Using Context Clues

Instead of using your dictionary to translate, use context clues in the passage to help you understand new words.

  1. Check for words that have similar meanings.  These words we call Synonyms – different words that have almost the same meanings
    • Example: In humid climates, people often become fatigued.  When they become tired, they should rest.
    • The word TIRED is a synonym. Fatigue means to be very tired.
  2. Check for words that have opposite meanings.  These words are called Antonyms.
    • Example: The students could not recall the answers on the quiz. They had forgotten.
    • FORGOTTEN in the second sentence is an antonym. It gives us a clue to the meaning of recall. Recall simply means ABLE TO REMEMBER.
  3. Check for words that give examples.
    • Example: Disasters, such as floods and tornadoes often cause a loss of property and much pain and sorrow.
    • The words, such as tell us floods and tornadoes are examples of a disaster. We also know from this sentence that disasters cause loss of property and pain and suffering. Therefore, a disaster is something that happens that causes loss or pain.
  4. Check for words that define.
    • Example: Malnutritionthe lack of proper food, causes many deaths in third world countries.
    • The writer could have said, “Malnutrition is the cause for many deaths in third world countries”.   But by adding the definition, “…the lack of proper food…”, we know exactly what he or she means.
  5. Check for words that make inferences.
    • Example: Because the reading passage is subjective, you should understand the writer’s feelings and opinions before answering the questions.
    • The sentence infers that the writer’s feeling and opinions are important because the passage is SUBJECTIVE. Subjective must have something to do then with feelings and opinions.


Posted by ELLCenter on Tuesday, December 9, 2014

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