Powerful Vocabulary: English Words To Sound Smart

Lesson Overview

Powerful English Words that will make you sound smart and professional at work.

I’ll share some intelligent collocations that will help you sound natural and intelligent.

Video Transcript
Section 1
Well hey there I’m Emma from mmmEnglish!

Now learning powerful words is really great for your English vocabulary but if you can’t use them effectively, there’s just not really much point is there? And when I say use them effectively, I mean use them correctly in your sentences with the right supporting words to help it sound natural and relaxed and real.

For many English nouns, there are actually only a small number of verbs that can frequently be used with them, words that just sound right when they’re used together in sentences and we call these combinations of words ‘collocations’.

Now learning English collocations is so helpful if you want to sound more natural and intelligent when you speak and today it will focus on a particular set of intelligent words that will help you to talk about personal challenges.

So these words are going to be incredibly powerful in job interviews, in a professional context, when you’re sitting exams, the times when you need to reflect on your personal life experiences.

So if you’re ready to expand your vocabulary, stick around!

Before we get started, a super quick reminder to turn on the subtitles down here if you need to and if you feel like doing something lovely today then help me to translate this video so that other people in your country can watch it and can learn from it too. And of course, it’s going to be excellent English practice for you.

I think it’s fair to say that most of us are trying to improve ourselves in some way. That’s what you’re doing here watching me, isn’t it?

Now we are always trying to learn new skills and get better at things or try to tweak and improve our personal qualities a little to try and become better versions of ourselves. That’s why we set goals, that’s why we’re conscious or we’re aware of the things that we’re trying to improve. And this is called personal development.

So I want to know what are your personal goals right now? What are you working on in yourself?

For me, I’m trying to get conversational in Spanish and I’m really trying to work on my management and my leadership skills. See my team has grown really quickly over the last twelve to eighteen months and you know, I want to be the best leader that I can be for my team so I really want to improve these skills.

So what about you? What are you working on? My aim in this lesson is to help you expand your vocabulary around this topic and to help you to feel more confident when you’re using sophisticated language in English.

This vocabulary, it really is essential if you need to use English professionally or if you’re planning to use English at university, these are all great words and expressions to learn.


When we’re trying to improve ourselves, we’ve recognised that there’s a problem, something’s not working or something’s blocking us from getting to where we want to go and we call this thing that’s blocking us an obstacle.

Now it can be a physical thing like a tree that’s fallen across a path but it can also be a problem that prevents you or stops you from achieving something that you want to do.

So say you really want to apply for a job but in the application they said that you need five years of working experience. You only have two. So this is an obstacle, right? It’s a problem. It’s blocking you. It’s not completely impossible to get around that obstacle but you’ve got to work a little harder to make it happen, right?

So ‘obstacle’ is a countable noun, you can have an obstacle or you can have five obstacles and it’s most commonly used with the verbs hit, face and overcome. All of these verbs have slightly different meanings.

  • We hit a significant obstacle when we found out we had no budget left.

So by using ‘hit’, we’re highlighting that moment that the obstacle stopped us, right?

  • I can’t even imagine the obstacles you face in daily life.

So here the verb ‘face’ is highlighting that moment that you deal with the obstacle like you’re looking at it and you’re standing there ready to take it on.

  • She had to overcome many obstacles on her journey to become CEO.

And ‘overcome’ here, it highlights that moment you got past the obstacle. It’s not blocking you anymore. We use these same verbs with the noun ‘challenge’ too. And really that’s just a synonym of ‘obstacle’.

  • When I created my online English learning community, I had no idea how many challenges I’d face along the way.
  • We’ve really overcome lots of challenges to reach the point where we are today.

We express this same idea by saying that we get over hurdles or we overcome hurdles.

  • One of the biggest hurdles that we had to overcome with our community was connecting them across different time zones.

So what about you? Have you had to overcome any challenges in your job or in your personal life? I want you to practise using this language in the comments below this video.

