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SAT vocabulary: vexation

This man's expression illustrates the challenge vocabulary word "vexation"
*grumble, grumble”

What does vexation mean? Read below for the definition.

Quick vocab quiz for the word vexation

First, before you read about the word vexation, try this quick vocab quiz:

vexation most nearly means

(A) annoyance
(B) activity
(C) permanence
(D) contortion
(E) dearth

Write your answer down, or just store it in that razor-sharp mind of yours. (If you can’t wait, the answer is below.)

Now let’s learn about the word vexation.

Part of Speech of vexation

vexation is a(n) NOUN.

Pronunciation vexation

Here’s how to pronounce vexation:

IPA: /vɛk.ˈseɪ.ʃən/

Glossary-style: [vehk-SAY-shuhn]

Definition of vexation

vexation means: the state of feeling annoyed, irritated, or bothered (Ex: her vexation was obvious). something that annoys or irritates (Ex: Hot weather can be a vexation for some people.).

Explain more about vexation, please

vexation sounds like a highfalutin word, and perhaps it is, but it really just basically means irritation or annoyance. In simpler language vexation just refers to being irritated, annoyed, bothered, or “bugged”.

Example of vexation

Here’s the word vexation used in a sentence:

The vexation of being lost while on vacation can often turn into something wonderful in that you may end up discovering something interesting by traveling the “road less traveled”.

If you’ve read this far, you’re a great student and will learn vocabulary quickly. You may now check your answer.

Answer to the quick vocab quiz

Answer Click Here to Show the Answer!

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SAT vocabulary: obtuse

A silly face illustrates the challenge vocabulary word "obtuse"
This is how students look when they don’t study.

What does obtuse mean? Read below for the definition.

Quick vocab quiz for the word obtuse

First, before you read about the word obtuse, try this quick vocab quiz:

obtuse most nearly means

(A) shiny
(B) untimely
(C) sharp
(D) tangible
(E) dull

Write your answer down, or just store it in that razor-sharp mind of yours. (If you can’t wait, the answer is below.)

Now let’s learn about the word obtuse.

Part of Speech of obtuse

obtuse is a(n) ADJECTIVE.

Pronunciation obtuse

Here’s how to pronounce obtuse:

IPA: /əb.ˈtus/

Glossary-style: [uhb-TOOS]

Definition of obtuse

obtuse means: not intelligent. lacking intelligence or sensitivity (Ex: an obtuse statement). dull or blunt. (geometry) having an obtuse angle.

Explain more about obtuse, please
Example of obtuse

Here’s the word obtuse used in a sentence:

With a little too much alcohol in his system, Bubba made a few obtuse remarks that we would later greatly regret.

If you’ve read this far, you’re a great student and will learn vocabulary quickly. You may now check your answer.

Answer to the quick vocab quiz

Answer Click Here to Show the Answer!

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SAT vocabulary: inchoate

A tadpole illustrates the challenge vocabulary word "inchoate"
These frogs in training are going to become an army of frogs one day.

What does inchoate mean? Read below for the definition.

Quick vocab quiz for the word inchoate

First, before you read about the word inchoate, try this quick vocab quiz:

inchoate most nearly means

(A) unformed
(B) lucky
(C) new
(D) layered
(E) toxic

Write your answer down, or just store it in that razor-sharp mind of yours. (If you can’t wait, the answer is below.)

Now let’s learn about the word inchoate.

Part of Speech of inchoate

inchoate is a(n) ADJECTIVE.

Pronunciation inchoate

Here’s how to pronounce inchoate:

IPA: /ɪn.ˈkoʊ.ɪt/

Glossary-style: [ihn-KO-iht]

Definition of inchoate

inchoate means: not yet completely formed; still developing (Ex: an inchoate plan). in an early stage of development.

Explain more about inchoate, please

Something that is inchoate is not fully formed; it’s still in the process of growing or becoming more fully formed. We commonly use inchoate today to talk about ideas or plans to change that have just started, i.e., that haven’t yet gotten off the ground.

Example of inchoate

Here’s the word inchoate used in a sentence:

Most of the student’s ideas for his term paper were inchoate–he had a vague idea that he wanted to write something meaningful and world-changing, but he had no specific details.

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Answer to the quick vocab quiz

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SAT Prep Strategies and Practice Questions

What it looks like vs. *how it looks like

Summary: It’s correct to use the question word what with the preposition like, but incorrect to use  the question word how with the preposition like. So what it looks like is correct, but *how it looks like is incorrect. In grammatical terms, we need to use the noun what after the preposition like, not the adverb how.
Introduction

First, take a look at this sentence and the question that follows. Think about whether the constructions are “grammatical” in Standard American English (SAE).

