GRE Verbal : Understanding the Meaning of Phrases, Sentences, and Paragraphs in Single-Answer Questions

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for GRE Verbal

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Example Questions

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Example Question #1 : Understanding The Meaning Of Phrases, Sentences, And Paragraphs In Single Answer Questions

"Idioms and Rhyming Slang" by Will Floyd

While dialects and slang exist in most corners of the world, a few peculiar language habits stand out as developing entirely new ways of speaking. Most famously, the rhyming Cockney slang of East London that developed in the late nineteenth century has created many different idioms. The process of creating rhyming slang appears quite simple. A common word gets replaced by a phrase whose terminal syllable rhymes with the word. Thus, “wife” would become “trouble and strife,” except rhyming slang quite frequently does not stop there. Remarkably, the rhyming component of the phrase is often dropped altogether, so that wife is actually just “trouble.” Other notable examples is “stairs” becoming “apples,” from “apples and pears,” and “bottle” becoming “aris,” shortened from “Aristotle.”

Obviously, this can lead to quite a bit of confusion to a person unfamiliar with rhyming slang, or someone who does not know the full rhymes. This problem is exacerbated by the fluidity of rhyming slang. Celebrities and politicians can often lend their names to new forms, and “Britney Spears” has become a term for “beers” in recent years. This confusion may actually have been an intentional aspect of rhyming slang. Theories abound about the origin of rhyming slang, with the one constant being a form of deception by the people using the slang, with the language of shady shopkeepers or the doubletalk of thieves as the most commonly cited examples. No matter the origin, rhyming Cockney slang is a true innovation on the English language.

"The fluidity of rhyming slang" refers to the process of __________.

Possible Answers:

celebrities becoming famous

people unfamiliar with rhyming slang trying to understand it

adding new forms of rhyming slang

thieves confusing policeman with language

the identification of rhyming words

Correct answer:

adding new forms of rhyming slang

Explanation:

The comment about "the fluidity of rhyming slang" preceeds a sentence which describes new forms of slang and the ways in which slang has shifted. This means that "the fluidity of rhyming slang" refers to the processes by which new forms get added to rhyming slang over time.

Example Question #2 : Understanding The Meaning Of Phrases, Sentences, And Paragraphs In Single Answer Questions

The following passage is adapted from The God-Idea of the Ancients: or, Sex in Religion, by Elizabeth Burt Gamble (1897)

Regarding the introduction of Christianity into Ireland it is claimed by certain writers that the Irish did not receive the “new religion” from Greek missionaries; but when at the close of the cycle, a new solar deity, an avatar of Vishnu or Krishna was announced, and when missionaries from the East proclaimed the glad tidings of a risen Savior, the Irish people gladly accepted their teachings, not, however, as a new system, but as the fulfillment to them of the prophecy of the most ancient seers of the East, and as part and parcel of the religion of their forefathers. Therefore when the devotees of the Roman faith, probably about the close of the fifth century of the Christian era, attempted to “convert” Ireland, they found a religion differing from their own only in the fact that it was not subject to Rome, and was free from the many corruptions and superstitions which through the extreme ignorance and misapprehension of its Western adherents had been engrafted upon it.

The phrase "new religion" refers to __________.

Possible Answers:

non-Christian Irish religion

worship of Vishnu

Christianity

Greek religion

the most ancient seers

Correct answer:

Christianity

Explanation:

The entire passage is an account of the Irish adoption of Christianity. Furthermore, the beginning of the sentence containing the phrase is "Regarding the introduction of Christianity into Ireland . . ."

