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Section: 1 Clues from Context

Section 1: Clues from Context

One of the most important ways we determine the meaning of words is from their context, the information contained in the surrounding words and sentences. You already use context to understand familiar words. Consider the use of the word file in the following sentences:

  • His assistant put the agreement in his personal file.

  • She used a file on the rough edges.

In which sentence does file mean “folder” or “drawer”? In which sentence does it mean “a tool for smoothing”? The only way to distinguish between the two uses of these words is to pay attention to their context—that is, the information surrounding them in the sentences.

In Section 1 of Vocabulary Basics, you will learn some ways to use context to help you figure out an unfamiliar word's meaning. The context often provides direct, helpful hints. Some types of hints we use to determine meanings include

  • commonsense questions,

  • definitions,

  • comparisons and examples,

  • opposites and contrasts, and

  • cause and effect and other logical relationships

WHAT DO YOU KNOW?

TRUE OR FALSE?

Circle T or F to indicate whether each of the following statements is true or false. On a separate sheet of paper, state why you chose that answer.

1:

TFThe context of an unfamiliar word or phrase can help you figure out its meaning.


A1: T
2:

TFThe only way to learn the meaning of an unfamiliar word is to look it up in a dictionary.


A2: F
3:

TFIn some sentences, comparisons and examples can give hints about the meaning of an unfamiliar word or phrase.


A3: T
4:

TFOpposites or contrasts for an unfamiliar word are not every helpful.


A4: F

MULTIPLE CHOICE

Circle the letter next to the best answer for each question. On a separate sheet of paper, state why you chose that answer.

1:Which of the following choices signals that a definition or explanation is coming?

(a) if/then

(b) not

(c) in short

(d) similar to

A1: c
2:Which of the following choices signals that an opposite or contrast is coming?

(a) if/then

(b) not

(c) in short

(d) similar to

A2: b
3:Which of the following choices signals that a comparison is coming?

(a) if/then

(b) not

(c) in short

(d) similar to

A3: d
4:Which of the following choices signals that a cause-and-effect clue is coming?

(a) if/then

(b) not

(c) in short

(d) similar to

A4: a




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