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Building Vocabulary: Using Context Clues to Learn Word Meaning

When authors write, they often include context clues to the meaning of words they use but think that some of their readers may not know. The context clue is usually presented in the sentence or paragraph in which the word occurs. Sometimes a visual such as a picture is provided.

Here are six types of context clues used by authors to help the reader understand the meanings of words. An example is provided for each.

1. Definition context clue

The author includes a definition to help the reader understand the meaning of a word. In the following example, "tainted" is defined as having a disease.

The people of the town were warned not to eat the tainted fish. The local newspaper published a bulletin in which readers were clearly told that eating fish that had a disease could be very dangerous. This was especially true for fish caught in Lake Jean.
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2. Synonym context clue

The author includes a synonym to help the reader understand the meaning of a word. A synonym is a word that means the same as or nearly the same as another word. In the following example, the synonym "pity" helps the reader understand the meaning of "compassion."

After seeing the picture of the starving children, we all felt compassion or pity for their suffering.

3. Antonym context clue

The author includes an antonym to help the reader understand the meaning of a word. An antonym is a word that means the opposite of another word. In the following example, the antonym "eager" helps the reader understand the meaning of "reluctant."

Joe was reluctant to take on the position of captain of the basketball team. He was afraid that the time it would take would hurt his grades. On the other hand, Billy was eager for the chance to be captain. He thought that being captain of the team would make him very popular in school.

4. Description context clue

The author includes one or more descriptions to help the reader understand the meaning of a word. In the following example, descriptions of President Kennedy as having charm, enthusiasm, and a magnetic personality help the reader understand the meaning of "charismatic."

John Fitzgerald Kennedy, our 35th president, improved human rights and equal rights for all people. He was a very charismatic president. People were attracted to his charm and enthusiasm. His personality was described as magnetic.

5. Summary context clue

The author makes a number of statements that help the reader understand the meaning of a word. In the following example, statements about being rude, showing no respect, having poor manners, and being impolite help the reader understand the meaning of "impertinent."

Andrea was a very impertinent young lady. She was so rude that she talked while her teacher was explaining a lesson. She showed no respect for other students. Her manners were very poor. Even her parents thought that Andrea was impolite.
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She was exultant

6. Visual context clue

The author includes a picture, drawing, chart, graph, or other type of visual to help the reader understand the meaning of a word. In the following example, the picture and its caption that is close to the sentence helps the reader understand that "exultant" means great joy.

Peggy had an exultant look on her face.

Using the context clues provided by authors can help you learn the meaning of many new words.


Confusing Pairs of Words

Many pairs of words sound alike or nearly alike, but each has a different meaning. For example, affect means to influence something, while effect means the result of something. Words like these can be easily confused with each other.

You must be careful to use the correct word from a pair of such confusing words when you are writing and speaking. If not, you may express something different than what you mean to express.

For example, suppose you are writing about the importance of a good marriage. You write that martial bliss is a wonderful thing. The word martial refers to war. You should have written that marital bliss is a wonderful thing. The word marital refers to marriage.

You wouldn't want to embarrass yourself by addressing a letter to the administrator of your school as "Dear Principle." The word principle means a fundamental truth. You should write "Dear Principal." The word principal refers to the head of a school.

Here are some word pairs that are commonly confused. Learn the meanings of each of the words so that you use them correctly.

Accept - to take something that is given to you
Except - to leave out

Altar - a raised place used in religious services
Alter - to change

Ascent - to climb
Assent - to agree

Brake - a device for stopping or slowing a vehicle
Break - to come apart

Cite - to document
Site - a place

Coarse - rough
Course - moving from one point to the next

Complement - something that makes a thing whole or perfect
Compliment - to praise

Conscience - a sense of right and wrong
Conscious - state of being awake

Confusing Pairs of Words, Desert

Descent - coming from a higher place to a lower one
Dissent - to disagree

Desert - a dry, hot, sandy area
Dessert - the sweet final part of a meal

Device - something made for a certain purpose
Devise - to invent something or develop a plan

Elicit - to bring out
Illicit - illegal

Eminent - famous or well respected
Imminent - about to happen

Faint - weak
Feint - a movement meant to deceive

Confusing Pairs of Words, Dessert

Forth - forward
Fourth - an ordinal number

Here - at or in a place
Hear - to receive sound through one's ears

Hoard - to save and store away
Horde - a very large group

Hole - an opening through something
Whole - an entire thing

Loath - reluctant
Loathe - greatly dislike

Palate - the roof of the mouth
Palette - an artist's board for mixing paints

Peace - absence of fighting
Piece - a portion of something

Plain - clearly seen, heard, or understood
Plane - a flat surface

Pore - a very small opening in the skin
Pour - to cause something to flow

Precede - to come before
Proceed - to go forward

Shear - to cut the wool off a sheep
Sheer - so thin you can see through it

Stationary - to stand still
Stationery - writing paper

Waist - the part of the human body between the ribs and the hips
Waste - to use or spend carelessly

Weak - without strength
Week - a period of seven days

Don't be CONFUSED! Learn the meanings of these words to use them correctly.

ABOVE INFORMATION IS FROM THE WEBSITE BELOW

http://www.how-to-study.com/index.asp

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