© Alexey Komarov, Wikimedia Commons. Licence: CC BY-SA 4.0. Source

Sleeping cats in Phuket, Thailand.

About this picture …

Lazy? Lethargic? Or just tired after a hard night’s mousing? These three cats are flat out on a corrugated roof in Phuket, Thailand, though one looks like he may soon be rudely awakened. Words described as synonyms rarely mean exactly the same thing. In most cases, each word adds some shade of meaning or demands different grammar.

Worksheet No. 9

These Worksheets are based on textbooks written by NL Clay (1905-1991) and used in English schools from the 1920s to the 1960s. They focus on vocabulary, sentence structure, and clear speaking. They are best studied in pairs or small groups, because that allows you to pool ideas and encourages you to speak; but you may of course share your sentences with me.


For each group of words, compose a single sentence that uses at least one of them. They are generated randomly from a list of very common English words.

I. Alone. Help. Travel.

II. Weight. Street. Impact.

III. Though. Successful. Activity.

See more Spinners.


To what extent are the words in each group below synonymous? Illustrate with sentences.

i. Idle. Lazy. Lethargic. Sluggish.

ii. Forecast. Omen. Premonition. Prophecy.

iii. Continual. Frequent. Regular. Repeated.

See more Confusables.


Use in sentences:

IDebonair. IIDoctrinaire. IIIFlair. IVMillionaire. VQuestionnaire. VISolitaire.

Sign Language

The following signs were supposedly observed abroad. What do you think those who wrote them were trying to say?

IDead tennis bats alived here. IISelf-movings of Luxury [cars]. IIIThe Brothers of Misery harbour every kind of disease and have no regard for religion. IVThe out-putting of heads and in-bringing of dogs is strictly defended. V[In a church] To the middle-aged toms.

From Advanced English Exercises (1939) by N. L. Clay (1905-1991).


Turn these notes into a short passage of continuous prose.

Once upon a time... Mice held a meeting. What to do about the Cat? Various ideas proposed. One Mouse suggested tying a bell on the Cat. Rest congratulated him. Great idea! Someone called for volunteers. Nobody volunteered. Moral: that’s how powerful people stay in power.

See Belling the Cat.


Speak each group of words out aloud, making the difference in pronunciation clear.

IArt, heart. IIBelieve, belief. IIIDoubt, tout. IVFire, pyre. VGrow, groan. VIIll, I’ll. VIILie, rye. VIIILove, leave. IXReckon, wrecking. XStar, stir. XITruth, truce.

Read this short passage out aloud, clearly and without haste.

Doubt thou the stars are fire;
Doubt that the sun doth move;
Doubt truth to be a liar;
But never doubt I love.

O, dear Ophelia, I am ill at these numbers. I have not art to reckon my groans; but that I love thee best, O most best, believe it. Adieu.

From Hamlet’s letter to Ophelia, read out by Polonius in Hamlet by William Shakespeare.