Common Core: 8th Grade English Language Arts : Use Context Clues to Determine Word Meanings: CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.L.8.4.A

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Example Questions

Example Question #3 : Language

Select a word that could replace the underlined word, without changing the meaning of the provided sentence. 

Jessica was so pleased that her parents were taking her to Florida. 

Possible Answers:

delighted 

devastated

fearful 

sad

Correct answer:

delighted 

Explanation:

In order to avoid changing the meaning of the sentence, we need to replace the underlined word with a synonym. 

"Pleased" means to be happy about. Of the choices provided, "delighted" means the same thing as "pleased" and "happy". 

"Sad", "devastated", and "fearful" are all antonyms of "pleased", they mean the opposite of being happy. 

Example Question #4 : Language

Select a word that could replace the underlined word, without changing the meaning of the provided sentence. 

Tim was fearful about his first day at his new job. 

Possible Answers:

anxious 

excited

confident 

encouraged 

Correct answer:

anxious 

Explanation:

In order to avoid changing the meaning of the sentence, we need to replace the underlined word with a synonym. 

Both "fearful" and "anxious" mean to be scared. 

"Excited", "confident", and "encouraged" are all antonyms of scared, they mean to feel comfortable or happy. 

Example Question #5 : Language

Select a word that could replace the underlined word, without changing the meaning of the provided sentence. 

Kelly was so drained from staying up late at the sleepover. 

Possible Answers:

rested

activated 

drowsy 

energized 

Correct answer:

drowsy 

Explanation:

In order to avoid changing the meaning of the sentence, we need to replace the underlined word with a synonym. 

"Drained" and "drowsy" both mean to be tired. "Energized", "activated", and "rested" are all antonyms, they all mean to be awake. 

Example Question #6 : Language

Adapted from "The Cask of Amontillado" by Edgar Allan Poe (1846)

The thousand injuries of Fortunato I had borne as I best could, but when he ventured upon insult I vowed revenge. You, who so well know the nature of my soul, will not suppose, however, that I gave utterance to a threat. At length I would be avenged; this was a point definitively settled — but the very definitiveness with which it was resolved precluded the idea of risk. I must not only punish but punish with impunity1. A wrong is unredressed2 when retribution overtakes its redresser. It is equally unredressed when the avenger fails to make himself felt as such to him who has done the wrong.

It must be understood that neither by word nor deed had I given Fortunato cause to doubt my good will. I continued, as was my wont, to smile in his face, and he did not perceive that my smile now was at the thought of his immolation3.

He had a weak point — this Fortunato — although in other regards he was a man to be respected and even feared. He prided himself upon his connoisseurship in wine. Few Italians have the true virtuoso spirit. For the most part their enthusiasm is adopted to suit the time and opportunity, to practice imposture upon the British and Austrian millionaires. In painting and gemmary, Fortunato, like his countrymen, was a quack, but in the matter of old wines he was sincere. In this respect I did not differ from him materially; — I was skillful in the Italian vintages myself, and bought largely whenever I could.

It was about dusk, one evening during the supreme madness of the carnival season, that I encountered my friend. He accosted me with excessive warmth, for he had been drinking much. The man wore motley. He had on a tight-fitting parti-striped dress, and his head was surmounted by the conical cap and bells. I was so pleased to see him that I thought I should never have done wringing his hand.

I said to him — “My dear Fortunato, you are luckily met. How remarkably well you are looking today. But I have received a pipe of what passes for Amontillado, and I have my doubts.”

“How?” said he. “Amontillado? A pipe? Impossible! And in the middle of the carnival!”

“I have my doubts,” I replied; “and I was silly enough to pay the full Amontillado price without consulting you in the matter. You were not to be found, and I was fearful of losing a bargain.”

“Amontillado!”

“I have my doubts.”

“Amontillado!” 

“And I must satisfy them.”

“Amontillado!”

“As you are engaged, I am on my way to Luchresi. If any one has a critical turn it is he. He will tell me ——”

“Luchresi cannot tell Amontillado from Sherry4.”

“And yet some fools will have it that his taste is a match for your own.”

“Come, let us go.”

“Whither?”

“To your vaults.”

