What Are Collocations?
  • 3-minute read
  • 14th June 2022

What Are Collocations?

Even if you haven’t heard of collocations, we’d bet our bottom dollar that you use them all the time!

Collocations are predictable combinations of words. They’re expected to come together easily and sound familiar to the listener or reader when they’re used.

They can be made up of two or more words, and those words can come from any word class (e.g., nouns, verbs, adverbs, adjectives).

Those who are learning English as a second language might find that, once they reach a certain level of proficiency, their progress comes to a halt. Learning how to properly use collocations can be a great way to pick up the pace again.

Examples of collocations:

To take a risk

To close a deal

To get the sack

To strongly agree/disagree

To make a big decision

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Fast food

These are examples of words that can be used together, but a small change to how they’re said can make them sound misplaced in a sentence, especially to a native speaker of English – even if it technically makes sense.

For example, if you say that you did a risk or performed a risk, it sounds unnatural.

You could say that you have a large decision to make, which is correct. But a native English speaker would be more likely to say that they have a big decision to make.

Similarly, you could say that you’re eating quick food when you order from McDonald’s, but a native English speaker would almost always say they’re eating fast food.

If you’re learning English and want to improve your vocabulary, getting familiar with the collocations in the language is a great place to start. They can help your language sound more natural, and you might find it easier to express yourself.

So, How do You Learn Collocations?

With so many collocations out there, it can be difficult to know where to start.

The best way to learn English collocations is to read as much as you can and talk to English-speaking people as much as possible. By doing this, you’ll notice collocations that come up naturally.

Note them down and try to remember them. You could try categorizing them by topic to help you keep track of them (e.g., food, weather, business, money).

Over time, you may start using collocations yourself without even noticing!

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