Example Question #3 : Understanding The Meaning Of Phrases, Sentences, And Paragraphs In Single Answer Questions

The following passage is adapted from Ramblings in Cheapside, by Samuel Butler

 

Walking the other day in Cheapside I saw some turtles in Mr. Sweeting’s window, and was tempted to stay and look at them. As I did so I was struck not more by the defenses with which they were hedged about, than by the fatuousness of trying to hedge that in at all which, if hedged thoroughly, must die of its own defensefulness. The holes for the head and feet through which the turtle leaks out, as it were, on to the exterior world, and through which it again absorbs the exterior world into itself—"catching on” through them to things that are thus both turtle and not turtle at one and the same time—these holes stultify the armor, and show it to have been designed by a creature with more of faithfulness to a fixed idea, and hence one-sidedness, than of that quick sense of relative importance and their changes, which is the main factor of good living.

The turtle obviously had no sense of proportion; it differed so widely from myself that I could not comprehend it; and as this word occurred to me, it occurred also that until my body comprehended its body in a physical material sense, neither would my mind be able to comprehend its mind with any thoroughness. For unity of mind can only be consummated by unity of body; everything, therefore, must be in some respects both knave and fool to all that which has not eaten it, or by which it has not been eaten. As long as the turtle was in the window and I in the street outside, there was no chance of our comprehending one another.

The phrase "both turtle and not turtle at one and the same time," refers to what elements?

Possible Answers:

Those things that are brought into the turtle's shell from outside the turtle's shell

Those things that could harm the turtle's body inside its shell

Those things that are repelled by the protection of the turtle's shell

Those things that never leave the turtle's shell under any circumstance

Those things the turtle send out from its shell to never put back inside the shell

Correct answer:

Those things that are brought into the turtle's shell from outside the turtle's shell

Explanation:

The phrase before the clause the question asks about states that the holes in the turtle's shell are that "through which it again absorbs the exterior world into itself." This indicates the turtle pulls elements of the outside world, in some form, into its shell. The transition between the exterior and interior of the shell are what make the things in question "both turtle and not turtle."

Example Question #4 : Understanding The Meaning Of Phrases, Sentences, And Paragraphs In Single Answer Questions

The following passage is adapted from Ramblings in Cheapside, by Samuel Butler

 

Walking the other day in Cheapside I saw some turtles in Mr. Sweeting’s window, and was tempted to stay and look at them. As I did so I was struck not more by the defenses with which they were hedged about, than by the fatuousness of trying to hedge that in at all which, if hedged thoroughly, must die of its own defensefulness. The holes for the head and feet through which the turtle leaks out, as it were, on to the exterior world, and through which it again absorbs the exterior world into itself—"catching on” through them to things that are thus both turtle and not turtle at one and the same time—these holes stultify the armor, and show it to have been designed by a creature with more of faithfulness to a fixed idea, and hence one-sidedness, than of that quick sense of relative importance and their changes, which is the main factor of good living.

The turtle obviously had no sense of proportion; it differed so widely from myself that I could not comprehend it; and as this word occurred to me, it occurred also that until my body comprehended its body in a physical material sense, neither would my mind be able to comprehend its mind with any thoroughness. For unity of mind can only be consummated by unity of body; everything, therefore, must be in some respects both knave and fool to all that which has not eaten it, or by which it has not been eaten. As long as the turtle was in the window and I in the street outside, there was no chance of our comprehending one another.

The phrase "The turtle had no sense of proportion," refers to __________.

Possible Answers:

the way a turtle can look like a human

the inability for a human to comprehend a turtle

the inability for a turtle to comprehend a human

the way humans are superior to turtles

the odd difference between a turtle and a human

Correct answer:

the odd difference between a turtle and a human

Explanation:

The best strategy for any question about a particular meaning is to look at the immediate context. "It differed so widely from myself that I could not comprehend it," is the very next phrase and is contained in the same sentence. The only thing the phrase in question refers to is the difference between a turtle and a human.

