Synonyms can be used to provide more specific (or more general) information about the original word, or they can reflect/establish the tone of the situation. Sometimes a good synonym can not only replace a word with similar meaning, but can also eliminate the need for a modifier.
In this project, we’ll look at synonyms for verbs that incorporate an emotion or attitude that the doer of the action (the subject) exhibits. For instance, what’s the difference between strut, mosey, dawdle, and prance? The are all synonyms of walk (or perhaps more broadly: go). The differences between them do involve physicality, but also each tends to be associated with a cert set of emotions or attitudes. For example, strut demonstrates confidence, while dawdle demonstrates reluctance or uncertainty. Thus, we could say that ‘walk confidently’ = ‘strut’ and that ‘walk hesitantly’ = ‘dawdle’.
Put your students into groups of three, perhaps, give them the following list of verbs. You may need to demonstrate each verb, or at least the ones they request. The students must identify an emotion or attitude that is associated with each (if you’d like to practice adverbs, have them put the emotion/attitude in adverb form and place it next to the general verb, as with the end of the previous paragraph). To accomplish this, students may have to consult a dictionary, or you may need to introduce more emotion words.
- crack up
Note that there my be more than one correct answer to some of these. For example, swearing could be done in anger, or it could be done in all earnestness.
As always, feel free to add your own words to these groups, or to add your own group to this list.