Fear and doubt

Fears and doubts are things that hold us back. Often they are the reason why we don’t feel very confident at all. Our fears are our thoughts that we have when we’re frightened or we’re worried about something, we fear that something bad will happen.

And a doubt is a feeling of not being certain about something, being unsure about what will happen. So we have doubts about our ability to do things, about our choices, the decisions that we’ve made.

  • I have some doubts about our ability to complete this project by Christmas.

In fact, you can use self-doubt here to make it clear that the doubts you have are with yourself.

Now we often use the verb ‘overcome’ again with ‘doubt’ and with ‘self-doubt’ and we use it to say, you know, when we stopped feeling uncertain. It’s also really useful to practise the verb ‘doubt’ as well.

  • There were so many times when I doubted my ability to lead a team.

Let’s focus on fear for a minute or two. We all have to deal with fear, right? We have to learn how to manage fear. It’s a really natural and a really normal part of life. If we’re lucky enough, we find a way to harness fear in some situations. Have you heard of that expression?

Now we use the verb ‘harness’ when you find a way to use that fear to your advantage. The energy from that fear gives you the power to do something courageous or challenging and we actually often use that verb ‘harness’ with an emotion. We use it to say that we bring that emotion under control and then do something positive with it.

So for example. You might harness your team’s enthusiasm which means, you know, you want to make the most of their enthusiasm and get the best out of them.

We all have fears but what about those moments when we find the courage? We face our fears. We let our fears come right up to us and we stand our ground and we deal with those fears, right?

  • I got called up on stage and at that moment, I was forced to face my fears.

Okay let’s not dwell on our problems and our fears for too long, we all like a happy ending, don’t we?

Be positive!

So how can we flip these negative situations and begin to make them more positive? Well let’s focus on some vocabulary that will help you to do that.

You’re all familiar with the word ‘opportunity’ right? You can be given an opportunity. You can receive an opportunity. You can receive an opportunity. But what if you want to emphasise your role in getting that opportunity? It’s much more powerful to say that you took the opportunity or you grabbed the opportunity. It tells us that you were in control of the situation.

  • I grabbed the opportunity to introduce myself to the CEO.

Now an even stronger word is the verb ‘seize’. So this is when you take something really eagerly.

  • I want to make sure our team seizes these opportunities in the future.

You can create an opportunity as well and this suggests that you made it possible through your actions to have that opportunity. You can take advantage of an opportunity. And that’s when you take that opportunity and use it for your own gain.

  • When my boss announced his resignation, I took advantage of the situation and presented my paper at the conference in his place.

Good way to take advantage of a situation.

How many times has something or someone changed the way that you think about something or changed your point of view? Well it sounds much more intelligent to say “change your perspective” or explain that something shifted your perspective.

So your perspective is a more intelligent way to talk about your way of thinking about things. And the verb ‘shift’ is used to say that something moved slightly.

  • Working with high school students helped him to shift his perspective on the attitudes and work ethic of young people.

Okay we have to talk about the word ‘potential’ here, one of my favourite words because it’s full of possibility. It talks about the possibility to achieve something in the future. And the future is full of possibility. It’s full of potential. And when something that was once possible but is now true or real, we use the verb ‘realise’ with ‘potential’ here.

  • I realised his potential as soon as he came into the interview.

We also use this verb with ‘dream’.

  • My boss helped me to realise a long-term dream; to present at an international conference.

So this is a much more professional way of saying that, you know, you made your dreams come true.

So can you tell me about a time that you seized an opportunity or you realised a dream? I’m really excited to see you using some of these words and collocations in the comments below. I’ll be coming down to check them out and give you some feedback on them soon.

Now I always make a point of giving feedback and writing comments for the first few days after my videos have been published so if you want feedback on your sentences then write them now right when we’re first watching this video.

And make sure that you’re subscribed with the notifications on so that you don’t miss out on any of my future lessons and opportunities to get feedback.

If you want to keep practising with me, you know where to go. I’ll see you in there!

Links mentioned in the video

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