Confused Words Exercise (252)

In each sentence, choose the correct word from the pair of similar terms. (If both words possibly can be correct, choose the more plausible one.)

  • The priest gave the distressed parent comforting words that _____ his suffering.

  • After the break-in it was discovered that the burglars had taken six computers and a/an ______ sketch by Rembrandt.

  • Remember, we don’t have invitations to this reception; don’t do anything that would make us ______.

  • Her family never could understand why she would want to _____ family life by becoming a nun.

  • Even after three-quarters of a century, people who remember the 1940s shudder at the _______ of the crimes committed by the Nazi regime during World War II.

Answers and Explanations

1. The priest gave the distressed parent comforting words that alleviated his suffering.

Relieve and alleviate are close synonyms, but in this context, relieve would suggest that the suffering had been lifted, while alleviate suggests that it was lessened but still present.

2. After the break-in it was discovered that the burglars had taken six computers and a/an invaluable sketch by Rembrandt.

Things that have a value that can be exchanged for money are said to be valuable. Personal qualities are also said to be valuable. Artwork and historical artifacts may have a market price put on them, but they are said to be invaluable because replacing them would be impossible.

3. Remember, we don’t have invitations to this reception; don’t do anything that would make us obtrusive.

To be intrusive is to thrust yourself into a situation where you are not wanted. Making yourself noticeable is to be obtrusive. The speaker in the example is being intrusive; that is why the companion is being warned not to be obtrusive.

4. Her family never could understand why she would want to renounce family life by becoming a nun.

To denounce someone or something is to declare that it is blameworthy or even evil. To renounce something is to give it up. The connotation of renounce is that sacrifice is involved.

5. Even after three-quarters of a century, people who remember the 1940s shudder at the enormity of the crimes committed by the Nazi regime during World War II.

Enormousness refers to something vast in size. The Nazi crimes were numerous, but the word needed here is one that expresses the idea of great wickedness. Enormity does that.

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