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The Restaurant Bill Has Come—Time to be Gratuitous?

Take a look at the following two sentences:

1. When the bill came the CEO was sure to be gratuitous and leave a big tip.

2. Scenes with gratuitous violence often warrant an R-rating for a movie.

Clearly the second usage is incorrect. Right?

Actually, only the latter sentence correctly uses gratuitous. Starting out, many students think gratuitous is the adjective form of gratuity. The GRE plays on this misconception, and unsurprisingly, gratuitous pops up on the test with a far greater frequency than a word that students don’t typically confuse. (Enervate is similar to gratuitous in this sense.)

So what does gratuitous mean then? Gratuitous means unnecessary, unwarranted. Hence, the second sentence is correct: gratuitous violence is deemed as violence that is excessive, and therefore unwarranted. (You can think of your favorite slasher flick, the one that isn’t content for the masked psycho just to kill someone. A protracted sequence of blood and gore must ensue.

Choose TWO of the following that correctly complete the sentence [This is the format for the new GRE.]

After awhile Eric’s friends grew weary of his —- use of large GRE words in everyday conversation.

(A) warranted

(B) eloquent

(C) sordid

(D) unnecessary

(E) gratuitous

(F)  scandalous

Ans: D, E

I would perhaps give you another example, but with three sentences for the same word, I’d say another one would be gratuitous!


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