GRE Prep: Tricky word pairs (Part 4)

GRE Prep: Tricky word pairs (Part 4)

As part of our series on tricky word pairs, this post will introduce 4 word groups/pairs that can be confusing and misleading. We will first go through each pair thoroughly to clarify their specific definitions and usage. At the end of the post, we will have a revision practice for you to test your knowledge.

1. Disingenuous VS Ingenuous VS Ingenious

Disingenuous: slightly dishonest
Given that his brother and parents had invested large sums, it was disingenuous of him to claim that he had no personal financial interests in the project.

Ingenuous: naively trusting and honest
His ingenuous attitude made him an easy victim for the manipulative efforts of more experienced politicians.

Ingenious: clever and inventive
His ingenious design allowed his team to construct a removable bridge and cross the river faster than any of the competing teams.

2. Peremptory VS Preemptive

Peremptory: expecting to be obeyed immediately and without question
The president’s peremptory clerk was continuously issuing commands to the gathering journalists.

Preemptive: something done to prevent or forestall another anticipated action.
The city council decided to take preemptive action against the expected epidemy of heroin addiction.

3. Perspicacious VS Perspicuous

Perspicacious: having a quick understanding of things
Realizing that land prices would increase drastically in the future, the perspicacious investor had bought most of the remaining land in the suburbs.

Perspicuous: clearly expressed and understood
The good results of his students were mostly the result of his exceptionally perspicuous manner of teaching.

4. Insolent VS Indolent VS Insouciant VS Inchoate

Insolent: showing a rude and arrogant lack of respect; boldly disrespectful or contemptuous

The demanding customer may have been too pushy with his requests, but the management’s insolent reply was certainly unwarranted.

Indolent: lazy; averse to activity

These seemingly indolent young people who cannot bestir themselves from their beds and gadgets are frequently chided by the elderly who had to slog their teenage days away in the fields or mines.

Insouciant: nonchalent; showing a lack of concern

When pressed by her parents if she had passed her final examinations, Mary simply looked away and gave an insouciant shrug.

Inchoate: incipient; only partly in existence

Given that the committee is newly formed and still in its inchoate stages of development, we should probably lower our expectations and give it less pressure.

Now test your knowledge with these six sentences:


Disingenuous      Indolent      Peremptory      Perspicacious   Inchoate       Insouciant       Ingenuous       Ingenious      Preemptive       Perspicuous         Insolent


  1. The soldier reacted to the officer’s __________________ commands with an unacceptably _____________ gesture, which landed him in huge trouble.
  2. John strikes his friend as a/n _________________ and rather helpless man, but his brother, on the contrary, is ____________ and knows how to manipulate others to believe his lies.
  3. The quiet but exceptionally ________________ student is able to swiftly understand new concepts and transform them into simple and ________________ everyday inventions.
  4. The ________________ student could not find any motivation to work on his still largely ____________________ project that was due tomorrow.
  5. The pianist was much discouraged by the lukewarm applause and _____________ expressions of the audience.
  6. The congestions were much reduced as the authorities had taken __________________ measures ahead of the festivities by disseminating __________________ information that clearly informed the public of alternative transport routes.

To familiarize yourself with other tricky words, click here.

Answers to the above:

  1. Peremptory; insolent
  2. Ingenuous; disingenuous
  3. Perspicacious; ingenious
  4. Indolent; inchoate
  5. Insouciant
  6. Preemptive; perspicuous