What do you do when you have a quiet evening to yourself?
You know, the kind of evening when you can just relax and get comfortable.
Do you watch a movie? Read a book? Play online games?
I play Sudoku.
Sudoku is a very addictive number puzzle game. It is challenging and entertaining at the same time.
I find that solving puzzles is a great way to pass the time and flex my brain muscles.
Puzzles are not just about numbers, though. Many puzzles focus on words, and word puzzles can help you improve your English. A lot. They can be a fun hobby that also helps you to learn the language.
What is also great is that you can do most of these puzzles online or on a mobile device.
In this post, you will find five educational and entertaining English puzzles that you can do while relaxing in your spare time, along with resources where you can find them.
Doing these puzzles can be an efficient way for you to learn English vocabulary, become familiar with common grammar rules and increase your overall English comprehension.
Advantages of Learning English with Puzzles
Improving your language proficiency with puzzles has some added benefits on top of being super fun.
No need for a partner (unless you want one)
Let’s say you want to challenge your vocabulary knowledge, for example, by doing a crossword. You can then check the answers on your own, which are often provided with the crossword, to see if you made any mistakes. You can make a note of new words that you did not manage to work out, so that you can review them later.
You can do this whole process on your own, without the help of a partner or a tutor. This does not mean you have to do it alone. Some puzzles and puzzle games can be done with two people, or you may want to ask your partner or tutor for help. But it is nice to have the flexibility of being able to practice your English on your own.
A lot of options: online, mobile, paper
There are a few ways to play around with puzzles and improve your English. You can choose the most convenient and fun one for you at a particular time.
For example, if you are in bed and feel like a challenge, you can do a puzzle in a booklet or on your phone.
If you are in front of your computer, there are many websites with all sorts of English puzzles for you.
Mobile apps are also a handy option for when you are out and about.
A great warm-up for FluentU’s Quiz Mode
Unlike traditional language learning sites, FluentU uses a natural approach that helps you ease into the English language and culture over time. You’ll learn English as it’s spoken in real life.
FluentU has a variety of engaging content from popular talk shows, nature documentaries and funny commercials, as you can see here:
FluentU makes it really easy to watch English videos. There are captions that are interactive. That means you can tap on any word to see an image, definition and useful examples.
For example, when you tap on the word "searching," you'll see this:
Learn all the vocabulary in any video with quizzes. Swipe left or right to see more examples for the word you’re learning.
The best part is that FluentU keeps track of the vocabulary that you’re learning and gives you extra practice with difficult words. It even reminds you when it’s time to review! Every learner has a truly personalized experience, even if they’re learning with the same video.
You can start using the FluentU website on your computer or tablet or, better yet, by downloading the app from the iTunes or Google Play stores.
A challenge for your brain
Just like your body, your mind has “muscles” that need to be strengthened. The more you use them, the smarter and sharper your brain becomes. Doing challenging puzzles is an excellent way to challenge your mind and push it to its limits.
What’s more, once you solve a puzzle, you will be motivated to do the next one. You will keep learning through English puzzles and improve your language competence (abilities).
5 Entertaining Word Puzzles for Learning English
Rules of Hangman
Hangman is a classic puzzle, popular not only with English learners but also with native speakers.
Traditionally, it is a guessing game played by at least two people:
- Player 1 thinks of a word with a certain number of letters. They draw a blank line for each letter.
- Player 2 has to guess at letters that are included in the word. If Player 2 correctly guesses a letter that is in the word, Player 1 has to reveal all the places that letter appears on the blank line(s).
- If a guess is wrong, Player 1 gets to draw a part of a man on a hanging pole, like a head or an arm.
- Typically, Player 2 has about eight wrong guesses before being “hung” and losing the game. If Player 2 manages to guess the word before then, then they will be the winner.
There are many varieties of this game. If a word is very long, it might be acceptable to add more parts for the man (such as eyes and ears) to allow for more wrong guesses. You can also play with a computer instead, so you don’t need a partner for this puzzle.
Benefits of Hangman
Firstly, the game is fun, which helps with motivation.
Secondly, playing Hangman means you get to learn new words and develop a better feeling for English spelling. There is an element of luck in winning the game, but it also requires a good understanding of the language.
For example, if you know common prefixes (like un-, multi- or super-) or suffixes (such as -tion, -ish or -able), you will be more likely to guess a few letters based on a revealed one.
Though native speakers mainly play Hangman for a challenge and some fun time, an English learner will get the most benefit from this game by paying attention to the units of meaning in a word (or morpheme).
A morpheme can be a whole word (like “happy”), or a part of the word (like the prefix “un” or the suffix “ness”).
