English teachers often say that when you are reading and you come across a tricky word that you don’t know the meaning of, it’s best to try and guess the meaning from its context. But what if you have no idea at all? How can you guess the meaning?
If that’s the case, you need to think logically about the word and ask yourself some specific questions to get your brain thinking about what the meaning of that word is. If you find an unknown word when you are reading, try asking yourself these questions to help guess the meaning.
What kind of word is it?
Is it a verb, noun, adjective or adverb? Knowing what kind of word it is will help you move onto the next step in guessing the meaning.
Is it part of an expression or idiom?
If there are two or more words that just don’t make sense together, maybe they are part of an expression or idiom.
If it’s noun, what kind of thing is it? Is it a name? An object? An abstract noun?
If it’s an object, what does it look like? Look for clues elsewhere in the sentence or paragraph to help you guess.
If it’s an adjective, is it positive or negative?
If it’s a verb, is it an action or a state? If it’s an action, look for what the result of that action is – that will give you a clue to what the verb means.
For state verbs, if they relate to feelings, look at the rest of the sentence and think; “How would I feel in that situation?” Chances are that the person in the text is feeling the same.
For adverbs, think: ‘Have I seen something similar before?’ Adverbs are often closely related to other parts of speech and it can be easy to spot similarities. Be careful though, not all adverbs mean the same as you would expect.
With phrasal verbs, cover up the expression and think; “Is there another word I could use here that would mean the same?” Phrasal verbs often have simple synonyms that are easier to remember than two separate words.
So, those are some useful questions to help guess a word’s meaning. Do you have any more of your own to add to the list? If so, let us know in the comments section below.