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Dictionaries & Textbooks
Here you can find reviews of several excellent books for English learners:
Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English
The Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English is one of the best dictionaries for English learners. It covers modern vocabulary, has a clear layout and is printed in full colour!
The dictionary gives you much more than definitions of words. Have a look at this sample entry:
Advantages of the LDOCE:
With the paper version of the dictionary you also get the CD version. And this is the second most important program (after SuperMemo) that I use to learn English. It combines all the advantages of the paper version with an efficient search engine. You can look up the meaning of any word or phrase in just seconds, without having to flick through endless pages. There are also other useful features:
Here are a couple of screenshots from the CD version of the LDOCE:
The bottom line
I've been using the Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English since the third edition, which was published in 2001. It has helped me a lot. I still use my first copy of the dictionary, although it's a bit worn out now. If you plan to buy a monolingual dictionary, choose the LDOCE - you won't be disappointed.
English Vocabulary in Use (upper-intermediate)
If you feel like you need to improve your vocabulary, this is the book for you. It will help you learn the words you need.
Why is English Vocabulary in Use better than other textbooks? Because it gives you vocabulary that is really useful. You will find phrases and expressions that native speakers use on a daily basis. No old-fashioned or technical words in here.
Here are a few examples from the book:
The book is divided into 100 units. Each of them covers a specific topic, for example What your body does or Success, failure and difficulty. On the left-hand page you can find words, explanations, example sentences and pictures. The right-hand page contains relevant exercises. There's a detailed key to the exercises at the end of the book. This way you can practise completely on your own, choosing units that will be most helpful to you.
The Grammar in Use series
English Grammar in Use
English Grammar in Use is in my opinion one of the best books to help you master English grammar. And it's fun to read! It shows you example sentences from real-life situations and contains lots of full-colour pictures.
There are 145 units in the book. Each of them consists of two pages. The left-hand page describes a grammatical point (for example the past perfect tense or the usage of the modal verb should). The right-hand page contains relevant exercises.
Each unit is logically divided into points, covering specific grammar issues. There are plenty of example sentences, which tell you how you can use the grammar pattern you are reading about in your own sentences. The explanations are simple, but even so they contain lots of useful advice. Have a look at this sample:
Notice that there are WRONG sentences given in brackets alongside some of the example sentences. They tell you what kind of mistakes students often make and help you avoid them.
There's a study guide at the end of the book. It will help you find the most problematic areas and will tell you which units contain relevant information.
Advanced Grammar in Use
This book is intended for more advanced learners. It covers some more obscure grammatical points. When you start to feel that you need some more detailed information than in English Grammar in Use, it's time to buy this book.
The book has a very clear layout, so you can easily find the information you want. At the end of the book there is a useful appendix with common errors students make. There's also a study guide which can help you decide which units you need to study.
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