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Common Construction Verbs and Useful English Vocabulary for Architects Learning English


As an architect, landscape architect or designer who speaks English as a second language, are you constantly wondering if the words or phrases you're using are the most professional or commonly used? I've taken the guesswork out of some of your doubts and put together a list of examples of language from coaching sessions in the last two years. If you're working in construction projects doing contract administration or working towards a role where you're responsible for more contract administration or time on site, you will find this list useful for your construction administration projects.

35 Common Construction Verbs

Here is a list of the most common architecture verbs. Pay close attention to the stress especially in words like develop which I often hear mispronounced and the word present which has a different stress pattern as a verb compared to the noun and the adjective. If you're also a Spanish or Brazilian Portuguese speaker pay close attention to words that begin with S such as submit and specify.

align /əˈlʌɪn/ - place or arrange (things) in a straight line.

allow /əˈlaʊ/ - make provision or provide scope for.

apply /əˈplʌɪ/ - put or spread (a substance) on a surface.

attach /əˈtatʃ/ - join or fasten (something) to something else.

assess /əˈsɛs/- evaluate or estimate the nature, ability, or quality of something

complete /kəmˈpliːt/ - finish (can also be used as an adjective to say something has all the necessary parts

cover /ˈkʌvə/ - to put something on top of something else

define /dɪˈfʌɪn/- state or describe exactly the nature, scope, or meaning of something

describe /dɪˈskrʌɪb/ - give a detailed account

determine /dɪˈtəːmɪn/ - ascertain or establish exactly by research or calculation.

detach - /dɪˈtatʃ/ - remove something

develop /dɪˈvɛləp/ - grow or cause to grow and become more mature, advanced, or elaborate.

ensure /ɪnˈʃɔː/ - make certain that (something) will occur or be the case.

establish - /ɪˈstablɪʃ/ - set up on a firm or permanent basis or establish something

exclude - /ɪkˈskluːd,ɛkˈskluːd/ - remove from consideration

follow /ˈfɒləʊ/ - be logical in a sequence of something or come behind someone

identify /ʌɪˈdɛntɪfʌɪ/ - establish or indicate who or what

include /ɪnˈkluːd/ - comprise or contain as part of a whole.

install /ɪnˈstɔːl/ place or fix (equipment or machinery) in position ready for use.

integrate /ˈɪntɪɡreɪt/ - combine (one thing) with another to form a whole.

involve /ɪnˈvɒlv/- have or include (something) as a necessary or integral part or result.

issue /ˈɪʃuː,ˈɪsjuː/- supply someone with (something).

obtain /əbˈteɪn/ - get, acquire, or secure (something).

perform/pəˈfɔːm/ - carry out, accomplish, or fulfil (an action, task, or function).

prepare /prɪˈpɛː/ - make (something) ready for use or consideration.

present /prɪˈzɛnt/ - show something or give something to someone

propose /prəˈpəʊz/ - put forward (a plan or suggestion) for consideration by others.

provide /prəˈvʌɪd/- equip or supply someone with (something useful or necessary).

refine /rɪˈfʌɪn/ - tweak/make minor changes so as to improve or clarify (a theory or method)

replace /rɪˈpleɪs/- provide a substitute for (something that is broken, old, or inoperative).

require /rɪˈkwʌɪə/ - make something necessary

request /rɪˈkwɛst/ - an act of asking politely or formally for something.

revise /rɪˈvʌɪz/ - examine and make corrections or alterations to something

specify /ˈspɛsɪfʌɪ/ - identify clearly and definitely.

submit /səbˈmɪt/- present (a proposal, application, or other documents) to a person or body for consideration or judgement.

Contract Administration Vocabulary

Contract administration is when a professional ensures that a building contract is followed according to the contract.

Using some of the verbs from above, an architect or landscape architect might conduct some of these tasks as part of their role:

Specify construction methods in the specification

Assess progress claims (payment requested by the contractor)

Approve or request variations to the scope of work

Issue responses and instructions to the contractor on behalf of the client

Scope of Work

Scope means to the extent of the area or subject matter that something deals with or to which it is relevant.

Define the Scope of Work Contract documents define the scope of work for different contractors working on the project and what each is responsible for within the scope of work. This will be defined in writing and on the drawings (or in the drawing package). Contracts usually define the work that is to be included in and out of the scope of work.