*I’ve heard of John Lennon, but I’ve never seen a picture of him. How does he look like?

If you thought there was something ungrammatical in the writing above, give yourself a pat on the back because you’re right. Here is how the above could be corrected:

I’ve heard of John Lennon, but I’ve never seen a picture of him. How does he look?

This is also correct:

I’ve heard of John Lennon, but I’ve never seen a picture of him. What does he look like?

But why? What’s wrong with the original question? Let’s take a closer look. And don’t worry. We’re going to do this the easy way, so if you run away from grammar terms like conjunctive adverb, you should be okay. Of course, if you have any questions, please post below, and I’ll do my best to help.

The easy explanation

I wrote out five different explanations of why this is wrong, and in the end, I think the easiest way to explain why “how does he look like” is wrong is to use the “move the words around” method, which actually works surprisingly well for a lot of grammar explanations. First, it’s important to wrap your head around the concept that many utterances (i.e., things you say or write) in English can be worded differently and still have more or less the same meaning (although different emphases will likely result). For example, I can ask “What were you writing with?” or “With what were you writing?”, and the two questions mean pretty much the same thing, although of course, the latter sounds more formal than the former. Let’s do the same thing with our above examples.

But we’ll need to shorten things a bit. Let’s just get rid of the opening sentence and focus on the question, i.e., the “what does he look like?” part. Now, let’s rearrange the words a bit, do some other magic, and write two equivalent clauses. Let’s start with the two correct examples:

“What does he look like?” can be rearranged thus: “He looks like… what?”

Similarly, “How does he look” can be reordered like this: “He looks… how?”

Finally, and this is the important one, following the same procedure, “*How does he look like?” would be reordered like this: “*He looks… like how?” Does that sound wrong to your ears? I hope so, because it sure does mine! When was the last time you heard someone say “like how”? We hear “like me”, “like you”, “like a movie”, etc., but not “like how”. Right?

For the same reasons, these are also wrong and need to be rewritten:

  • Not good: *How does eggplant taste like? Better: What does eggplant taste like?
  • Not good: *How does goose down feel like? Better: What does goose down feel like?
  • Not good: *How does lavender smell like? Better: What does lavender smell like?
  • Not good: *How does a foghorn sound like? Better: What does a foghorn sound like?

If you noticed that I used verbs for our senses, you get bonus points.

Curious about the grammar behind all of this? Read on.

But why? Give me the grammar!

Let’s take a look at the grammar. First, we need to understand that the word “like” is a preposition. Second, we need to know this very important grammar rule:

preposition + noun

Prepositions are words such as in, of, with, like, etc. After a preposition, we should have a noun. This noun is called the object of the preposition. For example, if we say “on the table”, “on” is the preposition, and “table” is the object of the preposition “on”. (For more information, see the TestMagic page on prepositions.)

Now hold onto your hats, as this is going to get a bit technical. (Hopefully it’ll all come together in a bit.) We have established that “like” is a preposition and it needs an object (which is a noun). That object is the word “what”. Why? Because “what” is a noun; “how” is not a noun (it’s an adverb). So, if we have “like” in this question, we can’t also have “how” in it; these two words don’t get along, and they can’t be in the same sentence or question together (in this construction, of course). We need to get rid of one or the other. So, we can say “what does he look like” and “how does he look”, but we can’t say “*how does he look like”. Simply put, we need preposition + noun, not preposition + adverb.

Need more detail? Here you go: When we ask a question and expect the answer to be a noun, we use the “question word” (also known as an “interrogative“, “interrogative word“, or “WH question word“) “what” (for things) or “who” or “whom” (for people) at the beginning of the question. For example, if we want to know what you ate for lunch (a thing), we could ask “What did you eat?” Similarly, if we want to know whom you saw, we could ask “Whom did you see?” (Don’t worry right now about the difference between “who” and “whom”; that’s a whole different subject!) And to wrap this up, since we’re using these words in questions and because they’re used to ask for nouns as answers, they’re called interrogative (“interrogative” basically means “asking”) pronouns (words that substitute, replace, or refer to nouns). In other words, they are question words that function as nouns. In other words, you use a noun in the question to get a noun as the answer.

In contrast, when we ask somebody “how” (followed by a clause), we want to know the way something happened, the qualities of something, etc. In other words, we’re looking for an answer that’s an adverb or an adjective. And yes, “how” is an interrogative adverb, if you were wondering.

So that’s it! Let me know if you’d like some clarifications or further explanations.

