WordReference is a free bilingual online dictionary and translation platform. It offers dictionary services  in several languages including French, English, Italian, Spanish, Arabic, and many more. As a former EFL teacher and a multilingual speaker, I find WordReference to be one of the best online dictionaries out there.

Is WordReference reliable?

The  strength of WordReference resides in two main areas: First, besides its own dictionary services it also incorporates professional and reliable print dictionaries such as Collins allowing users to easily compare definitions and get deeper insights about terminology and language use. 

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The second main service that stands out in WordReference is Language Forums which are discussion forums where language learners ask questions about word usage, translation, synonyms and get help from native language speakers and fellow users. 

Learning the correct definition of words and the right syntactic/grammatical structure of a target language is only a small part of learning a language. In fact, the biggest  and hardest part is learning how to use the learned terms and phrases in contextually appropriate ways, that is, learning what linguistics refer to as  pragmatics, language use in social contexts .

A key illustration of this point is made by the towering linguist Noam Chomsky when he stated in his 1957 book  Syntactic Structures that a sentence can be grammatically correct but semantically odd. He further illustrated his idea with this example: Colorless green ideas sleep furiously.

From a grammatical perspective, the sentence meets all the English syntactic requirements: pre-modifier (adjectives) + noun + verb + post modifier (adverb); yet the sentence makes no sense. Hence, the centrality of context in language learning and in communication in general.

By providing user generated insights and crowd sourced information about language usage together with definitions from reputable print dictionaries, Wordreference is definitely transforming the whole field of language learning and offers real pedagogic value to language learners and teachers worldwide.

Wordreference offers the following services: Verb Conjugators, Grammar and Usage, Language Forums, and  Bilingual Dictionaries. There are several bilingual dictionaries in WordReference including:

English to SpanishEnglish to FrenchEnglish to ItalianEnglish to GermanEnglish to PortugueseEnglish to PolishEnglish to RomanianEnglish to CzechEnglish to GreekEnglish to TurkishEnglish to JapaneseEnglish to ChineseEnglish to KoreanEnglish to ArabicEnglish to SwedishEnglish to DutchSpanish to FrenchSpanish to Portuguese

Below is a quick overview of some of these features

1- Grammar and Usage

WordReference features a section called Grammar and Usage where users access insights about the grammatical usage and nuances of meaning of syntactic elements. More specifically, it offers the following services:

A- Spanish Grammar and Usage

“The WordReference Guide to Spanish Grammar and Usage solves common questions about the use of different words in spoken and written Spanish, and it explains the differences between homonyms and other commonly confused words. It can help you with grammar issues, such as verb tenses, the subjunctive and even Spanish punctuation, and it also lets you know when words are used in different ways depending on the region.”

B-English Use

This service helps language learners use the proper and correct way to use certain terms and expressions. That is, it is more oriented towards what linguists call the pragmatics of language use. 

“This dictionary is designed to help learners to use individual words correctly, and choose the right words and structures for the meaning they want to convey. It explains what English words mean and also provides information on how the words actually work. The dictionary covers a range of different areas of the English language, to help learners use the language naturally and effectively. It provides clear information on easily confused words, words with similar meanings, and help with words that are often tricky for learners to understand.” 

2- Language Forums

This is definitely one of the best and innovative features in WordReference. Language Forums are discussion forums where language learners help each other make the best of their language learning. There are forums for learning about issues related to translation, word usage, synonyms, and several other linguistic topics. 

A growing number of native speakers in both English and Spanish use the forums to provide help and answer questions. There are now over one million questions and five million answers archived in forums. You can search for answers or ask your question and let the users help you. You need to login or register to be able to ask questions and reply to others’ questions. 

3- Verb Conjugator

Verb Conjugator is a service provided by WordReference which allows language learners to get help with the learning of the verb conjugation in their target language. For instance, users learn how the verbs are conjugated in different tenses, regular and irregular verbs, how verbs are used in different modes (e.g., imperative, conditional, subjunctive, etc.), and more. The Verb Conjugator is only available for the following languages: French, Spanish, Italian, and English.

4- Bilingual dictionaries

Some of WordReference popular bilingual dictionaries include:

A- Spanish-English dictionary

Spanish-English dictionary embeds over 130.000 words and 250.000 translations in English and Spanish. It also includes terms from various Spanish dialects, regional UK and US terms, legal and economic terms.

B- French Dictionary

WordReference provides two types of English-French dictionaries: one by WordReference and another by Collins. The  French-English dictionary  contains over 250.000 translations, over 100.000 words and expressions, links to questions and answers in language forums, and the possibility for users to ask their own questions about words and expressions they need explanation for. 

The Collins French-English dictionary offers over 175.000 words and 234000 translations.  There is also a French Verb Conjugator service that allows users to learn more about verb conjugation in French.

C- Italian dictionary

Users of the Italian dictionary can select between WordReference Italian dictionary and Collins Italian dictionary. The way it works is easy: type in your term or expression and select a dictionary type.

5- WordReference English Synonyms

WordReference English Synonyms offers a huge library of word equivalents, around 24.000 English words. Synonyms also include comments about contextual usage. Antonyms are also provided. 

Here is how it works: type in your term in the search box, click on ‘English synonyms’ and browse through the results. Sometimes if the word or expression you are looking for has already been discussed in Language Forums, excerpts from these forums are shown among the results. 

6- Is WordReference available as a mobile app?

WordReference is available for iPhone and Android. It is also available as Chrome and Firefox extensions and as a Bookmarklet.

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