 

1. "Impunity," n. immunity from punishment
2. The verb "redress," not directly used in the passage, means to amend or rectify a wrong
3. "Immolation," n. utter destruction, esp. that of a sacrificial victim by being burned
4. "Sherry," n. a type of fortified wine

In the sixth paragraph, the underlined and bolded word "pipe" most nearly means __________.

Possible Answers:

a conduit used to conduct liquids or gasses over large distances

a wine cask of specific size

an instrument used for smoking tobacco

a musical instrument

a song played in a high octave

Correct answer:

a wine cask of specific size

Explanation:

We'll need to use context clues to figure out what the author means when he uses the word "pipe." Don't jump to conclusions and pick the most familiar answer choice without considering the word in the passage. Make sure to find it in the paragraph indicated and consider it's specific context—that is, the words and sentences around it—before picking your answer choice.

The context in which the word "pipe" appears is as follows:

I said to him — “My dear Fortunato, you are luckily met. How remarkably well you are looking today. But I have received a pipe of what passes for Amontillado, and I have my doubts.”

“How?” said he. “Amontillado? A pipe? Impossible! And in the middle of the carnival!”

We can tell from this exchange that "pipe" is being used as a noun that indicates some sort of unit or container of amontillado. Music and songs aren't mentioned at all, so neither "a musical instrument" nor "a song played in a high octave" is correct. "Pipe" might often be used to mean "a conduit used to conduct liquids or gasses over large distances," but that's not how it's being used here. It indicates a definite amount of amontillado, not a conduit through which a non-definite amount of something might travel. Furthermore, "an instrument used for smoking tobacco" is also another common use of the word "pipe," but we can figure out that this isn't the correct answer by noting that "amontillado" is closely compared with "sherry" when Fortunato insults Luchresi by saying, "Luchresi cannot tell Amontillado from Sherry." "Sherry," the footnotes inform us, is a type of fortified wine, so "amontillado" must be something very similar to a type of fortified wine. We can infer that it is most likely also a liquid, so "an instrument used for smoking tobacco" can't be correct, because it would at least need to deal with something solid, not liquid. The correct answer is "a wine cask of specific size." This captures the "unit of measurement" aspect as well as the fact that it has to do with a liquid.

Example Question #7 : Language

Adapted from "The Cask of Amontillado" by Edgar Allan Poe (1846)

The thousand injuries of Fortunato I had borne as I best could, but when he ventured upon insult I vowed revenge. You, who so well know the nature of my soul, will not suppose, however, that I gave utterance to a threat. At length I would be avenged; this was a point definitively settled — but the very definitiveness with which it was resolved precluded the idea of risk. I must not only punish but punish with impunity1. A wrong is unredressed2 when retribution overtakes its redresser. It is equally unredressed when the avenger fails to make himself felt as such to him who has done the wrong.

It must be understood that neither by word nor deed had I given Fortunato cause to doubt my good will. I continued, as was my wont, to smile in his face, and he did not perceive that my smile now was at the thought of his immolation3.

He had a weak point — this Fortunato — although in other regards he was a man to be respected and even feared. He prided himself upon his connoisseurship in wine. Few Italians have the true virtuoso spirit. For the most part their enthusiasm is adopted to suit the time and opportunity, to practice imposture upon the British and Austrian millionaires. In painting and gemmary, Fortunato, like his countrymen, was a quack, but in the matter of old wines he was sincere. In this respect I did not differ from him materially; — I was skillful in the Italian vintages myself, and bought largely whenever I could.

It was about dusk, one evening during the supreme madness of the carnival season, that I encountered my friend. He accosted me with excessive warmth, for he had been drinking much. The man wore motley. He had on a tight-fitting parti-striped dress, and his head was surmounted by the conical cap and bells. I was so pleased to see him that I thought I should never have done wringing his hand.

I said to him — “My dear Fortunato, you are luckily met. How remarkably well you are looking today. But I have received a pipe of what passes for Amontillado, and I have my doubts.”

“How?” said he. “Amontillado? A pipe? Impossible! And in the middle of the carnival!”

“I have my doubts,” I replied; “and I was silly enough to pay the full Amontillado price without consulting you in the matter. You were not to be found, and I was fearful of losing a bargain.”

“Amontillado!”

“I have my doubts.”

“Amontillado!” 

“And I must satisfy them.”

