To properly understand The Use of English (Part 1): Multiple Choice exercise of the C1 Advanced or the B2 First, it is essential to understand vocabulary in context. A key element of this is the understanding of the terms denotation and connotation.

 

Denotation

Denotation is the literal meaning of the word; according to the dictionary, its actual meaning. It is not based on interpretation or context.

 

Connotation

Connotation is the figurative meaning of a word, it is flexible and can be interpreted in different ways depending on the audience or the context.

 

A great example of how connotation can influence the understanding of language is through the use of synonyms. At first glance, these words look like synonyms but in reality, there are subtle differences that can influence the meaning of a situation.

 

Example: Study the difference between the different words

Reduce = decrease; We have reduced our salary because of the financial recession.

Cut down on = start doing something less; I am going to cut down on sugar.

Diminish = depleting stocks; Oil reserves are diminishing and we need to find a solution.

Shrink = reduce the size of something; My new jumper has shrunk in the wash.

 

Example 2: All of these words mean thin but there is a difference between the different words

Slim = thin and attractive; My wife is slim and goodlooking.

Skinny = thin and unattractive; You are too skinny, you ought to eat more.

Underweight = thin because you are unhealthy. My doctor says that I’m underweight.

Boney = thin and you can see someone’s bones, the person is probably anorexic

Fit = thin and in shape; I am quite fit as I work out on a daily basis.

Lean = thin and containing little or no fat, lacking in flesh. My brother is much leaner since he has lived in Japan.

 

So, as can been seen there are small, intricate differences between the meaning of words. To pass the Use of English Part 1, you should study vocabulary in context.

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