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Commonly Confused GRE Pairs – A Confusing Day of ‘V’s

Vindictive vs. Vindicate

These words look very similar, so their definitions must be somewhat related. Right? Actually, the two words are very different. To be vindictive means to have a very strong desire for revenge.

As for vindicate, it means to prove oneself right. What, exactly, does this mean? Say you claim to your friends that you will score at the 95th percentile on the verbal. They doubt your claim, and lightly tease you on your lofty and seemingly unattainable goal. Now, it’s up to you to prove that you can do it. If you score at the 95th percentile on test day, then you’ve vindicated yourself. You’ve proven that your original claim was correct. If you score way below that…well, then you avoid your friends for some time.

Vicarious vs. Vicissitude

Isn’t travel great? You get to experience other cultures, and see the world. Well, actually, sometimes traveling can be more stressful than a rush-hour commute—lost luggage, stolen items, and inclement weather are just a few of the many woes that can beset the traveler.

So, why not stay at home and watch the travel channel? With just one flick of the wrist, you can journey to the distant lands of Machu Picchu or Angkor Wat. Enjoying something through another person’s experiences—in this case the host of the travel show—is to live vicariously. The contexts, of course, can vary widely. Maybe your best friend has told you all about his or her graduate school experiences via weekly blog posts. Now you, too, feel that you’ve gone through grad school. That’s living vicariously.

A vicissitude is any change in one’s circumstances, usually for the worse. That is, life is full of ups and down that are beyond our control. Those are the vicissitudes. Speaking of, traveling—especially any of those quit-your-job six-week jaunts through Europe—is full of vicissitudes, so again, sometimes it’s better to stay at home and tune into the travel station (as long as the remote control doesn’t give out).

Venal vs. Venial

You definitely do not want to confuse these two. To call someone venal is to say they are corrupt, and likely to accept bribes. To be venial actually doesn’t refer to a person but rather a sin or an offense. A venial offense is one that is minor and pardonable.

His traffic violations ran the gamut from the venial to the egregious—on one occasion he simply did not come to a complete stop; another time he tried to escape across state lines at speeds in excess of 140 mph. 

Veracious vs. Voracious

These words not only deviate by only one letter, they also sound very similar. As for their definitions, you definitely do not want to confuse them. Veracious means truthful; voracious means hungry, either literally or figuratively.

Steven was a voracious reader, sometimes finishing two novels in the same day.

Venerate vs. Enervate

Okay, fine, this one is deviating from the agenda a little. Still, despite not starting with a ‘v’, enervate actually contains all the letters found in ‘venerate’, only scrambled. As for their meanings, these two words are anything but similar. To venerate someone is to respect that person deeply. To enervate, on the other hand, is to sap that person of energy.

Dave found the professor’s lecture so enervating that not even a potent cup of joe could keep his eyes from drooping.

The professor, despite his soporific lectures, was venerated amongst his colleagues, publishing more papers yearly than all of his peers combined.

 

 

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