“Amontillado!”

“As you are engaged, I am on my way to Luchresi. If any one has a critical turn it is he. He will tell me ——”

“Luchresi cannot tell Amontillado from Sherry4.”

“And yet some fools will have it that his taste is a match for your own.”

“Come, let us go.”

“Whither?”

“To your vaults.”

 

1. "Impunity," n. immunity from punishment
2. The verb "redress," not directly used in the passage, means to amend or rectify a wrong
3. "Immolation," n. utter destruction, esp. that of a sacrificial victim by being burned
4. "Sherry," n. a type of fortified wine

Based on the passage, which of the following is closest to the meaning of "amontillado"?

Possible Answers:

A type of poem with a very specific rhyme scheme

A valuable type of wine

A fruit that has historically been particularly expensive in Italy

A small sculpture carved out of ice

A rare variety of ancient painting

Correct answer:

A valuable type of wine

Explanation:

"Amontillado" is an important word to understand in this story. It appears in the title, and the characters spend a lot of their dialogue discussing it. So, what is it? We'll have to use context clues to figure this out.

Not counting the title, when is amontillado first mentioned in the story? The narrator—whom we know to be out to get revenge on Fortunato, since he's directly told us this—meets Fortunato at the carnival and says "But I have received a pipe of what passes for Amontillado, and I have my doubts." Fortunato is flabbergasted at this news. ("Impossible! And in the middle of the carnival!") The narrator mentions that he "was silly enough to pay the full Amontillado price without consulting you in the matter." Why would the narrator want to consult Forunato about amontillado? What do we know about Fortunato's expertise? We're told earlier that Fortunato "prided himself upon his connoisseurship in wine" and that "In painting and gemmary, Fortunato, like his countrymen, was a quack, but in the matter of old wines he was sincere." Ok, so maybe amontillado has something to do with wine. Let's read on.

As the two characters continue to talk, the narrator says, “As you are engaged, I am on my way to Luchresi. If any one has a critical turn it is he. He will tell me ——” At this point Fortunato interrupts, saying, “Luchresi cannot tell Amontillado from Sherry4.” Aha! This is a useful comparison for our purposes. The gist of Fortunato's statement is "Luchresi isn't that smart. He can't tell apart amontillado and sherry." This tells us that amontillado must necessarily be quite similar to sherry, or it wouldn't be a demonstration of how skilled and smart you are to be able to tell them apart. The footnotes tell us that "sherry" is a type of fortified wine. So, it turns out that our initial hypothesis was correct—amontillado must be a type of wine, or something very like wine. Given this, the best answer choice—and the correct one—is "a valuable type of wine."

Example Question #8 : Language

Adapted from "Save the Redwoods" by John Muir in Sierra Club Bulletin Volume XI Number 1 (January 1920)

Forty-seven years ago one of these Calaveras King Sequoias was laboriously cut down, that the stump might be had for a dancing-floor. Another, one of the finest in the grove, was skinned alive to a height of one hundred and sixteen feet and the bark sent to London to show how fine and big that Calaveras tree was—as sensible a scheme as skinning our great men would be to prove their greatness. Now some millmen want to cut all the Calaveras trees into lumber and money. No doubt these trees would make good lumber after passing through a sawmill, as George Washington after passing through the hands of a French cook would have made good food. But both for Washington and the tree that bears his name higher uses have been found.

Could one of these Sequoia Kings come to town in all its godlike majesty so as to be strikingly seen and allowed to plead its own cause, there would never again be any lack of defenders. And the same may be said of all the other Sequoia groves and forests of the Sierra with their companions and the noble Sequoia sempervirens, or redwood, of the coast mountains.

In these noble groves and forests to the southward of the Calaveras Grove the axe and saw have long been busy, and thousands of the finest Sequoias have been felled, blasted into manageable dimensions, and sawed into lumber by methods destructive almost beyond belief, while fires have spread still wider and more lamentable ruin. In the course of my explorations twenty-five years ago, I found five sawmills located on or near the lower margin of the Sequoia belt, all of which were cutting more or less [Sequoia gigantea] lumber, which looks like the redwood of the coast, and was sold as redwood. One of the smallest of these mills in the season of 1874 sawed two million feet of Sequoia lumber. Since that time other mills have been built among the Sequoias, notably the large ones on Kings River and the head of the Fresno. The destruction of these grand trees is still going on. On the other hand, the Calaveras Grove for forty years has been faithfully protected by Mr. Sperry, and with the exception of the two trees mentioned above is still in primeval beauty. For the thousands of acres of Sequoia forest outside of reservations and national parks, and in the hands of lumbermen, no help is in sight. 