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SAT vocabulary: malleable

A bent spoon illustrates the challenge vocabulary word "malleable"
This is my spoon after a 3,000-calorie dinner at the Cheesecake Factory.

What does malleable mean? Read below for the definition.

Quick vocab quiz for the word malleable

First, before you read about the word malleable, try this quick vocab quiz:

malleable most nearly means

(A) unstable
(B) happy
(C) praiseworthy
(D) manipulable
(E) tender

Write your answer down, or just store it in that razor-sharp mind of yours. (If you can’t wait, the answer is below.)

Now let’s learn about the word malleable.

Part of Speech of malleable

malleable is an ADJECTIVE.

Pronunciation malleable

Here’s how to pronounce malleable:

IPA: /ˈmæl.i.ə.bəl/

Glossary-style: [MAHL-ee-uh-buhl]

Definition of malleable

malleable means: able to be shaped or formed. able to adapt to changes. easily controlled or influenced.

Explain more about malleable, please

When I think of malleable, I think of soft metals, such as gold, lead, or even aluminum. But malleable can refer to pretty much anything that is flexible or bendable, either literally or metaphorically. So a malleable person would be someone who can easily fit in or adapt to different situations.

Example of malleable

Here’s the word malleable used in a sentence:

Gold and lead are common examples of malleable metals; gold, for example, is so soft that you can dent it with your fingernail.

If you’ve read this far, you’re a great student and will learn vocabulary quickly. You may now check your answer.

Answer to the quick vocab quiz

Answer Click Here to Show the Answer!

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SAT vocabulary: innocuous

Photo of a "granddaddy long-legs" to illustrate the vocabulary word "innocuous"
The itsy bitsy spider has no venom to hurt you.

What does innocuous mean? Read below for the definition.

Quick vocab quiz for the word innocuous

First, before you read about the word innocuous, try this quick vocab quiz:

innocuous most nearly means

(A) appealing
(B) shiny
(C) toxic
(D) harmless
(E) noxious

Write your answer down, or just store it in that razor-sharp mind of yours. (If you can’t wait, the answer is below.)

Now let’s learn about the word innocuous.

Part of Speech of innocuous

innocuous is an ADJECTIVE.

Pronunciation innocuous

Here’s how to pronounce innocuous:

IPA: /ɪ.ˈnɒ.kyu.əs/

Glossary-style: [ih-NA-kyoo-uhs]

Definition of innocuous

innocuous means: having no harmful effects; harmless. not likely to offend anyone; inoffensive or bland (Ex: an innocuous statement).

Explain more about innocuous, please

If something is innocuous, then it is harmless. Something that’s innocuous can’t hurt you, harm you, or make your life worse.

Example of innocuous

Here’s the word innocuous used in a sentence:

Politicians are famous for making innocuous statements that are unlikely to offend even the most conservative of voters.

If you’ve read this far, you’re a great student and will learn vocabulary quickly. You may now check your answer.

Answer to the quick vocab quiz

Answer Click Here to Show the Answer!

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SAT vocabulary: onerous

A girl hauling bricks. Used to illustrate the vocab word "onerous"
“Oh I’ve been working on the railroad! All the live-long day!”

What does onerous mean? Read below for the definition.

Quick vocab quiz for the word onerous

First, before you read about the word onerous, try this quick vocab quiz:

onerous most nearly means

(A) basic
(B) singular
(C) exhaustive
(D) unpopular
(E) burdensome

Write your answer down, or just store it in that razor-sharp mind of yours. (If you can’t wait, the answer is below.)

Now let’s learn about the word onerous.

Part of Speech of onerous

onerous is an ADJECTIVE.

Pronunciation onerous

Here’s how to pronounce onerous:

IPA: /ˈoʊ.nə.rəs/

Glossary-style: [OH-nuh-ruhs]

Definition of onerous

onerous means: burdensome, difficult, or tiring (Ex: an onerous task).

Explain more about onerous, please

If something is onerous, it is difficult or tiresome to do. A good synonym of onerous is burdensome (which of course comes from the word burden or load to carry), so it might help to imagine carrying a heavy load of something and how hard that would be to do.

We also sometimes use the word onerous to refer to laws, rules, taxes, and the like. For example, we could say that it’s difficult to open a business in some countries because of onerous laws and regulations.

Example of onerous

Here’s the word onerous used in a sentence:

Few volunteered for the onerous job of cleaning the park after the music festival; picking up innumerable discarded bottles and cups that careless people have discarded is no sane person’s idea of fun.

If you’ve read this far, you’re a great student and will learn vocabulary quickly. You may now check your answer.