Note: pay close attention to the different use of the prepositions on the drawing compared to in the drawing package.

What is a Specification?

A specification is a written document that is issued alongside a drawing package. The drawings define important things such as locations and construction details, while the specification describes how the contractor should perform tasks and which standards the construction details and methods should follow.

What is a contractor?

A contractor is a person on company that has been contracted to complete works in the contract. The contractor can also be referred to as the builder, landscaper or tradesperson.

What is a tradesperson?

A tradesman or (to be more inclusive a tradesperson) is a skilled worker that specialises in a particular trade (occupation or field of work).

Some examples:

Bricklayer - lays bricks

Stonemason - constructs stone structures

Glazier - installs windows and glass

Landscaper / Landscape contractor - constructs and installs landscape elements

Uplevel your vocabulary with alternative construction terminology

Instead of



build, construct, assemble, manufacture, fabricate


carry out, prepare, execute, implement


require, call for


remove, draw (inspiration)


operate, apply, make use of, employ

make it better

improve, enhance, refine

make better use of space


arrange in a line


create something new


give an idea

propose, suggest



different options


Commonly confused word pairs

accept (verb) - /əkˈsɛpt/ - consent to receive or undertake (something offered)

except (verb) - /ɪkˈsɛpt,ɛkˈsɛpt/- not including; other than.

affect (verb) / əˈfɛkt/ - have an effect on; make a difference to.

effect (noun) /ɪˈfɛkt/- a change that is a result or consequence of an action or other cause.

both - used for emphasis to refer to two people or things

each - used to refer to every one of two or more people or things, regarded and identified separately

anything - used to refer to a thing, no matter what. I didn't do anything

nothing - not anything; no single thing. I did nothing

Note: we can't use 'nothing' as a double negative E.g. I didn't do nothing is incorrect.

ensure - /ɪnˈʃɔː/- make certain that (something) will occur or be the case

assure - /əˈʃʊə,əˈʃɔː/- tell someone something positively to dispel any doubts.

insure - /ɪnˈʃɔː,ɪnˈʃʊə/ - arrange for compensation in the event of damage to or loss of (property),

fewer - a small number of something (countable nouns).

less - a smaller amount of something not as much (uncountable nouns).

amount - if you can't measure it, use amount.

quantity - a certain, usually specified, amount or number of something. If you can count it use quantity

then - at that time; at the time in question / next

E.g. I spoke to the client, then I called the Engineer.

than - introducing the second element in a comparison. E.g. The ground floor is larger than the second floor

10 Useful and sometimes confusing construction terms

sign off - to approve something

unsound - not good enough or unacceptable

push back - to delay or postpone an event / or to disagree with someone

bring forward / push forward - move a meeting or event to an earlier date or time

revision - changed version of a drawing

revise - (verb) to make changes

variation /contract variation - an alteration to the scope of works

handover (noun) - the end of a project

hand something over - pass responsibility onto someone else

Vocabulary for describing defects








dinted / dented



tear / rip

torn / ripped (fabrics and papers)



smash / shatter

smashed / shattered


defective / faulty / shoddy

break / breakage




Vocabulary for taking measurements or describing the position

survey (verb) - to take measurements and observations of the site (usually during site analysis)

take measurements - get measurements

measure up (phrasal verb) - get measurements to create a base plan or existing measurements

verify (verb) - check

level (adjective) - to be at the same level or straight and 90 degrees to the floor

square (adjective) - when the walls or elements meet at right angles

flush with - adjacent objects are at the same level

flat up against - pushed up directly next to something

attached to (the wall) - fastened

mounted on (the wall) - set on or sitting on

arranged in - put things in a neat way


All these examples are just some of the vocabulary that comes up in our practical discussions during coaching sessions and workshops with my clients. These examples often come up when my clients present their projects, describe their work process, or discuss what they are responsible for in their day-to-day job. The vocabulary you see here also comes from reading articles and books and watching and listening to podcast episodes with my clients. I want to reinforce that I strongly believe in learning vocabulary in motivating ways in context over the long term rather than memorising lists of words. I hope you found this summary of such an extensive topic useful, and it inspires your curiosity to find out more.


Contact me today to find out how I can help you uplevel your vocabulary in a stress-free way so you can build your confidence.

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