Ask Yourself

• What letters mike up the beginning sound or beginning syllable of the word?

Example; In the word coagulate, co rhymes with SO.

♦ What sounds do the letters in the middle part of the word make?

Example; In the word coagulate, the syllable ag has the same sound as the a% in bag, and the syllabi«? u is pronounced like the letter U.

* What letters make up the ending sound or syllable?

Example: In the word coagulate, ¡ale is a familiar word you already know how to pronounce.

♦ Now try pronouncing the whole word: co ag u fate.

« Prefixes A prefix is a word part that can be added to the beginning of a root or base word. For example, the prefix semi- means "half" or "partial," so semicircle means "haH a circle." Prefixes can change, or even reverse, the meaning of a word. For example, un- means ''not,* so unhappy means "not happy."

♦ Suffixes A suffix is a word part that can be added to the end of a root or base word to change the word's meaning. Adding a suffix to a word can also change that word from one part of speech to another. For example, the word joy, which is a noun, becomes an adjective when the suffix -ful (meaning "full of) is added. Joyful means "'full of joy."

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Determining a Word's Meaning

Using syntax Like all languages, the English language has rules and patterns for the way words are anranged in sentences. The way a sentence is organized is called the syntax of the sentence. If English is your finst language, you have known this pattern since you started talking in sentences. If you're learning English now, you may find the syntax is different from the patterns you know in your first language.

In a simple sentence in English, someone or something (the subject) does something {the predicate or verb) to or with another person or thing (the object): The dog chased the cat.

Sometimes adjectives, adverbs, and phrases are added to add details to the sentence: The scruffy brown dog angrily chased the adorable little cat around the corner.


Knowing about syntax can help you figure out the meaning of an o o unfamiliar word. Just look at how syntax can help you figure out the following nonsense sen kence.

The htizzy kwarkies sminched the flerky fleans.

Your experience with English syntax tells you that the action word, or verb.

in this sentence is sminched. Who did the sm inching? The kwarkies. What kind of kwarkies were they? Blizzy. Whom did they smittch? The fleam. What "kind of fleans were they? Vicrkif. Even though you do not know the meaning of the words in the sentence, you can ma"ke some sense of the entire sentence by studying its syntax.

Using context clues You can often figure out the meaning of an unfamiliar word by looking at its context, the words and sentences that surround it. To learn new words as you read, follow these steps for using context clues.

1. Look before and after the unfamiliar word for:

♦ a definition or a synonym, another word that means the same as the unfamiliar word.

♦ a general topic associated with the word.

♦ a clue to what the word is similar to or different from.

♦ an action or a description that has something to do with the word.

2. Connect what you already know with what the author has written.

3. Predict a possible meaning.

4. Use the meaning in the sentence.

5. Try again if your guess does not make sense.

Using reference materials Dictionaries and other reference sources can help you learn new words. Check out these reference sources:

• A dictionary gives the pronunciation and the meaning or meanings of words. Some dictionaries also give other forms of words, their parts of speech, and synonyms. You might also find the historical background of a word, such as its Greek, Latin, or Anglo-Saxon origins.

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♦ A glossary is a word list that appears at the end—or Appendix—of a book or other written work and includes only words that are in that work. Like dictionaries, glossaries have the pronunciation and definitions of words.

♦ A thesaurus lists groups of words that have the same, or almost the same, meaning. Words with similar meanings are called synonyms. Seeing the synonyms of words can help you build your vocabulary.

Recognizing Word Meanings Across Subjects

Have you ever learned a new word in one class and then noticed it in your reading for other subjects? The word probably will not mean exactly the same thing in each class. But you can use what you know about the word's meaning to help you understand what it means in a different subject area.


Look ilk the following example from three subjects:

Social studies: One major product manufactured in the South is cotton cloth.

Math: After you multiply those hvo numbers, explain how you arrived at the product.

Science: One product of photosynthesis is oxygen.

Reading for a Reason

Why are you reading that paperback mystery? What do you hope to get from your science textbook? And are you going to read either of these books in the same way that you read a restaurant menu? The point is, you read for different reasons. The reason you are reading something helps you decide on the reading strategies you use with a text. In other words, how you read will depend on why you're reading.

Knowing Your Reason for Reading

In school and in life, you will have many reasons for reading, and those reasons will lead you to a wide range of materials. For example,

♦ to learn and understand new Information, you might read news magazines, textbooks, news on the Internet, books about your favorite pastime, encyclopedia articles, primary and secondary sources for a school report, instructions on how to use a calling card, or directions for a standardized test.

♦ to find specific information, you might look at the sports section for the score of last night's game, a notice on where to register for a field trip, weather reports, bank statements, or television listings.

♦ to be entertained, you might read your favorite magazine, e-mails or letters from friends, the Sunday comics, or even novels, short stories, plays, or poems!

Adjusting How Fast You Read

How quickly or how carefully you should read a text depends on your purpose for reading it. Because there are many reasons and ways to read, think about your purpose and choose a strategy that works best. Try out these strategies:

♦ Scanning means quickly running your eyes over the material, looking for key words or phrases that point to the information you're looking for. Scan when you need to find a particular piece or type of information. For example, you might scan a newspaper for movie show times.

♦ Skimming means quickly reading a piece of writing to find its main idea or to get a general overview ot it. For example, you might skim the sports section of the daily news paper to find out how your favorite teams are doing. Or you might skim a chapter in your textbook to prepare for a test.

♦ Careful reading involves reading slowly and paying attention whh a purpose in mind. Read carefully when you're learning new concepts, following complicated directions, or preparing to explain information to someone else.

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