Ten things you should know about a word

Students studying in a library

Here are ten things you should know about a word to be able to understand and use it well.

All language skills depend on vocabulary, and proficient users of English have a vocabulary of many thousands of words. Every word has its own characteristics including style, grammar patterns and relationships with other words. 

Below we take the example word incredible and show you ten useful things to know about it.

1. What does the word mean?

Incredible literally means 'hard or impossible to believe', e.g. It's incredible that nobody spotted the mistake

But it has another meaning of 'extraordinary or impressive', e.g. The show was incredible, and this meaning is actually more common.

2. Does the word have any connotations?

Connotations are extra meanings or feelings that the word suggests, added to its basic meaning. 

The 'extraordinary or impressive' meaning of incredible has a positive connotation. If somebody describes something as incredible, they are often expressing praise or appreciation.

3. How is it similar to or different from other words?

Synonyms are words with similar meanings. Incredible has several synonyms, but some of them have differences in meaning.

  • Unbelievable means the same as incredible.
  • Not credible means 'hard or impossible to believe', but it doesn't have the 'extraordinary or impressive' meaning. It usually describes people and their words (e.g. His explanation was not credible) and not credible is preferred over incredible for this meaning.
  • Amazing also means 'extraordinary or impressive' but it has a stronger connotation of wonder or admiration than incredible does.

Antonyms are words with opposite meanings. Incredible has the antonym credible, but only for its 'hard or impossible to believe' meaning.

4. Does the word belong to a particular style?

Some common styles are:

  • global varieties of English (e.g. American English)
  • old-fashioned style
  • formal, informal or neutral style
  • technical or specialised language
  • spoken language and written language
  • politeness and impoliteness.

Saying incredible to mean 'good or impressive' is somewhat informal in style. It's more common in speaking than in writing.

5. How frequently used is it?

Incredible is used moderately frequently in speaking. It's more frequent than unbelievable, but less frequent than amazing.

6. How do you spell and pronounce it?

Incredible has ten letters and fairly regular spelling. In pronunciation, it has four syllables – in-cred-i-ble – and the second syllable is stressed.

7. What word class is it?

The word class is the word's grammatical category: noun, verb, adjective, etc. 

Incredible is an adjective. It's a non-gradable, extreme adjective, which means you can describe something as absolutely incredible but not very incredible or completely incredible.

8. Does it contain prefixes or suffixes?

Prefixes are meaningful parts added at the front of words, while suffixes are added at the end. 

Incredible has an in- prefix, meaning 'not' (e.g. invisible, inactive). It also has the suffix -ible, which means 'able to be' (e.g. visible, convertible).  

9. Which other words are in the same word family?

A word family is a set of words all made from the same base word. Here are some words in the incredible word family. 

  • incredibly (adv.)
  • credible (adj.), credibility (n.), credibly (adv.)
  • credulous (adj.), credulity (n.)
  • incredulous (adj.), incredulity (n.)
  • credit (n. and v.) 

Although the noun credibility exists, the noun incredibility is listed in some but not all dictionaries, so it might not be generally accepted.

10. What collocations does the word have?

Collocations are words that go together to make common phrases. Here are some collocations with incredible.

  • quite incredible (e.g. The singer's rise in popularity has been quite incredible.)
  • the most incredible + noun (e.g. When I saw my son for the first time, it was the most incredible feeling.)
  • Subject + find/found it incredible that … (e.g. I found it incredible that nobody complained about the food.)
  • It was incredible to see/hear (e.g. It was incredible to see the band play live.)

Where can I find the answers to these questions?

For all the information above, check dictionaries. A good dictionary will provide explanations of meanings, style notes, pronunciation symbols or audio, example sentences and collocations. Since different dictionaries include different information, it's worth checking several dictionaries, not just one. 

However, you will gain much of your word knowledge simply by seeing words repeatedly over time and in different contexts. While you are reading and listening, note down things that you learn about their meaning, usage, style and grammatical characteristics, as well as any good example sentences.


Average: 4.6 (25 votes)

Submitted by Khaled Saady on Mon, 15/04/2024 - 11:38


Thank you for this excellent article. It takes me on an interesting journey with the word "incredible". It is incredibly helpful!

Submitted by maysaa48 on Thu, 04/04/2024 - 06:57


Thank you for this informations 

Submitted by maryflh23 on Mon, 01/04/2024 - 12:38


Wow, I learned so many new things from this article! For example, the fact that 'incredible' is a non-gradable adjective. I find that absolutely incredible :D

Profile picture for user Nilar Han Thaung

Submitted by Nilar Han Thaung on Sun, 17/03/2024 - 06:49


Thank you for 10 ten things that I should know.

Submitted by Rone on Sun, 10/03/2024 - 06:05


Well, I didn’t know the formation of the word “incredible “ , I find quite interesting and very useful . Thank you !