I have problems with comprehending sentences. Many times what I understand after reading a sentence or sentences is totally different from what it actually means. I can understand the meaning of each word, but as a whole it's difficult to get a sense of the sentence. It makes it difficult for me to explain what I read to others in my native language.

1 Answer 1


Failure to understand what you read may be caused either by reader factors or text factors or environmental factors. Often a combination of two or more factors is the reason for misunderstanding.

Reader factors include proficiency in the language of the text, especially vocabulary and grammar, background knowledge and interest in the topic of the text, and alertness (for example, not reading while tired or distracted).

Text factors include clarity of expression, syntactic complexity, and vocabulary (more or less common words).

Environmental factors include the place where reading is done (for example a quiet study vs. a busy coffee shop).

A common cause of failing to understand is the inability to spot idioms. A literal reading of the text is likely to cause confusion. Another problem is the polysemic nature of much English vocabulary. As a simple example, if you only know while as meaning during the time that, then you may be confused by this recent tweet: While I had a great meeting with NATO, raising vast amounts of money, I had an even better meeting with Vladimir Putin of Russia.

Perhaps you could include in your question a couple of examples of when it turned out that your understanding was 'totally different' from the actual meaning.

  • "While I had a great meeting with NATO, raising vast amounts of money, I had an even better meeting with Vladimir Putin of Russia".How I understand is-While he had great meeting with NATO regarding raising money at the same time he had a great meeting with Vladimir Putin and then again question arises in my mind how can he have meeting at same time with both.I don't know whether I understood it right or wrong. @Shoe
    – teja surya
    Jul 25, 2018 at 8:14
  • 2
    That's my point about words with more than one meaning. 'While' here does not mean 'at the same time as'. It is a 'transition word' that is used to introduce a contrast. Eg. While I like tea, my wife prefers coffee. So Trump's meetings with NATO and Putin did not happen at the same time. Trump wants to contrast the success of the two meetings. My advice is to always be aware that words can mean different things in different contexts.
    – Shoe
    Jul 25, 2018 at 8:37
  • "words can mean different things in different contexts"this is what creates me more difficulty.I will look into it thanks for the answer and advice.
    – teja surya
    Jul 25, 2018 at 12:12

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