The word “unhappiness” has three morphemes:
the prefix “un”
the suffix “ness”
the root word “happy”
Remembering these different units of meaning is useful for your language learning, because they can all be used to make other words. Playing Hangman can help you learn the units that make up a word, rather than just the words themselves.
Where to play Hangman
Here are some resources to play Hangman puzzles online or on the go:
Rules of crossword puzzles
A crossword puzzle is a word game where a player is given clues to guess words. Each hint leads to a word, written in rows of squares that cross each other. This means some words share some letters. Once you find a word, you are rewarded with letters of one or more words with other clues.
A hint could be something like “the plural form of person” and the answer might be “people.” Or if the hint was “offspring,” the answer might be “child.”
Benefits of crossword puzzles
Crossword puzzles help to widen your vocabulary significantly, as clues are often synonyms, or words with similar meanings. Puzzles make great English vocabulary exercises! This means you learn new ways to express yourself.
It is worth noting that the crossword puzzle is a much-loved game among native English speakers. For this reason, some crossword puzzles are incredibly challenging. You might find them too difficult to do and give up on the puzzle before learning anything.
Here are some tips to help you get the most benefit out of crossword puzzles as an English learner:
- Pick crossword puzzles that are suitable to your language level. Less advanced learners should look for crossword puzzles on learner sites, like ones recommended below. The ones that are found in major newspapers can be very challenging (even for native speakers!).
- Pick a crossword with a particular vocabulary topic (like transportation) or a grammar theme (such as the plural form). It always helps to learn new words that are related to each other.
- Keep track of new words in a notebook. Remember, this is not just about solving a puzzle, but also about extending your language power. As soon as you pick up a new word that expresses a concept that you know, write it down and use it until it sticks in your memory.
Where to do crossword puzzles
Check out collections of puzzles for English learners on the two websites below.
If you like doing them on the way to school or work, you can also try the mobile apps. However, the crosswords you find on the mobile apps will probably be more challenging.
Rules of Ruzzle
This mobile app word game is simple. A player gets a board of scrambled letters to form words. Each word that you put together gives a different score. If you make a word using bonus tiles, you will earn more points. You can play alone, against a friend or against a stranger in the community. You can also play in a team.
Benefits of Ruzzle
The game is interactive and quick to play. Its social aspect makes it more fun.
As a learner, your writing skills become stronger as you practice forming words from letters.
You will also get better at spelling out a word fast. Such an ability will be handy when, for example, you need to spell a word while texting.
Where to play Ruzzle
This popular word game is available as mobile apps on both iOS and Android.
Johnny Grammar’s Word Challenge
Rules of Johnny Grammar’s Word Challenge
Johnny Grammar’s Word Challenge is straightforward: You answer as many spelling, vocabulary and grammar questions as you can in 60 seconds.
The challenges are in three categories: words, grammar and spelling. There are three levels, from easy to hard. Complete all levels of each group and you will earn the Grammar Guru, Word Wizard and Supreme Speller badges, which can be shared with other players.
Benefits of Johnny Grammar’s Word Challenge
This game is made by British Council to help English learners improve their language skills while having fun.
You can test your everyday English with common vocabulary in topics like traveling, ordering food, making small talk and discussing one’s hobbies.
Playing this quiz game also helps your grammar. The tested issues are the most commonly used ones like prepositions or irregular verbs.
The feedback you get on wrong answers will help you to learn and improve. Playing Johnny Grammar’s Word Challenge means practicing to retrieve words, spelling and grammar rules quickly.
Tip: Make sure to also apply these words and concepts in your daily conversations in English.
Where to play Johnny Grammar’s Word Challenge
The game is available on mobile, both iOS and Android.
Rules of Word Wrangling
Word Wrangling is another game made by British Council for English learners. You practice looking for patterns, shapes and relationships between letters and words.
There are actually eight puzzles included in this game.
In “Stem words,” you guess words from the stem and the meaning provided.
“What’s missing” gives you three random-looking words as a clue and you have to guess the word that is missing.
In the puzzle “Someone stole the…,” players have to use the provided vowels to fill in the blanks and form correct English words.
“Word mates” tests your knowledge of compound nouns while “Anagrams” checks your ability to spell words correctly.
The “Turn around” puzzle is a challenging one that gives you clues for two words that share the same letters but have different spellings.
The last two puzzles, “Which/witch word” and “Get or have,” focus on grammatical usages of various words.
Benefits of Word Wrangling
Playing Word Wrangling helps you to learn the usage of words and develop a better sense of the English language.
Where to play Word Wrangling
You can play these challenging yet straightforward puzzles on British Council’s Learn English website.
The five groups of puzzles above have different rules and formats, but they can all help you to learn English while having some fun.
Play them whenever you have some free time and pick up new words here and there.
Remember to practice using the words in real life.
Make them part of your active vocabulary, so that you get the most out of your new hobby.
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