Is Vocabulary Better Than Grammar

Is Vocabulary Better Than Grammar?

Many students struggle to determine whether to prioritize vocabulary or grammar when learning a new language.

The answer to “Is vocabulary better than grammar?” is not quite as straightforward as it seems and depends on a myriad of factors, including the student’s goals, language level, and learning context.

Let’s first discuss why grammar and vocabulary matter in language.

Why Vocabulary Matters


Vocabulary is one of the main building blocks of any language. If you don’t understand words, you won’t be able to construct sentences that make sense.

According to Reading Rockets, studies have shown that students with more extensive vocabularies can more easily understand texts and conversations. Basically, students can better guess the meaning of unknown words based on their context.

Why does this matter?

Besides the obvious educational benefits, having a strong vocabulary or ability to pick up context clues has practical applications.

A Strong Vocabulary Can Help You Build Relationships

Effective communication is the cornerstone of healthy personal and professional relationships. When learning a new language, you need to know enough words to express yourself, which reduces misunderstandings and helps convey your thoughts and feelings. This is true even if you can’t necessarily put those words into a sentence that flows well. But knowing only the basics will eventually hold you back.

Vocabulary Can Keep You Safe

Having even just a basic vocabulary is extremely valuable when traveling, as it allows for communication in a foreign language. If travelers know the words to ask for directions, order food, and find a place to stay, they can make sure their basic necessities will be met as they travel.

A solid vocabulary also helps people recognize the language often used in tourist scams.

Why Grammar Matters


While vocabulary is important to understand the meaning of words, grammar is the framework that holds a language together.

Without a solid grasp of grammar, communicating thoughts and ideas can become incredibly confusing and unclear, as grammatical mistakes often lead to big misunderstandings.

Even with an extensive vocabulary, you will be stuck in a basic conversation if you don’t know how to structure words correctly. You might be able to name objects or express simple desires in another language, but more complex ideas and nuanced conversations will be impossible without grammar.

Grammar Can Lead To Polite Conversations

Imagine you are in a foreign country and need to use the restroom. You only know the word for “toilet,” so you say:


While most people will likely understand what you’re asking, you’re missing the necessary grammatical structure to turn your words into a coherent, polite request to point you to the nearest bathroom. Without the proper tone, you may even come across as rude with such a terse question.

If you knew additional words and the language’s grammatical structure, you could say:

“Could you please tell me where the bathroom is?”

This sentence is much more likely to be understood correctly and appreciated for its politeness, which means you’ll be more likely to get a positive response.

Grammar Is Necessary To Understand Writing

Grammar also provides the building blocks for basic language comprehension in writing. If you don’t understand grammar, writing in any language is virtually impossible. This foundational knowledge allows you to create sentences that are correct and convey the intended meaning effectively.

Grammar and Vocabulary Are Both Important

So, is vocabulary better than grammar? This question really doesn’t make any sense because you can’t fully understand a language without both grammar and vocabulary skills.

The better question is whether you should learn vocabulary or grammar first when tackling a new language. Learning some vocabulary words first is the most important step because you need to understand the meaning of words before you can learn how to construct sentences properly using a grammatical framework.

To learn more about grammar and vocabulary rules, check out our Grammar Help resource, where you can learn everything from writing tips to figures of speech to fun puns.

Cara Secrist
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