Example Question #5 : Understanding The Meaning Of Phrases, Sentences, And Paragraphs In Single Answer Questions

The following passage is adapted from Ramblings in Cheapside, by Samuel Butler

 

Walking the other day in Cheapside I saw some turtles in Mr. Sweeting’s window, and was tempted to stay and look at them. As I did so I was struck not more by the defenses with which they were hedged about, than by the fatuousness of trying to hedge that in at all which, if hedged thoroughly, must die of its own defensefulness. The holes for the head and feet through which the turtle leaks out, as it were, on to the exterior world, and through which it again absorbs the exterior world into itself—"catching on” through them to things that are thus both turtle and not turtle at one and the same time—these holes stultify the armor, and show it to have been designed by a creature with more of faithfulness to a fixed idea, and hence one-sidedness, than of that quick sense of relative importance and their changes, which is the main factor of good living.

The turtle obviously had no sense of proportion; it differed so widely from myself that I could not comprehend it; and as this word occurred to me, it occurred also that until my body comprehended its body in a physical material sense, neither would my mind be able to comprehend its mind with any thoroughness. For unity of mind can only be consummated by unity of body; everything, therefore, must be in some respects both knave and fool to all that which has not eaten it, or by which it has not been eaten. As long as the turtle was in the window and I in the street outside, there was no chance of our comprehending one another.

"The main factor of good living" is __________.

Possible Answers:

"the turtle obviously had no sense of proportion"

"show it to have been designed by a creature with more of faithfulness to a fixed idea"

"'catching on' through them to things that are thus both turtle and not turtle at one and the same time"

"that quick sense of relative importance and their changes"

"tt differed so widely from myself that I could not comprehend it"

Correct answer:

"that quick sense of relative importance and their changes"

Explanation:

The phrase in question comes in the middle of a highly convoluted sentence. The best approach to finding the linked phrase is to narrow down the sentence to its component parts.  The linking element of "which is" should drown out all other options and focus on "that quick sense of relative importance and their changes."

Example Question #6 : Understanding The Meaning Of Phrases, Sentences, And Paragraphs In Single Answer Questions

A Short History of Recent Zoos, by Will Floyd

Throughout the twentieth century, zoos underwent large-scale transformations. Before World War I, zoos were small parts of larger municipal parks, and featured sparse cages with little room for their inhabitants. This model held sway until mid-century, with many zoos struggling to remain open during the Great Depression and World War II. The successful zoos survived through making themselves cheap family entertainment. In the 1960s, zoos began to change in drastic ways. With the growing strength of environmental- and animal-rights movements, the public clamored for more naturalistic and spacious environments in which the animals could live.

The most emblematic of these transformations was the development of the Los Angeles Zoo. In 1966, the cramped and antiquated zoo used grants from the city government to move to a brand-new facility. Although the zoo moved just two miles away, the new location was exponentially bigger, and it featured fresh landscapes that resembled the animals’ natural habitats, instead of dilapidated cages. As the Los Angeles Zoo developed, it was able to work on preservation and conservation efforts for endangered species. New educational programs also became key elements of the Zoo’s mission. Now the old Zoo’s cages stand as ruins and reminders of what past generations saw when they visited years ago.

The phrase "this model" in the passage refers to __________.

Possible Answers:

the method of operation of the Los Angeles Zoo

zoos being cheap family entertainment

zoos failing during the Great Depression

zoos changing dramatically throughout the twentieth century

zoos featuring sparse cages with little room

Correct answer:

zoos featuring sparse cages with little room

Explanation:

The sentence immediately before "this model" notes that zoos used to feature "sparse cages with little room for their inhabitants." "This model" is then used as a pivot point to discuss zoos' subsequent struggles and transformations.

Example Question #7 : Understanding The Meaning Of Phrases, Sentences, And Paragraphs In Single Answer Questions

Developments in Understanding Ancient Greek Art by Will Floyd

Most people imagine stark white temples and plain marble statues as the ideal of ancient Greek art. Nothing could be further from the truth, as the ancient Greeks lavished their statues, sculptures, and buildings with bright colors. The common misconception of plainly adorned Hellenic art can be blamed on the ancient Greeks’ biggest proponents in history. Enlightenment-era classicists eagerly visited ancient ruins in the eighteenth century and saw artifacts that had been weathered to plain white stone through decades of neglect. By the time nineteenth-century archaeologists found proof that the Parthenon and images of the Gods were meant to be in vivid hues, eminent scholars in Europe refused to countenance that pure white marble was not antiquity’s aesthetic paradigm. Widespread acknowledgement of the ancient Greeks’ adoration of bright colors only came in the late twentieth and twenty-first centuries, as scientific tests proved ancient statuary and buildings had once been covered in polychrome paint.

