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What is a collocation?

A collocation is two or more words that often go together. These combinations just sound
"right" to native English speakers, who use them all the time. On the other hand, other
combinations may be unnatural and just sound "wrong". Look at these examples:

Natural English Unnatural English

the fast train the quick train
fast food quick food
a quick shower a fast shower
a quick meal a fast meal

Why learn collocations?

• Your language will be more natural and more easily understood.

• You will have alternative and richer ways of expressing yourself.
• It is easier for our brains to remember and use language in chunks or blocks rather
than as single words.

How to learn collocations

• Be aware of collocations, and try to recognize them when you see or hear them.
• Treat collocations as single blocks of language. Think of them as individual blocks
or chunks, and learn strongly support, not strongly + support.
• When you learn a new word, write down other words that collocate with it (remember
rightly, remember distinctly, remember vaguely, remember vividly).
• Read as much as possible. Reading is an excellent way to learn vocabulary and
collocations in context and naturally.
• Revise what you learn regularly. Practice using new collocations in context as soon
as possible after learning them.
• Learn collocations in groups that work for you. You could learn them by topic (time,
number, weather, money, family) or by a particular word (take action, take a chance,
take an exam).

• You can find information on collocations in any good learner's dictionary. And you can
also find specialized dictionaries of collocations.

Types of Collocation

There are several different types of collocation made from combinations of verb, noun,
adjective etc. Some of the most common types are:

• Adverb + Adjective: completely satisfied (NOT downright satisfied)

• Adjective + Noun: excruciating pain (NOT excruciating joy)
• Noun + Noun: a surge of anger (NOT a rush of anger)
• Noun + Verb: lions roar (NOT lions shout)
• Verb + Noun: commit suicide (NOT undertake suicide)
• Verb + Expression With Preposition: burst into tears (NOT blow up in tears)
• Verb + Adverb: wave frantically (NOT wave feverishly)

Sample Collocations

There are several different types of collocation. Collocations can be adjective + adverb,
noun + noun, verb + noun and so on. Below you can see seven main types of
collocation in sample sentences.

1. adverb + adjective

• Invading that country was an utterly stupid thing to do.

• We entered a richly decorated room.
• Are you fully aware of the implications of your action?

2. adjective + noun

• The doctor ordered him to take regular exercise.

• The Titanic sank on its maiden voyage.
• He was writhing on the ground in excruciating pain.

3. noun + noun

• Let's give Mr Jones a round of applause.

• The ceasefire agreement came into effect at 11am.
• I'd like to buy two bars of soap please.

4. noun + verb

• The lion started to roar when it heard the dog barking.

• Snow was falling as our plane took off.
• The bomb went off when he started the car engine.

5. verb + noun

• The prisoner was hanged for committing murder.

• I always try to do my homework in the morning, after making my bed.
• He has been asked to give a presentation about his work.

6. verb + expression with preposition

• We had to return home because we had run out of money.

• At first her eyes filled with horror, and then she burst into tears.
• Their behaviour was enough to drive anybody to crime.

7. verb + adverb

• She placed her keys gently on the table and sat down.
• Mary whispered softly in John's ear.
• I vaguely remember that it was growing dark when we left.

Collocation Lists

On this page you can find a few short lists of collocations to give you more of an idea
about them. Many good learner's dictionaries show collocations associated with specific
words. There are also dictionaries of collocations, though these are more difficult to find.

Some common verbs

Have Do Make
have a bath do business make a difference
have a drink do nothing make a mess
have a good time do someone a favour make a mistake
have a haircut do the cooking make a noise
have a holiday do the housework make an effort
have a problem do the shopping make furniture
have a relationship do the washing up make money
have a rest do your best make progress
have lunch do your hair make room
have sympathy do your homework make trouble

Take Break Catch

take a break break a habit catch a ball
take a chance break a leg catch a bus
take a look break a promise catch a chill
take a rest break a record catch a cold
take a seat break a window catch a thief
take a taxi break someone's catch fire

take an exam heart catch sight of
take notes break the ice catch someone's
take someone's break the law attention
place break the news to catch someone's eye
take someone's someone catch the flu
temperature break the rules

Pay Save Keep

pay a fine save electricity keep a diary
pay attention save energy keep a promise
pay by credit card save money keep a secret
pay cash save one’s strength keep an appointment
pay interest save someone a keep calm
pay someone a seat keep control
compliment save someone’s life keep in touch
pay someone a visit save something to a keep quiet
pay the bill disk keep someone’s
pay the price save space place
pay your respects save time keep the change
save yourself the

Come Go Get
come close go abroad get a job
come complete with go astray get a shock
come direct go bad get angry
come early go bald get divorced

come first go bankrupt get drunk
come into view go blind get frightened
come last go crazy get home
come late go dark get lost
come on time go deaf get married
come prepared go fishing get nowhere
come right back go mad get permission
come second go missing get pregnant
come to a go on foot get ready
compromise go online get started
come to a decision go out of business get the impression
come to an go overseas get the message
agreement go quiet get the sack
come to an end go sailing get upset
come to a standstill go to war get wet
come to terms with go yellow get worried
come to a total of
come under attack


Time Business English Classifiers

bang on time annual turnover a ball of string
dead on time bear in mind a bar of chocolate
early 12th century break off a bottle of water
free time negotiations a bunch of carrots
from dawn till dusk cease trading a cube of sugar

great deal of time chair a meeting a pack of cards
late 20th century close a deal a pad of paper
make time for close a meeting
next few days come to the point
past few weeks dismiss an offer
right on time draw a conclusion
run out of time draw your attention
save time to
spare time launch a new
spend some time product
take your time lay off staff
tell someone the go bankrupt
time go into partnership
time goes by make a loss
time passes make a profit
waste time market forces
sales figures
take on staff

Collocation Quizzes

Do or Make Collocations Quiz

1. What do you…………..for a living?

2. Have you……………your homework already?
3. My husband………..the grocery shopping.
4. Amber……………..badly on her geography exam.
5. The children…………….a mess in the kitchen.

6. We are having guests tonight, so please ……………..your bed.
7. I only ……………one mistake in my English test.
8. I have to ask you to…………… a favor.
9. Have you and your friend ……………..a decision yet?
10. Please excuse me while I ………………..a phone call.

Time Collocations Quiz

1. He arrived exactly at 11A.M. …………….on time.

2. What do you do in your…………?
3. We couldn't finish because we……………….time.
4. If we take this short cut we'll………………….some time.
5. I……………….time, and now doth time waste me. (Shakespeare)
6. There have been several burglaries in the…………..weeks.
7. The Internet was developed in the……………century.
8. They have no time. They work…………………dusk.
9. You'll forget it……………
10. Can you……………for me this weekend?