page! Well, of course, we are. Aren't we?

Well, yes, of course, we are on the same page of my website, but to ask someone if they are on the same page as you,  is also an IDIOM - meaning do you follow what I am saying, are you in agreement?

Do you understand why the Lexical Approach can help you improve your English fluency?

Do you follow?

Are you with me?

Get it?

(All the above are ways of saying, "Do you understand?"

If you do, then

you're in the right place!

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