Any fool can destroy trees. They cannot defend themselves or run away. And few destroyers of trees ever plant any; nor can planting avail much toward restoring our grand aboriginal giants. It took more than three thousand years to make some of the oldest of the Sequoias, trees that are still standing in perfect strength and beauty, waving and singing in the mighty forests of the Sierra.

Based on the rest of the passage, which of the following is closest in meaning to the underlined word "millmen" in meaning?

Possible Answers:

lumberjacks

farmers

environmentalists

scientists

politicians

Correct answer:

lumberjacks

Explanation:

We need to consider the overall topics discussed in the passage to figure out what the author means by "millmen." In what part of the passage is this word found?

Now some millmen want to cut all the Calaveras trees into lumber and money. No doubt these trees would make good lumber after passing through a sawmill, as George Washington after passing through the hands of a French cook would have made good food. But both for Washington and the tree that bears his name higher uses have been found.

Here, we're told that these "millmen" want to "cut" the Sequoia trees "into lumber and money." The author then offers a concession, stating that "No doubt these trees would make good lumber after passing through a sawmill." (He then upends that concession by using a comparison to make its claim look utterly ridiculous.) The important part of this sentence for us is that the author is discussing lumber and sawmills. The "mills" in "millmen" are "sawmills," so "millmen" are the people who operate and work at a sawmill. This meaning is closest to that of "lumberjacks."

Example Question #7 : Language

Adapted from “Feathers of Sea Birds and Wild Fowl for Bedding” from The Utility of Birds by Edward Forbush (ed. 1922)

In the colder countries of the world, the feathers and down of waterfowl have been in great demand for centuries. These materials have been used as filling for beds and pillows. Such feathers are perfect insulators of heat, and beds, pillows, or coverlets filled with them represent the acme of comfort and durability. 

The early settlers of New England saved for such purposes the feathers and down from the thousands of wild-fowl which they killed, but as the population of people increased, the quantity of feathers furnished in this manner became insufficient, and the people sought a larger supply in the vast colonies of ducks and geese along the Labrador coast. 

The manner in which the feathers and down were obtained, unlike the method practiced in Iceland, did not tend to conserve and protect the source of supply. In Iceland, the people have continued to receive for many years a considerable income by collecting eider down (the small, fluffy feathers of eider ducks), but there they do not “kill the goose that lays the golden eggs.” Ducks line their nests with down plucked from their own breasts and that of the eider is particularly valuable for bedding. In Iceland, these birds are so carefully protected that they have become as tame and unsuspicious as domestic fowls In North America. Where they are constantly hunted they often conceal their nests in the midst of weeds or bushes, but in Iceland, they make their nests and deposit their eggs in holes dug for them in the sod. A supply of the ducks is maintained so that the people derive from them an annual income.

In North America, quite a different policy was pursued. The demand for feathers became so great in the New England colonies during the middle of the eighteenth century that vessels were sent to Labrador for the express purpose of securing the feathers and down of wild fowl. Eider down having become valuable and these ducks being in the habit of congregating by thousands on barren islands of the Labrador coast, the birds became the victims of the ships’ crews. As the ducks molt all their primary feathers at once in July or August and are then quite incapable of flight and the young birds are unable to fly until well grown, the hunters were able to surround the helpless birds, drive them together, and kill them with clubs. Otis says that millions of wildfowl were thus destroyed and that in a few years their haunts were so broken up by this wholesale slaughter and their numbers were so diminished that feather voyages became unprofitable and were given up. 

This practice, followed by the almost continual egging, clubbing, shooting, etc. by Labrador fishermen, may have been a chief factor in the extinction of the Labrador duck. No doubt had the eider duck been restricted in its breeding range to the islands of Labrador, it also would have been exterminated long ago.

Based on the context in which it is used, what is the most likely meaning of the underlined word “egging” in the passage’s last paragraph?

