Mrs. Dowling's Vocabulary Skills

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Context Clues

Study Guide

At the end of this unit, you will be able to do the following:

1. Determine the meaning of a word by reading the sentence.
2. List at least three kinds of clues and give examples of each.

Recognizing Different Types of Context Clues

You have learned about definition and restatement clues and about synonyms. Using these context clues, you can often figure out meanings of new words. There are also other types of context clues.

Comparison Clues. Often an unfamiliar word is used in a comparison with a familiar word. Your knowledge of the familiar word may unlock the meaning of the new one. Here is an example:

The thatch in the roof was as likely to burn as any other straw

The sentence compares two materials, thatch and straw. The words "as likely as any other straw" show that thatch is straw.

Some phrases that signal comparison clues are like, as, same, same as, similar to, and other.

Contrast Clues. In a comparison clue, you learn that a new word is like a known word. In a contrast clue, you learn that a new word is different from the known word. Here is an example:

At night the street was pacific, unlike the crowded, noisy chaos It was during the day.

In this contrast, the word pacific is opposed to crowded, noisy and chaotic. From this, you can guess that it means "peaceful."

Some phrases that alert you to contrast clues are the following:

although, but, though, on the other hand, however, yet, unlike, different from, in contrast to, not, and as opposed to.

Examples in Context. You may find an unfamiliar word as an example of a familiar word. In this sentence, for example, you can tell that a ventriloquist is a kind of performer in a show.

At the show we saw magicians, ventriloquists, and other performers.

You may find the familiar words as examples of the unfamiliar word.

I had several rationalizations for not studying — I had a headache, it was too late, I wouldn't do well on the test anyway.

From these examples of rationalizations, you can guess the word means "reasons" or "excuses."

Some key words that point out example clues are/or example, such as, especially, for instance, like, other, such, and one kind.

Inferring Meaning from Context. Not every meaning in context is signaled by key words or punctuation. Many times you must piece together hints in the context. Using the hints, you can make educated guesses, or inferences, about the meaning of word. Read this passage, for example, for clues to the meaning of solemnized.

Immediately after the lady stepped forth, another door opened. From it came a priest followed by a band of dancing maidens. This procession advanced to where the man and the lady stood, and the wedding was promptly solemnized. Then the brass bells rang forth gaily, and the married couple made their way out of the arena.

From the information in the passage, you could infer that solemnized means "celebrated" or "made official."

Exercises

Context Clues Practice Quiz- Online Version or Print Out Version

Take the Practice Quiz at Quiz Lab!