"The common misconception" mentioned in the passage refers to __________.

Possible Answers:

artifacts that had been weathered

antiquity's aesthetic paradigm

plainly-adorned Hellenic art

lavishing statues, sculptures, and buildings with bright colors

the ancient Greeks' biggest proponents in history

Correct answer:

plainly-adorned Hellenic art

Explanation:

The sentence containing the phrase "the common misconception" is a complex sentence, but focusing closely on the phrase reveals a simple relationship to "plainly adorned Hellenic art."  Additionally, if the structure is confusing, it helps to understand that the entire passage focuses around the idea that people have mistakenly believed Greek art was extremely plain.

Example Question #8 : Understanding The Meaning Of Phrases, Sentences, And Paragraphs In Single Answer Questions

The Chemistry of Cooking by Will Floyd

Molecular gastronomy is a new take on cooking that has spread like wildfire through the culinary world in the last few decades. At its core, molecular gastronomy seeks to redefine and reimagine how food is cooked in restaurant kitchens, using technology, chemistry, and physics to transform pedestrian dishes into surprising forms and textures. These techniques create mystifying dining experiences, while using intimately familiar flavors. Chefs who use molecular gastronomy do not wish merely to be chemists or engineers, but are chefs above all else. To create a special dining experience, the chef begins first and foremost with the dish they wish to serve. Tools like an anti-griddle, a flat top that instantly freezes anything that touches it, or maltodextrin, an additive that can turn liquids into powder, are not there simply to play with the food. A molecular gastronomist will first think of the dish they want to serve, like fried chicken and mashed potatoes. Next, they will find a way to get the same flavors and textures in a unique way. The chicken might not be fried, but go through a process that will give it a crispy skin and juicy meat while never broaching hot oil. The mashed potatoes could become a light sauce, and then be put on an anti-griddle to give a new look, texture, and temperature. While the diner will have something that might look like a dessert or a soup, in actuality what they are having is a homestyle dish that they remember from childhood. This sense of familiarity is the ultimate goal of any chef utilizing molecular gastronomy.

The phrase "this sense of familiarity" in the passage refers to __________.

Possible Answers:

food for children.

a home style dish remembered from childhood.

a new look, texture, and temperature.

something that might look like a dessert or a soup.

utilizing molecular gastronomy.

Correct answer:

a home style dish remembered from childhood.

Explanation:

The phrase is in the very last sentence, and it helps sum up the author's whole argument. The author notes molecular gastronomy is technologically innovative, but plays with the familiar flavors and memories of food. The specific "sense of familiarity" refers to the flavors of the fried chicken and mashed potatoes diners remember from childhood.

Example Question #8 : Understanding The Meaning Of Phrases, Sentences, And Paragraphs In Single Answer Questions

A Short History of the Electric Guitar, by Will Floyd

Any modern musical performance is almost impossible to countenance without the presence of an electric guitar. Most of the time it is a solid-body electric guitar, and while they seem ubiquitous and obvious now, that was not always the case. First invented in the early 1930s, the first electric guitar simply amplified existing guitars. No one thought of it as a new instrument, but merely a way to put a microphone inside of the guitar. Through the use of electronic pickups that went straight to an amplifier, the sound of the guitar could be broadcast over loud jazz bands with drums and horns. At the time, most everyone believed an electric guitar still had to look like an acoustic guitar, and all models featured a hollow body acoustic shape that would resonate with the sound of the guitar strings. In all actuality, the only necessity for an electric guitar is an electric pickup to capture their small vibrations. An electric guitar does not, and never did, need a space to resonate the sound of the strings. Instead, it could be a simple block, with the fret-board, strings, and a pick up attached to a piece of lumber. This method is exactly what the famous guitar player and maker Les Paul did with his “Log,” but Les Paul's “Log” revealed some of the biases against a solid-body guitar. While the guitar was just one solid piece of wood, Paul would attach two wings to it that made the guitar look like a hollow body.

