Why we need to paraphrase or the necessity of being able to say things in a different way

We love synonyms, we love rephrasing things, it is one of the things we do all the time. Partly to avoid repetition, but also sometimes to clarify.  A classic example of this was in an episode of Dragon’s Den, which I always point out to students when I do the lesson in which it features.  One of the dragons says “so you want to form a character” the applicant replies, “yes, a character could be formed.” Imagine how odd it might sound to us if they had said instead: “yes, I want to form a character”.  So to me, this need to paraphrase is in fact paramount, not just from the point of having flexibility but also from the point of being natural.

It is also one of the greatest challenges for our students and as they get to higher levels and consider taking an exam, Cambridge mainsuite or IELTS and then maybe university in an English speaking country, this need gets greater.

This  is going to be a series of lessons that look at different ways in which students can paraphrase. This one will focus on Vocabulary. It is more about giving you some methods to teach them but I have included a text to be paraphrased and given examples. Like a lot of textploitation ideas, for me this is something that should be a lot and often once you do this, not a do it, forget about it kind of thing.

Aims: to help students paraphrase by giving them some tools to help them / to practice paraphrasing using vocab.

Level: though it can be at any level, this lesson is pitched for Upper Intermediate (B2) and above, and would be especially useful for exam students.



  1. First ask students what paraphrasing is and ask them of any situations where they might need to be able to do this.
  2. Accept any answers, but obviously if not mentioned fill them in on the following: to avoid repetition, to make the conversation more interesting, to clarify if someone doesn’t understand, to emphasise something, and last but not least to avoid plagiarism.


  1. Accept any answers that work for “I don’t like music”, but could include the negatives as well as dislike, hate, detest, not a fan of etc.
  2. This is about getting students to think of the synonyms for themselves

Possible answers, but accept all that work in context.

Original word Synonym
Little impact had limited effect
UK economy the UK’s finances
So far until now

3. Rewriting the sentence using synonyms

possible answer

Up to now, the Brexit vote has had a limited effect on the UK’s finances

Ask students what has changed when you put this on the board, get them to identify that the structure has changed to accommodate the new vocabulary.

4. More extended practice with a focus on good paraphrasing, i.e., it is not just changing a word!

Ask students to think of which words could use synonyms and then to write them in the spaces provided.

5. Ask them to decide which is the better paraphrase and why in this situation.

It is A, though listen to their arguments, then explain that the more complete changes in A are preferable, especially when trying to avoid plagiarism.

5.1 Ask them to highlight all the changes in A and add them to their synonym dictionaries / word lists.


I would ask the students to find a chunk of text in the newspaper to paraphrase, this will give them practice. Make sure that they bring in the text too. I would say between 20-30 words is optimum as you want to focus on quality, not quantity.

Coming soon will be more lessons on this with a focus on grammar.




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