"Use context clues!"
How many times have you heard a teacher say that in
regards to comprehension? Do you really understand
what that means? Well, if you don't,
welcome to the club. Many students do not really understand what
context clues are. Some
look to the elements within the sentence to help them out. They will look for the key
in a sentence. Let's look at a typical one.
Context dues are often as elusive as free lunches.
Since elusive is a word many students will not know, they
might try to figure out what the sentence means
by trying to find the key idea. Knowing
the subject and the verb of a sentence helps. Here we find,
Context clues - subject are - verb elusive - complete thought.
Do you understand the sentence yet? We don't have enough
information, it seems. So we need to ask
ourselves about the phrase free lunches. What do
we know about this phrase? Here is where we have
to rely upon background knowledge. Every
person in an America high school must take an economics
class, and there they learn, there
are no such things as free lunches because almost everything has a price.
Now if we look at the sentence again, we can understand
that elusive must mean something that happens
rarely or maybe never at all. With this
information, we now see that the author of this sentence believes
finding context clues
can be very difficult.
But there is help, as learning more about context clues
will aid you in understanding them better, so
reading will become easier. There are two
categories of context clues: syntactic clues
and semantic clues.
||Learn to recognize that a noun (subject) that is linked
with a linking verb either describes or gives an example or
instance of the subject: |
is discombobulating because it talks about death.
The linking verb "is" joins book and
discombobulating, so that we could say: The discombobulating
book talks about death.
||The coordinating conjunction "or" shows ideas of
similar weight or importance:
Either you will like the
book or you won't.
Here equal weight is given to ideas.
||Direct explanation occurs when an unknown word or phrase is
defined in the sentence, usually with|
terms like is called, in other words, is
known as, are referred to as, can mean:
Discommodity, in other
words being inconvenient, is not grounds for dismissal.
This type of explanation is especially
apparent in textbooks.
||Commas are used to separate sentences, as well as to
indicate a series; they will also be used to|
link synonyms, words that are similar:
John read Oh Pioneers,
and he enjoyed it immensely. Julie said that the book
was boring, redundant, and long.
||An appositive is a noun or noun phrase which follows a noun
to explain or identify it:
Sherman, the guy in the last row, likes
||Phrases or clauses (adjective or relative) will often be
used to describe nouns and will often|
be set off by commas.
Those hats, made of knit
material, will be sold tomorrow. Jassim, who went back to Oman,
was glad to be home.
Semantic Clues -- Clues
outside the sentence.
||Pronoun substitution is common, usually the antecedent,
will be in the sentence that comes |
before the pronoun, but not always.
The building was doomed. It was going to be
turned to rubble.
||Clarifying is used when a writer gives a new word or idea
in a sentence, then defines it in|
the next sentence.
All prices must be
tallied before tomorrow. They must be added together, so we know our worth.
||Summary sentences are quite common also. Here the author
will sum up a paragraph in |
the concluding sentence.
From reading the
aforementioned, you should understand that context clues are important!
||Figures of speech are used to explain abstract ideas and
thoughts. Writers juxtapose |
two qualities or experiences by calling attention to
characteristics they share. Similes,
metaphors, personification, hyperbole, analogies
are a few of these.
"Context clues are as elusive as a
free lunch" is a simile.
||Methods of development
refers to how paragraphs are developed. The most common |
are cause/effect, description,
narrative, compare/contrast, process analysis, classification/
division, definition, and
If you can learn the strategies just mentioned, context
clues will be your friends instead of your
Linking verbs link the relationship between subject and
the rest of the sentence. They explain the
connection between the subject and its
complement or that which completes the subject's description.
Linking verbs do not
express action. Instead, they connect the subject of a verb to additional information
about the subject. Look at the examples below:
|| Samantha is a workaholic.
Ising isn't something that Samantha can do.
Is connects the subject, Samantha, to
additional information about her, that she is very busy.
During the afternoon, my cats are
content to nap on the couch.
Areing isn't something that cats can do. The
word are simply connects the subject, cats, to
something said about them, that they enjoy
sleeping on the furniture.
||After drinking the old milk, Mohamed turned
Turned connects the subject, Mohamed, to
something said about him, that he was needing
||A ten-item quiz seems impossibly long after a
night of no studying.
Seems connects the subject, a ten-item quiz,
with something said about it, that its difficulty
depends on preparation, not length.
||Irene always feels sleepy after pigging out
on pizza from Auntie's Cafe.
Feels connects the subject, Irene, to her
state of being, sleepiness.
The following verbs are true linking verbs: any form of
the verb be (am, is, are, was, were,
has been, are being, might have been,
etc.), become, and seem. These true linking verbs
Then you have a list of verbs that depend upon their
function in the sentence: appear, feel,
grow, look, prove, remain, smell, sound,
taste, and turn. Sometimes these verbs are
linking verbs; sometimes
they are action verbs.
How do you tell when they are action verbs and when they
are linking verbs? If you can
substitute am, is, or are for the verb
and the sentence still sounds logical, you have a linking
verb on your hands. If, after
the substitution, the sentence makes no sense, you are dealing
with an action verb. Here
are some examples:
||Sylvia tasted the spicy squid eyeball stew.
Sylvia is the stew? I don't think so! Tasted, therefore is
an action verb in this sentence.
||The squid eyeball stew tasted good.
The stew is good? You bet. Make your own!
||I smell the delicious aroma of a mushroom and papaya pizza
baking in the oven.
I am the aroma? Not the last time I checked. Smell, in
this sentence, is an action verb.
This substitution will not work for appear. With appear,
you have to analyze the function of the verb.
Swooping out of the clear blue sky, Superman appeared on
Lois Lane's balcony.
||Appear is something Superman can do--especially when danger
Superman appeared happy to see Lois.
Here, appeared is connecting the subject, Superman, to his
state of mind, happiness.