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Skell - search engine

Updated: Jan 9, 2023

When we talk about a new word in class my students often ask me if it is frequently used or not. This helps them to decide if the word is worth learning. The advice I give them is based on my intuition, which might be wrong! In order to provide better advice and to help my students to become independent learners I show them how they can find this information for themselves.

The resource I recommend is Skell search engine. It is a corpus-based resource which gives example sentences revealing how words are used in real life. It is both simple to use and free.

The search results on Skell show word frequency (how often words are used) and the example sentences will give you a good idea about connotation (whether a word tends to be used in positive or negative situations). The 'word sketch' page also shows extra information including words that are commonly used with the target word.

You can search for single words such as 'overwhelm' or longer expressions such as 'six months' or 'half a year'.

It really is a great resource for all language students and particularly good for students practicing Part 1 of the Reading and Use of English paper in the Cambridge exams such as First, CAE or Proficiency.

Have you started using it yet? If not, now might be a good time.

Click on the Skell website to answer the following questions.

  1. Is the word 'overwhelm' typically used to describe positive or negative situations? Can it be used to describe both?

  2. Which expression is used more frequently in English, 'half a year' or 'six months'?

Want to know which other resources I recommend? Click here.


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