Possible Answers:

The laying of eggs

The encouraging of someone

The hatching of eggs

The gathering and removing of eggs

The act of throwing eggs at a target

Correct answer:

The gathering and removing of eggs

Explanation:

The word “egging” appears in the following sentence in the passage:

This practice, followed by the almost continual egging, clubbing, shooting, etc. by Labrador fishermen, may have been a chief factor in the extinction of the Labrador duck.

The word “egging” is here clearly describing something with a bad connotation, as it appears in parallel with “clubbing” and “shooting.” We can infer that it must mean doing something to hurt the ducks, as “clubbing” and “shooting” have that in common. This lets us discard the answer choices “the laying of eggs” and “the hatching of eggs.” These wouldn’t hurt the ducks, and at any rate, ducks lay their own eggs and then those eggs hatch; neither answer choice makes sense when used to describe something humans could do to duck eggs. While to “egg someone on” can mean to encourage that person, that is not the meaning that is being used in the passage, so we can ignore this answer choice as well. This leaves us with “the act of throwing eggs at a target” and “the destruction of eggs.” Nothing suggests that the eggs are being thrown at the ducks, so the better answer choice is the more general one, “the gathering and removing of eggs.” Indeed, this makes more sense, as the hunters could probably eat or sell the eggs.

Example Question #1 : Use Context Clues To Determine Word Meanings: Ccss.Ela Literacy.L.8.4.A

Adapted from Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson (1883)

He was a very silent man by custom. All day he hung round the cove or upon the cliffs with a brass telescope; all evening he sat in a corner of the parlor next the fire and drank rum and water very strong. Mostly he would not speak when spoken to, only look up sudden and fierce and blow through his nose like a fog-horn; and we and the people who came about our house soon learned to let him be. Every day when he came back from his stroll he would ask if any seafaring men had gone by along the road. 

I was far less afraid of the captain than anybody else who knew him. There were nights when he would sometimes sit and sing his wicked, old, wild sea-songs, minding nobody; but sometimes he would call for glasses round and force all the trembling company to listen to his stories or bear a chorus to his singing. His stories were what frightened people worst of all. Dreadful stories they were—about hanging, and walking the plank, and storms at sea, and the Dry Tortugas, and wild deeds and places on the Spanish Main. By his own account he must have lived his life among some of the wickedest men upon the sea, and the language in which he told these stories shocked our plain country people almost as much as the crimes that he described. My father was always saying the inn would be ruined, for people would soon cease coming there to be tyrannized over and put down, and sent shivering to their beds; but I really believe his presence did us good. People were frightened at the time, but on looking back they rather liked it; it was a fine excitement in a quiet country life, and there was even a party of the younger men who pretended to admire him, calling him a "true sea-dog" and a "real old salt" and such like names, and saying there was the sort of man that made England terrible at sea.

In the last line of the passage, the word "terrible" is used to mean which of the following?

Possible Answers:

Of low quality

Unskilled and weak

Evil and maliscious

Formidable and powerful

Ill and nauseous

Correct answer:

Formidable and powerful

Explanation:

We can figure out what particular definition of "terrible" is meant in the passage by considering the context in which the word is used—that is, the meaning of the rest of the words around it. Let's consider the clause in which "terrible" appears. The narrator is talking about the unusual sailor staying in his family's inn, and says,

. . . it was a fine excitement in a quiet country life, and there was even a party of the younger men who pretended to admire him, calling him a "true sea-dog" and a "real old salt" and such like names, and saying there was the sort of man that made England terrible at sea.

So, some young men call the sailor a "true sea-dog" and a "real old salt." These are meant to be positive names, as we can tell because the narrator says that these young men "pretend to admire" the sailor. They also say that the sailor is "the sort of man that made England terrible at sea." If the young men are saying otherwise nice things about the sailor, it wouldn't make sense for them to suddenly and without warning switch perspectives and say something insulting, like that the sailor made England "unskilled and weak" at sea, or "evil and malicious" at sea. The answer choices "of low quality" and "ill and nauseous" don't make any sense as potential meanings for "terrible," so the correct answer must be the only remaining answer choice, "formidable and powerful." This answer makes sense, because as a meaning of "terrible," it would allow the young men to be saying something positive about the sailor, which would match the tenor of the other things they say about him.

