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First Step of Improving IELTS Speaking: Replacing Common Words

How to express "good", "bad", "very", "like", "don't like" and "a lot of"?

IELTS speaking and vocabulary

a quarter of our IELTS score in speaking comes from the vocabulary. In order to achieve a high score, candidates need to demonstrate the ability to use a wide vocabulary resource flexibly and precisely. It means you need to remember a lot of words to describe our daily life, such as food, clothes, travel, or a beautiful scenery. Sometimes it means you have to learn vocabulary by memorizing word lists, reading articles or watching videos. However, a good first step is to replace the most common words: good, bad, very, like, don’t like and a lot of.

The word list

If you want to say … Replace it with … Lexical Category
good excellent, fantastic, incredible, awesome, wonderful, amazing positive adjectives
bad awful, terrible, horrible, dreadful, appalling negative adjectives
very terribly, incredibly, awfully, insanely, exceptionally, extremely intensifiers (neutral)
very amazingly, fantastically intensifiers (positve)
very horribly intensifiers (negative)
like love, adore, be fond of, be into, cherish, treasure, savor positive verbs
don’t like hate, loathe, detest, abhor, despise negative verbs
a lot of numerous, countless, plenty of, a(n) large/incredible/etc. amount/number of, a plethora of adjectives

Replacing “good”

We can directly replace “good” with the aforementioned positive adjectives, like:


  • The hotel was incredible.
  • Standing waiting for the marathon to start was the most incredible feeling.
  • This is an incredible opportunity for us as a company.


  • ‘How was your holiday?’ ‘Fantastic!’
  • This was a fantastic opportunity for students.
  • It was a fantastic achievement.


  • The show was just awesome.
  • I just bought this awesome new game!


  • This is a wonderful opportunity to invest in new markets.
  • We had a wonderful time last night.
  • a wonderful experience/place/day/book


  • She has done an excellent job of adapting the novel for the screen.
  • The party provided an excellent opportunity to meet new people.
  • The apartment is in excellent condition and is ready to move into.


  • I saw the most amazing film yesterday!
  • He makes the most amazing cakes.

Replacing “bad”


  • I feel awful about forgetting her birthday.
  • The weather conditions were just awful.


  • What terrible news!
  • It must have been terrible to witness the accident.


  • What horrible weather!
  • The coffee tasted absolutely horrible.


  • Some people love going to the opera, but for others there’s no more dreadful way to spend three hours.


  • The children are living in appalling conditions.

Replacing “very”

We can directly replace “very” with the aforementioned intensifiers, like:


  • extremely low temperatures
  • She found it extremely difficult to get a job.
  • It is extremely important to follow the directions exactly.


  • The weather, even for January, was exceptionally cold.
  • There was an exceptionally high tide.
  • an exceptionally gifted child


  • I’m terribly sorry—did I hurt you?
  • terribly interesting
  • The experiment went terribly wrong.


  • My newborn nephew is awfully cute.
  • The surprise birthday party is awfully fun.


  • incredibly stupid/boring
  • It was all incredibly difficult.
  • incredibly lucky/talented/beautiful


  • She is insanely jealous.

Note that some words can be only good or bad when they are adjactives, but their advert forms can mean both good and bad, like “terribly”, “awfully” and “incredibly”. However, some intensifiers can only mean “extremely good” or “extremely bad”, for example “amazingly”, “fantastically” and “horribly”.

  • The meal was amazingly cheap.
  • fantastically successful
  • It was horribly painful.

Replacing “like”

Usually we can replace “like” directly with “love”, “adore” and “be fond of”

  • We were fond of the house and didn’t want to leave.
  • She adores working with children.
  • I’m really into folk music.

The word “cherish” and “treasure” are used in more specific situations. They are related to words that mean “costly” and “beloved.” People cherish or treasure something often because they feel emotionally connected to it. For example, many of us cherish our first cars, not only because it costs money, but also because of the memories of those days, driving around with our friends.

  • Cherish the memory of those days in Paris.
  • I cherish my own freedom dearly, but I care even more for your freedom.
  • I shall always treasure the memory of our time together.
  • This ring is my most treasured possession.

The word “savor” is more related to “enjoy”. When you savor something, you enjoy it so much that you want to make it last forever. The word is is often applied to eating, and in this case, it’s often connected with eating something slowly. For example, She savored the freshly-made coffee means she drank the coffee slowly to enjoy its taste. We can also savor any pleasurable experience, for example, an opportunity to savor the delights of snowboarding.

When we would like to replace “like”, usually the most common words are “love”, “adore” and “be fond of”. “Cherish”, “treasure” and “savor” are used in more specific situations.

Replacing “don’t like”

“hate” or “loathe” can be used informally to mean “really don’t like”, for example:

  • Whether you love or loathe their music, you can’t deny their talent.
  • I really hate spinach.

“detest” and “abhor” are more formal, and they are stronger. We may say abhor corruption in government, abhor any form of cruelty towards animals, or detest racism, but we don’t usually use them for food or other informal settings.

“despise” is the opposite of “admire”, it means “look down on”. For example, you may despise someone for being a coward. Another example is that I loathe spiders, but I don’t despice them. In other words, I fully respect them but I just dislike them.

When we would like to replace “don’t like”, usually the most common words are “hate”, “loathe”, “can’t stand” or “can’t bear”. “Detest” and “abhor” are more formal, while “dispise” is used in some specific situations.

Replacing “a lot of”

The words “numerous” and “countless” stand for “many”. In other words, they can only be used for countables nouns. For example:

  • He has won numerous awards.
  • She wrote numerous articles on social issues.
  • I’ve warned her countless times.
  • The new treatment could save Emma’s life and the lives of countless others.

“Plenty of” is equal to “a lot of” and can be used for both countable and uncountable nouns.

  • plenty of eggs/money/time

We use “a large amount of” for uncountable nouns, and “a large number of” for countable nouns. Note that “large” can be replace by other adjectives that have the same meaning, like “significant”, “incredible”, “enormous”.

  • an enormous amount of time
  • an incredible amount of work

Note that the word “incredible” has two meanings. It could mean both “very good” and “very large”. In this section is means “large”, but in the section about replacing “good” it means “good”.

“A plathora of” is usually used in formal settings, for example:

  • The report contained a plethora of detail.

Bonus: Replacing much less/ much bigger

We can use much/a lot/way/significantly for comparatives, such as less/bigger.