Adjective Choice Exercise (195)

Synonyms close in meaning often vary in connotation (emotional effect on the reader). Choose the most appropriate adjectives for each of the following sentences.

  • Al Capone was a ______ criminal.

  • When found by the police, the ______ man who had wandered from the nursing facility was unable to tell them his name.

  • Because of the food shortage, the family had to survive on ______ rations.

  • The ______ adolescent believed everything he read about how to get rich without the inconvenience of hard work.

  • The heartbroken woman ______ the Valentine card in two with trembling hands.

Answers and Explanations

1. Al Capone was a notorious criminal.

The words famous and celebrated carry a connotion of approval. Notorious conveys the idea of notoriety, that is, "fame for evil-doing."

2. When found by the police, the senile man who had wandered from the nursing facility was unable to tell them his name.

Elderly is a general term for people viewed as being past their prime. For some, elderly means "past middle age"; for others, "seventy years old and older." Decrepit connotes a physical infirmity. Senile once meant simply "relating to old age." In current usage, it is generally used to denote failing mental abilities.

3. Because of the food shortage, the family had to survive on meager rations.

All three words, minute, diminutive, and meager, mean "small." Diminutive is usually used in reference to a size that is smaller in comparison to something else. Minute means something extremely tiny. Meager is commonly used to describe things that ought to be larger.

4. The impressionable adolescent believed everything he read about how to get rich without the inconvenience of hard work.

Impressionable means "easily influenced." Impersonal means "not affecting the emotions." Impassive means "not having feelings." (Note: these three words are not synonyms; they just begin with the same prefix.)

5. The heartbroken woman tore the Valentine card in two with trembling hands.

Shred means to tear or cut into many pieces. Sliced means to cut carefully, usually with a sharp weapon. Tear (past tense tore) is "to divide into parts." Tearing can be accomplished by any means.

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