Example Question #2 : Use Context Clues To Determine Word Meanings: Ccss.Ela Literacy.L.8.4.A

Passage 1

It’s a great time to be green! Environmentally friendly practices have become very popular with shoppers. Business owners can capitalize on this trend by accurately advertising how their products are good for the environment, such as by using recycled materials.

Many shoppers associate the color green with sustainability. So, consider using eye-catching green details on your products when describing how they help the environment. You may want to incorporate symbols of nature into your advertising as well. Popular symbols associated with sustainability include leaves, trees, and flowers. These details may not seem important, but they are. The visual way in which a sustainability claim is made can make the difference between a shopper trying your product or leaving it on the shelf.

Some people want to regulate sustainability claims. This is a bad idea. Increased regulation would be an unnecessary burden on businesses. It would slow the time it takes them to adapt to trends. If every advertising decision had to be approved by a regulating body, a lot of time would be wasted. Just think how ridiculous it would be if you wanted to use a blue logo instead of a red one and had to fill out paperwork approving that decision! The threat of increased regulation is all the more reason to emphasize the greenness of your products today.

 

Passage 2

Environmentalism has become very popular lately. As a result, many products are emphasizing “green” status—that is, how they help protect the environment. This trend has been accompanied by an ugly shadow: “greenwashing.” “Greenwashing” is the practice of making false claims about a product’s sustainability. Companies can say that a product is “greener” than it really is. These false claims are made so that the product can appeal to shoppers.

As a result, shoppers have become less confident about all sustainability claims. There’s no way to tell from packaging and advertisements if a product is actually helping the environment or just claiming to do so. And it’s not easy to research products in the aisles of a supermarket or department store! It’s certainly extra work that many shoppers won’t do. Instead, they ignore “green” claims completely.

Competition and “greenwashing” have also encouraged companies to prioritize appearing green over actually being green. As a result, money is spent on making products appear to be something they are not instead of on actually improving the products and making them more sustainable.

So, what can we do? We need to start by regulating sustainability claims. This way, consumers can be confident that claims they see are true, since false claims would not be allowed on packaging. This will be a step in the right direction.

The use of the word “green” in the underlined sentence in Passage 1 is closest in meaning to which of the following?

Possible Answers:

Appearing to be physically ill

Having a particular color, that of grass

Envious

Having to do with money and profit

Environmentally sustainable

Correct answer:

Having a particular color, that of grass

Explanation:

The word "green" is used in many different ways throughout these passages, so it's important to find this particular use of the word in the passage and use the information around it to figure out how the author is using it. Here is the underlined sentence and the one that precedes it:

Many shoppers associate the color green with sustainability. So, consider using eye-catching green details on your products when describing how they help the environment.

While elsewhere in the passage "green" is used to mean environmentally sustainable, that is not how it's being used here. The sentence before the underlined one specifically talks about "the color green." The underlined sentence follows directly from it by using the word "so." The sentences are closely associated, so we can infer that "the color green" must be what the author is referring to in the phrase "eye-catching green details." None of the other answer choices make sense given the context (the surrounding information) of this particular use of the word "green."

Example Question #3 : Use Context Clues To Determine Word Meanings: Ccss.Ela Literacy.L.8.4.A

Adapted from The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame (1908)

'Do you mean to tell me,' shouted the Rat, thumping with his little fist upon the table, 'that you've heard nothing about the Stoats and Weasels?’

‘What, the Wild Wooders?' cried Toad, trembling in every limb. 'No, not a word! What have they been doing?’

'—And how they've been and taken Toad Hall?' continued the Rat.

Toad leaned his elbows on the table, and his chin on his paws; and a large tear welled up in each of his eyes, overflowed and splashed on the table, plop! plop!

'The Wild Wooders have been living in Toad Hall ever since you—got—into that—that—trouble of yours,' continued the Rat; 'and going on simply anyhow! Lying in bed half the day, and breakfast at all hours, and the place in such a mess (I'm told) it's not fit to be seen! Eating your grub, and drinking your drink, and making bad jokes about you, and singing vulgar songs, about—well, about prisons and magistrates, and policemen; horrid personal songs, with no humor in them. And they're telling the tradespeople and everybody that they've come to stay for good.’

