11+ Inserting Words Illustratyion | Missing Words
Can you find the missing 3-letter words?

VR - Inserting Small Words to Make Long Ones

This article was formerly a part of Compound Words and Inserting Small Words to Make Long Ones. For the sake of clarity, that has now been split into two more specific articles. To read the information which used to be included, see Compound Words.

This type of question is one which some children find rather difficult, and it can take some a long time to do even though they are speedy in other areas. The questions can look daunting at first, but on closer examination, they are reasonably simple.

As with other types of question in this section, a good knowledge of English, a large vocabulary and an ability to spell words correctly, is essential.

The gist of Inserting Small Words to Make Long Ones questions is this – small words of three letters are removed from longer words. We then have to spot the missing word which will make the longer word whole again.

How Are These Kind Of Questions Posed In The Exam?

Candidates are asked to look at sentences which contain a word in capitals with three consecutive letters removed from it. These three letters form a word and it’s up to the child to identify it.

Each question is followed by several three letter words, which often follow a theme (for example, types of animal, types of liquid, or related words such as ‘Rob’, ‘Lie,’ and ‘Fib’) and , through trial and error, the correct answer can usually be worked out.

Example Question One


The sentence contains a word which has had a group of letters removed. From the choices provided, decide which group of letters fits into the capitalised word and completes it in a way that makes sense within the sentence.

The vegetables were SMED using boiling water.

Possible answers:

a) TEE b) CHE c) THE d) TEA e) HAM

Look for an answer by simply reading the sentence and extracting the meaning (remember – the sentence must make sense). Encourage your child to picture a scene where this event is happening and imagine what the missing word could be.

The scene imagined should be about cooking vegetables. A bright child will think of words such as ‘cooked’ and hopefully spot the answer given the possible options. However, let’s go through the long method, which is necessary in many cases.

Take the first possible answer – TEE. Put it in front of the given letters (SMED) and see whether it creates a word and whether that word makes sense in context. If not, try putting the letters after the ‘S’. Keep going until you have tried all combinations with that group of letters. Then try the second set in each possible position. The results will, of course, look like this:

TEESMED STEEMED SMTEEED SMETEED SMEDTEE

There has obviously been no word created here, although a major clue should have revealed itself!

Firstly, a careless child will have thought that ‘steemed’ is a correct answer and they will have marked ‘tee’ on the answer paper.

Secondly, a careful child will have spotted that ‘steemed’ sounds like ‘steamed’ and that would be a good answer. They should then concentrate on using one of the other letter strings and aim to make the word ‘steamed’. This would save them going through every combination in turn – it is important to use sensible ideas to save time.

The answer is ‘TEA’ as this creates the word ‘STEAMED’. Be aware that using ‘CAM’ could produce the word ‘SCAMMED’ but that would make no sense in the sentence so it can’t be the right answer.

Technique Tip

Spelling is critical – make sure that your child doesn’t miss variations which give correct spellings. Also, look at which part of speech is being asked for – often this gives a guide as verbs often end in ‘ed’ or ‘ing’.

Example Question Two


The sentence contains a word which has had a group of letters removed. From the choices provided, decide which group of letters fits into the capitalised word and completes it in a way that makes sense within the sentence.

I put the milk in the FGE.

Possible answers:

a) RIM b) LED c) RID d) ARM e) ICE

So, encourage your child to look for the obvious and then work their way through the possibilities systematically. If there is enough in the context of the sentence to provide the answer – as there could easily be – then check through the answers to find the one which matches the spelling of the word required.

Assuming that there is a need to go through the options, let’s do things systematically:

Using ‘RIM’ we can get the answers:

RIMFGE FRIMGE FGRIME FGERIM

None of these make sense so try ‘LED’ instead:

LEDFGE FLEDGE FGLEDE FGELED

‘Fledge’ is obviously a word, but it makes no sense in the given sentence.

Now try ‘RID’ instead:

RIDFGE FRIDGE FGRIDE FGERID

We have the word ‘fridge’ and that is the correct answer as it makes sense in context.

Ideally, your child should do these in their head rather than write them down but if they get stuck, they can quickly do it to help them visualise the words.

Technique Tip

If there are particular letters which really don’t go together, that is the place to concentrate on putting the three-letter word. For example, in the previous example it was unlikely that F and G went together so once you get used to the technique you can concentrate on putting each of the answers between those two letters.

Example Question Three

The sentence contains a word which has had a group of letters removed. From the choices provided, decide which group of letters fits into the capitalised word and completes it in a way that makes sense within the sentence.

The congregation GATED in the church.

Possible answers:

a) HIM b) HER c) SHE d) ITS e) WHO

Sometimes, the word in capitals is still a genuine word – in this case, ‘gated’. This makes no difference at all, and the same technique should be used to solve the problem.

As before, get your child to find the meaning of the sentence. What do congregations do in churches? Picture the scene – a crowd of people worshipping together. Hopefully, this will bring the correct answer to mind. If not, then it’s back to the long-winded method.

Take the first possible answer – HIM. Put it in front of the given letters (GATED) and see whether it creates a word that makes sense in the sentence. If not, try putting the letters after the ‘G’. Continue until you have tried all possible combinations with that group of letters. Then do the same with the second set. You should end up with this:

HIMGATED GHIMATED GAHIMTED GATHIMED GATEHIMD GATEDHIM

None of these are words, though the keen-eyed may have spotted that GATH… has the same beginning as GATHERED. If not, then repeat the process with HER.

HERGATED GHERATED GAHERTED GATHERED GATEHERD GATEDHER

It is now obvious that the word we are after is ‘gathered’ as it is the only real word produced and it fits perfectly into the context of the sentence.

GATEHERD may sound like a real word, but it is not. Even if it was, the sentence ‘The congregation gateherd’ in the church’ would not make much sense!

As with all types of verbal Reasoning question, the best way to master them is by practising. You could come up with some sample questions yourself – it’s very easy to do. Just write out a sentence, find a three-letter word hidden within, and remove it. Then ask your child to find out what it was, giving them a list of three-letter words, one of which is the right answer.

The more familiar your child is with these types of question, the less daunting they will be in the exam. What’s more, your child will have fun while they learn and it’s a chance to have some quality time with them.

Sample Tests

So, now that you understand how these types of question are presented, and how to tackle them, you are ready to take some practice tests. There are four quizzes on the Education Quizzes site all about Inserting Small Words to Make Long Ones. You can play these as well as, or instead of, devising your own.

Play them with your child and see whether or not they have mastered this topic. Use the hints and tips we have learned in this lesson to guide them, and before long they should find these types of question a doddle.

You’ll find the quizzes in our Eleven Plus Verbal Reasoning section or, alternatively, you can follow these links.

Complete the Word 1

Complete the Word 2

Complete the Word 3

Complete the Word 4

There is another way this kind of question can be posed to candidates which is very similar indeed, but we shall look at those in the next lesson. Happy word-hunting!

© Copyright 2016-2020 - Education Quizzes
TJS - Web Design Lincolnshire
View Printout in HTML

Valid HTML5

We use cookies to make your experience of our website better.

To comply with the new e-Privacy directive, we need to ask for your consent - I agree - No thanks - Find out more