Build your Vocabulary Using Word Context Clues

 In Learn English

Word context clues are an effective way to build your vocabulary. Context is the sentence or phrase in which the word is found, and understanding the sentence’s general meaning helps to understand a word that is unfamiliar to you. Writers, unconsciously or consciously, 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 to be found in the sentence or the paragraph in which the word is used.

How to Use Word Context Clues to Build your Vocabulary

Word context clues are a very useful way for the English language learner to work out the meaning of the word. The importance of using context clues in building your vocabulary cannot be underestimated, and you can learn new words when they are used in the contexts that we describe below:

Definition context clue: sometimes, a definition appears alongside the word.

Repetition of meaning context clue: a sentence will contain the word and will be followed by another sentence saying the same thing in a simpler way. For example: ‘Joe was very dexterous and therefore the most fantastic sculptor.  He was so good with his hands that every piece that he carved was detailed and perfect.’

Synonym context clue: a synonym is used to help the reader understand the meaning of a word, as it means the same as or nearly the same as the word that is unfamiliar to the English language student. ‘Mary was incredibly ambitious and it was this strong desire and determination to succeed that made her the best in her field’.

Antonym context clue: an antonym is a word that means the opposite of another word and can also provide a clue to word meaning. ‘Mary was ambitious, but Fred was lazy and therefore never excelled in his field.’

Description context clue: other groupings of words which together provide the English language learners understanding of a word can also work. Let’s look at the word ‘vivaciousto describe Mary – we get what that means when we hear this: ‘Mary was attractive, lively and animated and her presence demanded your attention.’

Visual context clue: when you are using this context clue, you are relying on a picture, or another type of image, along with some kind of related text to help you to understand the meaning of a word. For example, a picture of an angry man and its caption will help you understand that Fred Mason reacted angrily to the journalist’s questions.

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