Answer to the quick vocab quiz

Answer Click Here to Show the Answer!

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SAT vocabulary: castigation

Bas-relief sculpture with one man flogging another
The ancients apparently used feather dusters as weapons.

What does castigation mean? Read below for the definition.

Quick vocab quiz for the word castigation

First, before you read about the word castigation, try this quick vocab quiz:

castigation most nearly means

(A) pain
(B) scolding
(C) information
(D) temptation
(E) rescue

Write your answer down, or just store it in that razor-sharp mind of yours. (If you can’t wait, the answer is below.)

Now let’s learn about the word castigation.

Part of Speech of castigation

castigation is a NOUN.

Pronunciation castigation

Here’s how to pronounce castigation:

IPA: /kæ.stɪ.ˈgeɪ.ʃən/

Glossary-style: [kah-stih-GAY-shuhn]

Definition of castigation

castigation means: severe criticism (Ex: acts worthy of castigation). severe punishment.

Explain more about castigation, please

castigation has a few meanings that are related. castigation means a kind of harsh criticism, especially criticims that is angry and results from immoral or bad behavior. (The idea is that the castigation comes from someone getting very angry about something he thinks is wrong.)

castigation can also refer to a kind of punishment, although it’s unusual to use this word as a simple synonym of punishment.

Example of castigation

Here’s the word castigation used in a sentence:

The vicious castigation the politician received was well-deserved–he lied to the public about his family life and ultimately abandoned his wife in her time of need.

If you’ve read this far, you’re a great student and will learn vocabulary quickly. You may now check your answer.

Answer to the quick vocab quiz

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SAT vocabulary: diatribe

What does diatribe mean? Read below for the definition.

Quick vocab quiz for the word diatribe

First, before you read about the word diatribe, try this quick vocab quiz:

diatribe most nearly means

(A) shout
(B) giggle
(C) group
(D) rant
(E) whisper

Write your answer down, or just store it in that razor-sharp mind of yours. (If you can’t wait, the answer is below.)

Now let’s learn about the word diatribe.

Part of Speech of diatribe

diatribe is a NOUN.

Pronunciation diatribe

Here’s how to pronounce diatribe:

IPA: /ˈdaɪ.ə.traɪb/

Glossary-style: [DY-uh-tryb]

Definition of diatribe

diatribe means: an angry, abusive verbal attack (Ex: a diatribe on rampant crime).

Man yelling angrily
“I ordered animal style AND extra pickles. WHERE ARE MY EXTRA PICKLES?”
Explain more about diatribe, please

You know when someone yells or scream non-stop about something that he’s angry about? And just keeps yelling and yelling? That’s a diatribe.

A diatribe is a lot like a rant, and there’s a lot of overlap between the words diatribe and rant, but a rant can be simple, angry speech (i.e., it could include illogical, incoherent speech), whereas a diatribe connotes criticism.

Usage note: It’s common to use the phrase launch into a diatribe.

Example of diatribe

Here’s the word diatribe used in a sentence:

The candidate’s diatribe on the faults of his opponent only made him look worse in the eyes of the public.

If you’ve read this far, you’re a great student and will learn vocabulary quickly. You may now check your answer.

Answer to the quick vocab quiz

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SAT vocabulary: comely

What does comely mean? Read below for the definition.

Quick vocab quiz for the word comely

First, before you read about the word comely, try this quick vocab quiz:

comely most nearly means

(A) nice
(B) smart
(C) pretty
(D) funny
(E) radiant

Write your answer down, or just store it in that razor-sharp mind of yours. (If you can’t wait, the answer is below.)

Now let’s learn about the word comely.

Part of Speech of comely

comely is an ADJECTIVE.

Pronunciation comely

Here’s how to pronounce comely:

IPA: /’kəm.li/

Glossary-style: [KUHM-lee]

Definition of comely

comely means: attractive, having a pleasing appearance (Ex: a comely person). proper (Ex: behave in a comely way).

Anne Hathaway with her hair pulled back
If ever there were a photo that begged for some photo manipulation, this is it.

Explain more about comely, please

comely is just a really cool word that means pretty or attractive.

We can also use the word comely to mean proper, but that usage isn’t as common in modern American English as is the usage to mean pleasing to the eye.

Example of comely

Here’s the word comely used in a sentence:

She is more than just a comely person with a beautiful smile and laugh; she also possesses beauty in her mind and heart.

If you’ve read this far, you’re a great student and will learn vocabulary quickly. You may now check your answer.

Answer to the quick vocab quiz

Answer Click Here to Show the Answer!