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Word families and noun phrases

One useful way to develop your vocabulary it is to get into the habit of learning groups of words which are related to one another through their meaning and form. These groups are often called word families.

Here are some word families from the text “Utility Privatisation in Sub-Saharan Africa: A case study” Bayliss, K (2003).

Nouns Verbs Adjectives
privatisation privatise private, privatised
investment, investor invest
regulation, regulator regulate regulatory
relation relate related, relative

In academic writing, you can often choose to express an idea either through a structure based on a verb or through a structure based on a noun. Compare the two sentences below:

People consume much more fast food today than they did 10 years ago.

Consumption of fast food has risen considerably in the last ten years.

These two sentences have very similar meanings, but in the first a verb has been used, while in the second a noun has been used to express the same idea.

To be an effective writer it is important to have choices about the way in which you express ideas, as this will enable you to re-structure information to show the relationships between ideas clearly and to convey your intended meaning with precision.

In the next Step you are going to practise “rewriting” sentences, so that you develop a sense of how you can choose between expressing an idea through a verb phrase or a noun phrase.

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This article is from the free online course:

An Intermediate Guide to Writing in English for University Study

University of Reading