Despite Les Paul’s innovations, few manufacturers made a marketable solid-body guitar. Rickenbacker and Bigsby were both companies that made limited productions of solid-body electric guitars. Leo Fender was the first luthier to make a popular, mass-market electric solid-body guitar. Leo Fender started his career by working on radios and other small electronic devices, but developed an interest in building guitars. Immediately after World War II, big bands were considered antiquated, and small honky-tonk and boogie-woogie combos wanted cheaper, sturdier, and better intonated guitars, that they could play faster and louder. Leo Fender obliged with his Esquire guitar. Looking completely unlike any guitar made before, and being extremely thin, with no resonating panels, Fender’s guitar was revolutionary. While Fender continued to tweak it through the years, one thing remains the same: the general shape of the guitar. Renamed first the Broadcaster, then the more famous Telecaster, the silhouette of Fender’s Esquire is still a popular choice among musicians today.

The phrase "this method" in the passage refers to __________.

Possible Answers:

the fret-board, strings, and a pick up attached to a piece of lumber

some of the biases against a solid body guitar

a space to resonate the sound of the strings

the famous guitar player and maker Les Paul

one solid piece of wood

Correct answer:

the fret-board, strings, and a pick up attached to a piece of lumber

Explanation:

The sentence explicitly talks about what Les Paul did with his "Log" guitar; however, the sentence before describes the specifics of Les Paul's method, with "this method" bridging the two sentences. Specifically, the phrase refers to making a guitar that is "the fret-board, strings, and a pick up attached to a piece of lumber."

Example Question #9 : Understanding The Meaning Of Phrases, Sentences, And Paragraphs In Single Answer Questions

Baseball, Then and Now, by Will Floyd

The twenty-first-century baseball fan would hardly recognize the nineteenth-century version of the national pastime. The massive stadiums, pristine uniforms, and even most articles of equipment integral to the modern game were all unfamiliar to players in the late-nineteenth-century.

The current number of balls and strikes that each batter is allowed was not settled until the 1890s. Fielding gloves were not utilized until the 1880s. Players could even call for a high or low pitch as recently as 1900. The biggest misconception about nineteenth-century baseball from a modern point-of-view is assuming all pitching was done the way it is now. In fact, until 1893 pitchers operated out of a box a mere 45 feet away. The short distance was no problem, as the original rules for pitching required an underhand motion. As athletes have done for centuries, pitchers of the nineteenth century figured out ways to throw harder and circumvent the rules. Eventually, pitchers were taking a running start from 45 feet away and throwing overhand. Baseball players and administrators quickly realized that such pitching was a safety hazard at 45 feet, and it creates a tedious game in which no one could score. Baseball pushed the pitcher back to sixty feet and six inches, introduced the pitcher’s mound, and the slab the pitcher must be rooted to, pushing baseball closer to its modern form. These changes in baseball’s early years made the game the treasured sport it is today.

The phrase "As athletes have done for centuries," refers to the act of __________.

Possible Answers:

figuring out ways to throw harder

circumventing the rules

throwing overhand

operating out of a box from a mere 45 feet away

requiring an underhand motion to throw

Correct answer:

circumventing the rules

Explanation:

The sentence that begins with the phrase, "As athletes have done for centuries," is a complex one, and the structure of its clauses must be properly analyzed. As the middle clause, referring to pitchers throwing harder, is surrounded by commas, the final clause, making reference to "circumventing the rules," is the correct answer.

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