Now I am checking a TOEFL iBT test pages and we must choose one correct answer among 4 choices that fits in the most similar way with the meaning of the word in the question.

And I stumbled upon the question about "allude to".

The choices are

a : to ask casually

b : to refer to casually

c : to refer to formally

d : to refuse always

Now, here I am struggling to understand why "b" is the correct answer.

Merriam Unabridged says,

to have or make indirect reference (as in passing or by suggestion) : refer indirectly — used with to

So, in general (for native speakers), isn't there any chance that this verb "allude to" to be used in formal situations?

Thank you so much in assistance and in advance.

  • 2
    Some example sentences would be helpful. Anyway, allude is indirect (like hinting), while accuse would be direct (just saying it). I can't say if casual/formal is the best way to describe this. But I am not an academic either... – user3169 Feb 18 '17 at 6:52
  • Thank you. No offense please. But this is a test preparation. So there can't be no "might be c" with my apology and together with my perplexity :). Thank you for your comment anyway though. – Kentaro Feb 18 '17 at 6:55
  • No, b. is correct. I think in a formal situation we tend to state the facts or get to the point (direct speech), rather than use indirect statements. But as I said, for allude I prefer the distinction between direct/indirect rather than casual/formal. – user3169 Feb 18 '17 at 7:26
  • I think this question is a bit tricky. There seems to be 2 questions haha. – Kentaro Feb 18 '17 at 11:22

Here, casually does not mean "in a casual/informal situation", but instead it means something like in passing, nonchalantly. We would expect this to be brief.

Further, formally doesn't mean "in a formal situation". Instead, it means something like properly, officially. We would expect this to be lengthy.

So the issue is not about making a reference in a casual or formal situation. It is about the manner in which the reference is made. It's like the difference between writing a memo to your boss and writing a letter. How you sent the message is the focus, not the situation. Having that in mind and the dictionary entry, the answer should be b.

Again, the dictionary entry and the test question do not exclude the usage of the word from formal situations. It can be used in formal or informal situations.

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  • 2
    Exactly. Alluding is saying "I see you added a little sparkle to your outfit" (while gesturing at your co-workers hand). To refer to "formally" (I think "directly" is a better way to say it) is to say "Did you get engaged over the weekend?" (Pointing to her engagement ring). – Harukogirl Feb 18 '17 at 7:47
  • 1
    I see, not that casual, but with sort of some weight, correct? Thank you. – Kentaro Feb 18 '17 at 9:23
  • 1
    @KentaroTomono See the definition and examples in en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/allude, especially section 1.1. – alephzero Feb 18 '17 at 10:41
  • @alephzero > Mention without discussing at length. P.E.R.F.E.C.T. :) (m_m) – Kentaro Feb 18 '17 at 11:21
  • I think part of what we face here is the peculiar logic of a multiple-choice examination. The rules for such questions usually state that you should choose the "best" answer from the choices given. Given an open-response format, I would write "to refer to indirectly", but that choice is not given. I would then choose b.; while neither "casual" nor "formal" really means "direct" or "indirect", "formal" and "direct" both have connotations of rigidly defined structures, whereas "casual" and "indirect" do not. I choose my answer by inferring what the person who wrote the question was thinking. – David K Feb 18 '17 at 15:08

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