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GRE Vocab Wednesday: A Day of Idioms

Today’s installment of GRE Vocab Wednesday is a text-only post — but don’t worry! We’ll be back next Wednesday with another video for you. Stay tuned. 🙂

Typically speaking, an idiom is an expression peculiar to a certain language. When you translate it word-by-word you get some unintended—and often very funny—imagery. A few include the following: To get someone’s goat; cat got your tongue?; a tempest in a teapot.

However, I’m not here to talk about these kinds of idioms. Rather, idioms in the test prep world refer to words that take specific prepositions. These can include phrasal verbs (a verb with a preposition) or an adjective followed by a preposition (amenable to). Sometimes, these words take more complicated structures, such as (verb) with impunity. The key is to be able to understand how these words function in context, as the GRE often likes to throw them in there.

Amenable to

Do you usually go along with the program? Are you open to new ideas? If so, you’re probably amenable to whatever is being proposed. A hot fudge sundae, perhaps? (Actually most are amenable to the prospect of a hot fudge sundae).

Of course many times we find ourselves not amenable to something. Think about the first time you read about GRE vocabulary. You probably weren’t very amenable to the idea of studying a 3,000-word list (who is!). But many are amenable to studying vocab when it’s provided in a fun and witty weekly format. (Sorry: shameless plug for Vocab Wednesday. And “witty” might be too much of a stretch!)

Reconcile with

On one level this phrase can mean to make peace with. However, the GRE usually opts for the second meaning, which is subtler: to make one thing consistent with another. Perhaps you can reconcile the fact that the U.S. didn’t make it to the quarter finals based on the sheer talent of some of the other teams. But, like me, you are probably still trying to reconcile the 7-1 Brazil (not Brazilian) blowout with the fact that they were tournament favorites. For those of you not up to snuff on the World Cup, or who, like me wife, just aren’t in to sports, here is another perhaps less male-centric example:

Paula could reconcile Judy’s shopaholic tendencies with the fact that she subscribed to most of the glam mags; what she could not reconcile was the fact that her so-called fashionista friend invariably favored pastels.

(Verb) with Impunity

To do something, no matter how egregious, and get away it is to act with impunity. Kings of yore, and indeed any tyrants of yore and now, often act with impunity. That is they feel they can do anything and get away with it. Of course, you don’t have to be invested with complete power to do something with impunity.

The highway was rarely policed, so local residents, aware of this fact, routinely broke 100-miles-per-hour, whizzing over the asphalt with impunity.

Commensurate with

Mensurat- comes from the Latin for “to measure”; which makes sense with this word. Commensurate, in a sense, means to measure up to. That is, if one thing is commensurate with another it is proportionate to it. Most people’s vocabulary skills tend to be commensurate with their GRE verbal score: the bigger the vocab, the higher the score.

The intensified focus on “teaching to the test” has not met with the commensurate increase in test scores educated had hoped for.


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