Synonyms and Antonyms for ESL

Improve Vocabulary by Learning Through Similar Words and Opposites

Students taking notes.

 Ulrich Wechselberger/Wikimedia Commons

Learning synonyms and antonyms helps build vocabulary. English learners can use the charts below to begin learning how to use this technique. Teachers can print out the charts as examples for students to follow.

To begin with, here are definitions:


A word or phrase that means that same, or nearly the same as another word or phrase.

big - large
heavy - weighty
thin - slim


A word or phrase that means the opposite or nearly the opposite of another word or phrase.

tall - short
thick - thin
difficult - easy

One excellent technique for improving your vocabulary is to learn synonyms and antonyms together. You can create a chart listing both synonyms and antonyms including example sentences to help you memorize new vocabulary. Synonyms and antonyms can be learned in categories such as adjectives, adverbs, and adverbs. It's good to begin building vocabulary by learning categories of English synonyms and antonyms. To get you started, here are a number of synonyms and antonyms arranged into categories for beginning to advanced level English learners.

Example Synonym and Antonym Charts

Adjectives: Beginning Level

Nouns: Beginning to Intermediate Levels

WordSynonymAntonymExample Sentences
biglargesmallHe has a big house in California.
She has a small apartment in Manhattan.
difficulthardeasyThe test was very difficult.
I think riding a bike is easy.
newrecentusedI bought a recent book.
She drives a used car.
cleantidydirtyHe keeps his house tidy.
The car is dirty and needs to be washed.
safesecuredangerousThe money is secure in the bank.
Walking through downtown at midnight is dangerous.
friendlyoutgoingunfriendlyTom is outgoing with everyone.
There are many unfriendly people in this town.
goodgreatbadThat's a great idea!
He's a bad tennis player.
cheapinexpensiveexpensiveHomes are inexpensive at the moment.
That car is very expensive.
interestingfascinatingboringThat's a fascinating story.
That TV show is boring.
quietstillnoisyIt's nice and still in this room.
The children are very noisy today.
WordSynonymAntonymExample Sentences
studentpupilteacherThe pupils are in their seats.
The teacher began the class.
ownerdirectoremployeeThe director hired three new people.
The employees are very happy with their jobs.
earthgroundwaterThe ground here is very rich.
You need water to live.
daydaylightnightIt's daylight out. Get up!
I usually go to bed early at night.
answerresponsequestionWhat is your response?
She asked him a number of questions.
beginningstartendThe start is at 8 am.
The end of the book is very good.
manmalewomanTim is a male.
Jane is a woman.
dogpuppycatI'd like to get a puppy.
The cat meowed so I let her in the house.
foodcuisinedrinkLet's eat some French cuisine tonight.
She had a drink after work.
boyladgirlThe lad is waiting for you in the other room.
There are four girls in the class.

Adverbs: Intermediate

WordSynonymAntonymExample Sentences
fastquicklyslowlyHe drives very quickly.
I slowly walked through the park.
carefullycautiouslycarelesslyTim walked cautiously through the room checking everything.
Those who drive carelessly will probably have an accident.
alwaysall the timeneverShe eats lunch at her desk all the time.
She never goes to the dentist.
seriouslythoughtfullythoughtlesslyHe thoughtfully answered the question.
She speaks about her private life thoughtlessly.
colorfullyplainlybrightlyShe painted the picture plainly.
He brightly spoke about his adventures.

Here are some other ideas for learning synonyms and antonyms:

  • Use vocabulary trees to help you organize synonyms and antonyms into categories such as things and places in the home, business-related vocabulary for work, etc.
  • Build word form charts based on the synonyms and antonyms you are learning.
  • Make synonym and antonym flash cards to quickly check your knowledge.