Content Map Terms

Language Development: 4-5 years


mom and dad talking with preschooler

Now that your child’s a preschooler, you can expect longer, more complex conversations about all sorts of things. His vocabulary will continue to grow, and he might show that he understands the basic rules of grammar and you can look forward to some entertaining stories.

Here are some of the things your preschooler might do from 4-5 years.


At four, she’ll use around 1500 different words and understands even more. By five, she’ll have an even wider range of words that she understands and uses.

Your child will begin to learn and use more:

  • connecting words (‘when’, ‘but’)
  • words that explain complicated emotions (‘confused’, ‘upset’, ‘delighted’)
  • words that explain things going on in his brain (‘don’t know’, ‘remember’).

He’s also learning more and more adjectives that let him explain things better.

Sentences and grammar

Your child will speak in increasingly complex sentences by joining small sentences together, and will use sentences in different ways. For example, she’ll be able to say both ‘The dog was chasing the cat’ and ‘The cat was chased by the dog’ to mean the same thing. By five, your child will be able to use long sentences of up to nine words.

Your child will develop the ability to talk about things that have happened in the past, rather than just things that are currently happening. He’ll also get better at using past tense and plurals.

Did you know? Reading to your child is an important activity in supporting speech and language development. Reading regularly to your child from an early age helps build a stronger relationship, supports speech development, reading and school performance.


By five, your child will understand and use words that explain when things occur, such as ‘before’, ‘after’ and ‘next week’. She might still have trouble understanding complicated ideas, such as ‘at the same time’.

He’ll begin to understand figures of speech, such as ‘You’re pulling my leg’ and ‘He’s a couch potato’.

Your child will follow directions with more than two steps, even if the situation is a new one. For example, ‘Give your ticket to the man over there, and he’ll tear it, and then we can go to the movie’. But your child might do what she hears first and ignore words that tell her the order she should do things in. For example, she might ignore the word ‘before’ in the sentence ‘Before we go into the movie, give your ticket to the man’.


By the age of 4½-5 years, almost every word your child says can be understood by strangers. He might still have difficulty using some speech sounds – for example, saying ‘fing’ for ‘thing’ or ‘den’ for ‘then’ – and might mispronounce some complex words, such as ‘ambulance’ and ‘spaghetti’.

Conversation and storytelling

Your child will continue to improve her storytelling, although she might still give too much or not enough information. She might also have trouble telling things in order and making it clear who’s being spoken about.

But he’ll have greater appreciation of others’ perspectives, so he might add more useful background information in conversation. For example, ‘I went to Mark’s and we had cake and Mark is from my preschool’.

Your child will be getting better at taking turns in conversations with a group of people. And she’ll start talking at the right volume for the situation. She might make requests more politely, using words such as ‘can’, ‘would’ and ‘could’.

He’ll begin to use language to tease and tell jokes.

Tip: Children grow and develop at different rates. The information in this article is offered as a guide only. If you’re at all concerned about your child’s language development, check with your public health nurse or doctor.

© Raising Children Network Limited, reproduced with permission.

Resources & Links:

HealthLink BC: Speech and Language Milestones, Ages 3 to 5 Years 
HealthLink BC: Encouraging Language Development in Your Preschooler 
HealthLink BC: Speech and Language Development: Red Flags 
HealthLink BC: Speech and Language Delays: Common Misconceptions 
HealthLink BC: Speech Problems: Normal Disfluency (stuttering) 


Last Updated: November 30, 2014