. . . 

Such a tremendous noise was going on in the banqueting-hall that there was little danger of their being overheard. The Badger said, 'Now, boys, all together!' and the four of them put their shoulders to the trap-door and heaved it back. Hoisting each other up, they found themselves standing in the pantry, with only a door between them and the banqueting-hall, where their unconscious enemies were carousing.

The noise, as they emerged from the passage, was simply deafening. At last, as the cheering and hammering slowly subsided, a voice could be made out saying, 'Well, I do not propose to detain you much longer'—(great applause)—'but before I resume my seat'—(renewed cheering)—'I should like to say one word about our kind host, Mr. Toad. We all know Toad!'—(great laughter)—'GOOD Toad, MODEST Toad, HONEST Toad!' (shrieks of merriment).

'Only just let me get at him!' muttered Toad, grinding his teeth.

'Hold hard a minute!' said the Badger, restraining him with difficulty. 'Get ready, all of you!'

'—Let me sing you a little song,' went on the voice, 'which I have composed on the subject of Toad'—(prolonged applause).

The Badger drew himself up, took a firm grip of his stick with both paws, glanced round at his comrades, and cried—

'The hour is come! Follow me!’

And flung the door open wide.

My!

What a squealing and a squeaking and a screeching filled the air!

Well might the terrified weasels dive under the tables and spring madly up at the windows! Well might the ferrets rush wildly for the fireplace and get hopelessly jammed in the chimney! Well might tables and chairs be upset, and glass and china be sent crashing on the floor, in the panic of that terrible moment when the four Heroes strode wrathfully into the room! The mighty Badger, his whiskers bristling, his great cudgel whistling through the air; Mole, black and grim, brandishing his stick and shouting his awful war-cry, 'A Mole! A Mole!' Rat; desperate and determined, his belt bulging with weapons of every age and every variety; Toad, frenzied with excitement and injured pride, swollen to twice his ordinary size, leaping into the air and emitting Toad-whoops that chilled them to the marrow! He went straight for the Chief Weasel. They were but four in all, but to the panic-stricken weasels the hall seemed full of monstrous animals, grey, black, brown and yellow, whooping and flourishing enormous cudgels; and they broke and fled with squeals of terror and dismay, this way and that, through the windows, up the chimney, anywhere to get out of reach of those terrible sticks.

The affair was soon over. Up and down, the whole length of the hall, strode the four Friends, whacking with their sticks at every head that showed itself; and in five minutes the room was cleared. Through the broken windows the shrieks of terrified weasels escaping across the lawn were borne faintly to their ears; on the floor lay prostrate some dozen or so of the enemy, on whom the Mole was busily engaged in fitting handcuffs. The Badger, resting from his labors, leant on his stick and wiped his honest brow.

In the sentence "Hoisting each other up, they found themselves standing in the pantry, with only a door between them and the banqueting-hall, where their unconscious enemies were carousing," "unconscious" most nearly means which of the following?

Possible Answers:

oblivious

sleeping

reflexive

knocked out

accidental

Correct answer:

oblivious

Explanation:

“Unconscious” has a few often-used meanings, but that doesn’t mean that they are at work in the passage. Whenever you’re asked to define a word based on the words and sentences around it, make sure to go and find the word in the passage before picking your answer. The test you're taking might be trying to trick you into picking the most familiar definition when that isn’t the one the author of the passage is using.

This is in fact what is happening in this question. You might be familiar with the word “unconscious” as meaning sleeping or knocked out, but that’s not how it’s used in the passage:

The Badger said, 'Now, boys, all together!' and the four of them put their shoulders to the trap-door and heaved it back. Hoisting each other up, they found themselves standing in the pantry, with only a door between them and the banqueting-hall, where their unconscious enemies were carousing.

Some of the weasels and stoats are arguably eventually knocked out in the passage, but that scene hasn’t happened yet, so that can’t be the meaning the author is using here. “Reflexive” and “accidental” enemies don’t make sense based on the rest of the passage, so the best answer is “oblivious.” The stoats and weasels have no idea that the Badger, Toad, Rat, and Mole are hiding in the pantry and waiting to jump out at them, so that is what the author means by “unconscious”—not conscious (aware) of the characters in the pantry.

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