I came across a certain question in an examination paper. The section deals with:

In each of the following questions, out of the given alternatives, choose the one which is closest in meaning to the underlined word in the sentence.

The actual question follows (underlined word is instead italicised and emphasized):

Scientific knowledge is an intoxicating draught, and it may be one in which the human race is unable to sustain

  1. drink
  2. product
  3. disease
  4. process

while I am certain that the correct answer should be "drink", but the last option "process" also seems to fit in this particular phrase. Since the given sentence terminates as:

unable to sustain

it implies that there is a long ongoing 'process', which is where my confusion arises.

Am I correct in taking 'process' to the suitable answer? There is only one correct answer for the question.

  • Are you sure it says one in which the human race...?
    – TimR
    Commented Nov 7, 2017 at 16:14
  • I'm pretty sure the in is a mistranscription on your part, and this is transitive sustain, meaning to "to endure something without being overcome by it". It's an intoxicating drink which the human race is unable to endure without being overcome by it.
    – TimR
    Commented Nov 7, 2017 at 16:30

2 Answers 2


There are an uncountably large number of possible meanings that could fit the indicated position in the sentence in question.  From that perspective, any of the four options provided may be suitable. 

However, the directions are clear.  We want the option closest in meaning to "draught".  It doesn't matter whether "process" represents a more sensible and more literal meaning.  It only matters whether "process" is the best synonym for "draught".  Of these four options, the only obvious synonym is "drink".  The word "draught" can be used to represent a drawn beverage, especially a beverage drawn from a barrel or keg, and often alcoholic. 

You're right.  The rest of the sentence as written doesn't seem to support either "drink" or "draught".  How are we meant to understand the human race being possibly unable to sustain in that intoxicant?  It makes more sense to wonder whether we can withstand it rather than sustain in it

We haven't been asked to fix the rest of the sentence.  We've only been asked to find the best synonym of "draught" among the four options offered.  We do that, and we do nothing else. 

This is less a question about English than it is about taking standardized tests. 

  • 1
    A 'draught' is also something that can be inbibed; i.e. a drink - regardless, of whether the drink is poured from a bottle or pumped ('drawn') from a barrel.
    – Strawberry
    Commented Nov 7, 2017 at 18:44

The instructions make it clear that you are looking for a synonym:

In each of the following questions, out of the given alternatives, choose the one which is closest in meaning to the underlined word in the sentence.

A draught (pronunced, by the way, as rhyming with laughed or if spelled as draft--which is in fact the normal American English spelling) is a drink. The following are definitions from the online Oxford dictionary:

draught (US: draft): A single act of drinking or inhaling.

It's a single act, but it can be repeated indefinitely.

drink: 1.1 A quantity of liquid swallowed at one go.

Likewise, someone can take repeated or continual drinks.

Frankly I think the wording of the exam is trying to throw you off course. You are only to pick the closest synonym, not interpret the passage.

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