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  • Writer's pictureAlyssa Kung-Gunion, M.S., CCC-SLP

What is the Difference Between Receptive Language and Expressive Language?

Updated: Sep 8, 2021

When thinking about your child’s language skills, we can divide language skills into two areas: receptive and expressive language.

Receptive language refers to your child’s ability to understand gestures, body language, words, grammar, sentences, and stories. We may look at their ability to understand words in their everyday environment (such as, Mama, Dada, ball, car, baby), understand actions (such as, eat, sleep, give me, stop), and their ability to understand descriptive language, (such as, red ball, or two dogs). As our children’s language grows, we may look into how well they understand simple and complex questions, follow multiple step directions, and infer about stories. Remember, language can be spoken, written, or shown to us through gestures and signs! We may need the skills and strategies to understand what we read as well!

Expressive language refers to your child’s ability to use words and grammar to communicate in sentences, stories, and in conversation. We may look into what words and types of words your child uses. We can express ourselves using our voice, sign language, picture symbols, written expression, and communication devices.

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