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TOEFL Vocabulary Study: Hard Words, Part 5 of 6

This is the second-to-last vocabulary study of the hard words from the Magoosh TOEFL Vocabulary PDF. As usual we’ll be looking at each word’s different forms, definitions, and uses. And of course, this post will be followed by a Magoosh Comics review, with comic strips to help you see the words in use and really cement them into your memory.


Difficult words 33-41: Different suffixes, different word forms

Below is a list of hard words 33-41: “negate” through “proportion”

            Suffixes that change the form of the words:

Nouns: -ion, -ive, -ation, -tion,

Verbs: -ate

Adjectives: -ed, -ing, -ive

Adverbs: -ly



Word explanations (meant to go with the definitions from the original PDF)

  • Negate
    To negate something means to make something no longer true, no longer useful, or no longer effective. For example, if you exercise for a few hours, but then you eat a whole chocolate cake, your unhealthy eating negates the healthy exercise you did, so that you don’t benefit from the exercise. So if you make the statement “that exercise helped me a lot,” someone who knows you ate the chocolate cake could negate your statement by saying “no it didn’t.” Negation is the act of negating something. If you study hard for the TOEFL but then don’t get any sleep the night before the test, your lack of sleep is a negation of your studying efforts. And your low TOEFL score could be a negation of your belief that you’d do well on the TOEFL. (But let’s hope not.) A thing that is made untrue, useless or ineffective is a negated thing. So in the examples above, you have read about negated exercise that is negated by eating chocolate cake, and a negating low TOEFL score that negates someone’s claims that they’ll do well on the exam.


  • Objective
    As a noun, objective refers to a goal or purpose. For example, the objective of this blog post is to help students learn hard TOEFL words. As an adjective, objective describes thoughts, ideas, or viewpoints that are not influenced by personal beliefs or opinions. As an example, a judge in a court of law is expected to be objective— the judge will not have a preference for one person or another when he or she listens to disputes, and the judge is expected to make a fair judgement not based on anyone’s personal opinion. You could say that a judge is expected to make decisions objectively, in a way that is not affected by opinion or bias.


  • Orient
    As a verb, orient can mean to move into a position of alignment with something else. For example, in the US and China, drivers orient themselves to drive on the right side of the street, while in the UK and Japan, traffic is oriented to the left side of the street. The reason that there are left-oriented drivers and cars in some places, and right-oriented traffic in others is because different countries have different traffic orienting. In this sense of the word, orientation refers to the aligned position of something. For example, the moon’s orientation is such that the same side of the moon always faces the earth, and we never see the other side of the moon that is oriented to face away.Orient can also mean to explore something, be comfortable with it, and understand it. This is why the activities you do to learn more about university life when you enter a university are called orientation activities. So, orientation can also refer to the act of getting used to a place or activity so that you can do it comfortably and confidently. When orient refers to becoming comfortable with something, it has an opposite word: disorient. If you are used to driving in America and you suddenly drive in England, the new direction of traffic may disorient you, causing you to be uncomfortable and confused. You could describe your change in situation as disorienting, and you could describe yourself as disoriented.
  • Perceive
    To perceive something is to be aware of something. When you perceive, you can be aware of something mentally, knowing that it exists, and you may also be aware of something through your physical senses, perceiving it by seeing it, hearing it, smelling it, etc… Any sense you have, mental or physical, that tells you something exists or is true, is a perception. So for example, you could perceive smoke coming from your kitchen, and that perception could allow you to mentally perceive that something is burning in your kitchen, even if you hadn’t actually seen the burning thing yet. You could describe both the smoke and the burning thing as perceived things, and you could describe yourself as a perceiving. If you are very good at perceiving things, you could even be described as perceptive. And it could be said that you perceptively understood that food was burning in your kitchen, even before you saw it with your own eyes.


  • Perspective
    Perspective can only be a noun. It can refer to someone’s opinion or point of view. So if two people have two different opinions, you could say they have different perspectives. And someone who is not from your country would have a different perspective on your culture than you do. Perspective can also refer to a visual point of view that is based on someone’s physical position. For example, if you look out the window of a very tall building and look down at the street, you are looking at the street from an overhead perspective. On the other hand, if you are standing on the street, your view is a street-level perspective.


  • Phase
    Phase can also only be a noun. Phase refers to a period of time that is part of a longer overall process or time period. Let me give a few examples: The moon has different phases over the course of the month, where it appears to have a different shape. Egg, tadpole, and adult are the three basic phases of a frog’s life cycle. In less formal speech, if someone is temporarily doing something, you could say they are going through a phase. For example, as I write this, my five-year old son is going through a phase where he doesn’t want to eat any food with mushrooms in it. He liked mushrooms until recently, so this is probably a temporary phase of picky eating.

    • (Additional note: While “phase” is not a verb, it appears in certain phrasal verbs, especially “phase in,” which means to go through a time period of slowly introducing something new, and “phase out,” which means to go through a time period where something is discontinued or slowly removed.)


  • Policy
    A policy is an official rule. Usually this rule is made by a government, company, or organization, but it can be made by any person or thing that has authority. Parents, for example, can have certain policies they make their children follow. A government, company, or organizational policy would probably be a much more complicated law or set of laws compared to parental policies, though. A policy can also refer to a contract for insurance that people have purchased. However, insurance policies are not that likely to be mentioned on the TOEFL.


  • Principle
    A principle can refer to a rule, but it refers to a rule in a more general sense than a policy does. A principle is really an idea that is the basis for rules. For example, there may be rules or policies that allow people to vote for their leaders in political elections in some countries. These rules and policies are based on a bigger principle: the principle of democracy. This principle is an idea, and the idea states that leaders should be selected by followers who vote for them. In other countries, leaders inherit their power from their parents or older family members. This is the principle of monarchy, the idea that political power should stay in one family and be inherited. (Some nations, such as the UK, have policies based both on principles of democracy and principles of monarchy.) People can have principles too. For example, I do my teaching based on the principle that pictures help people learn. This principle is the basis for my policy of regularly posting comic strips to this blog. If a person follows their principles closely, they are said to be very principled.


  • Proportion
    A proportion is the size or amount of something, compared to a different size or amount. To give an example, Canada is one of the largest countries in the world, in terms of land mass. But it has a population of only about 35 million. So Canada’s population is small in proportion to the amount of land it has. To give a simpler example, a mouse is small in proportion to an elephant. Another way of saying this is to say that when a mouse and elephant are compared proportionally, the mouse is proportionally small and the elephant is proportionally large. You could also say that the mouse is proportioned as small in relation to the elephant. Exact measurements that give precise proportion between the two animals are proportioning measurements. You could say that the person who makes those precise measurements proportions the two animals.


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