What’s a Collocation?

Words that go together

by | Jul 27, 2019 | Vocabulary

A collocation is a pair or group of words that are often used together. These combinations sound natural to native speakers, but students of English have to make a special effort to learn them because they are often difficult to guess.

For example, the adjective dark collocates with chocolate, but not with tea. So, sometimes you should add more boiling water to your tea because it is too strong.

Learning collocations is an important part of learning the vocabulary of a language, so let’s take a look at some more examples:

  • take / have a shower
  • a serious / violent / juvenile / corporate crime
  • give / make an estimate
  • statistics indicate / suggest / show

Why learn collocations?

It is a good idea to learn collocations because they can:

  1. give you the most natural way to say something: smoking is strictly forbidden is more natural than smoking is strongly forbidden.
  2. give you alternative ways of saying something, which may be more colorful/expressive or more precise: instead of repeating It was very cold and very dark, we can say It was bitterly cold and pitch dark.
  3. improve your style in writing: instead of saying poverty causes crime, you can say poverty breeds crime; instead of saying I really believe you can say I profoundly believe. You may not need or want to use these in informal conversations, but in writing they can give your text more variety and make it read better, especially when it comes to IELTS writing.

How to learn collocations

To learn to use correct words together, dictionaries are the first place to look! You see the green box in the picture below? That’s the collocations section for the word “book” in Longman Dictionary.

Also there are words in red that come after the definition of the word. They are some of the most important collocations to learn. Take a look at the picture below.

Not sure what dictionary to use? Read about four dictionaries to choose from based on your level.

About the Author

About the Author

CEO and Co-founder of Juice Academy

Mehdi Safavi is a Cambridge certified English teacher (CELTA Grade A), IDP-trained IELTS expert, Sussex Downs College TESOL with 17+ years of teaching & teacher training experience. More about him →

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