Collocations

You shall know a word by the company it keeps
J R Firth (British linguist, 1890-1960)
The "father" of collocation is usually considered to be J.R. Firth, a British linguist who died in 1960. It was he that first used the term "collocation" in its linguistic sense. Some definitions:
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to collocate (verb): to appear with another word more frequently than by chance The word "white" collocates with "coffee". collocation (noun): the combination of two or more words more frequently than by chance - Learning about collocation helps us speak more fluent English. a collocation (noun): an example of collocation - "White coffee" is a collocation.

An easy way to remember the meaning of collocation: think of "col-" or "co-" (together) and "location" (place) = place together, locate together, go together Note also (non-linguistic senses): collocate (verb): place side by side or in relation collocation (noun): the action of placing things side by side or in position colocate/co-locate (verb): share a location or facility with someone or something

Strong and weak collocation
If we look deeper into collocations, we find that not only do the words "go together" but there is a degree of predictability in their association. Generally, in any collocation, one word will "call up" another word in the mind of a native speaker. In other words, if I give you one word, you can predict the other word, with varying degrees of success. This predictability is not 100%, but it is always much higher than with non-collocates. The predictability may be strong: for example "auspicious" collocates with very few words, as in:
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auspicious occasion auspicious moment auspicious event

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Or the predictability may be weak: for example, "circuit" collocates with more than 20 words, as in:

circuit collocates left with... CIRCUIT circuit collocates right with... racing circuit lecture circuit talk-show circuit short circuit closed circuit integrated circuit printed circuit printed circuit board circuit board circuit breaker circuit training circuit judge

Lexical and Grammatical Collocations
A distinction may if wished be made between lexical collocations and grammatical collocations. A lexical collocation is a type of construction where a verb, noun, adjective or adverb forms a predictable connection with another word, as in:
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Adverb + Adjective: completely satisfied (NOT downright satisfied) Adjective + Noun: excruciating pain (NOT excruciating joy) Noun + Verb: lions roar (NOT lions shout) Verb + Noun: commit suicide (NOT undertake suicide)

A grammatical collocation is a type of construction where for example a verb or adjective must be followed by a particular preposition, or a noun must be followed by a particular form of the verb, as in:
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Verb + Preposition: depend on (NOT depend of) Adjective + Preposition: afraid of (NOT afraid at) Noun + Particular form of verb: strength to lift it (not strength lifting it)

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When is a collocation NOT a collocation?
The term "collocation" in its linguistic sense is relatively new (dating from the 1950s) and not all linguists agree on its definition. In fact there is considerable disagreement and even some confusion. Some linguists treat fixed phrases as extended collocations (as far as I'm concerned, not on your life, rather you than me, under the weather, if you've got the time). Others suggest that when a sequence of words is 100% predictable, and allows absolutely no change except possibly in tense, it is not helpful to treat it as a collocation. Such sequences they generally treat as fixed expressions ("prim and proper") or idioms ("kick the bucket"). A good dictionary of collocations is the Oxford Collocations Dictionary for Students of English.

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
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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
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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
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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
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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.

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5. verb + noun
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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
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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
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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
Here 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 have a bath have a drink have a good time have a haircut have a holiday have a problem have a relationship have a rest have lunch have sympathy take take a break take a chance take a look take a rest take a seat take a taxi take an exam take notes do do business do nothing do someone a favour do the cooking do the housework do the shopping do the washing up do your best do your hair do your homework break break a habit break a leg break a promise break a record break a window break someone's heart break the ice break the law make make a difference make a mess make a mistake make a noise make an effort make furniture make money make progress make room make trouble catch catch a ball catch a bus catch a chill catch a cold catch a thief catch fire catch sight of catch someone's attention 4

take someone's place break the news to someone catch someone's eye take someone's temperature break the rules catch the flu save pay a fine save electricity pay attention save energy pay by credit card save money pay cash save one's strength pay interest save someone a seat pay someone a compliment save someone's life pay someone a visit save something to a disk pay the bill save space pay the price save time pay your respects save yourself the trouble come come close come complete with come direct come early come first come into view come last come late come on time come prepared come right back come second come to a compromise come to a decision come to an agreement come to an end come to a standstill come to terms with come to a total of come under attack go go abroad go astray go bad go bald go bankrupt go blind go crazy go dark go deaf go fishing go mad go missing go on foot go online go out of business go overseas go quiet go sailing go to war go yellow pay keep keep a diary keep a promise keep a secret keep an appointment keep calm keep control keep in touch keep quiet keep someone's place keep the change get get a job get a shock get angry get divorced get drunk get frightened get home get lost get married get nowhere get permission get pregnant get ready get started get the impression get the message get the sack get upset get wet get worried

Miscellaneous
Time bang on time dead on time early 12th century free time from dawn till dusk great deal of time late 20th century make time for next few days Business English annual turnover bear in mind break off negotiations cease trading chair a meeting close a deal close a meeting come to the point dismiss an offer Classifiers a ball of string a bar of chocolate a bottle of water a bunch of carrots a cube of sugar a pack of cards a pad of paper

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past few weeks right on time run out of time save time spare time spend some time take your time tell someone the time time goes by time passes waste time

draw a conclusion draw your attention to launch a new product lay off staff go bankrupt go into partnership make a loss make a profit market forces sales figures take on staff

Collocation -- example
verb + noun -- take a vacation adjective + noun -- light rain adverb + verb -- completely forget adverb + adjective -- totally awesome adjective + preposition -- tired of ... noun + noun -- a business deal Here are some examples of longer collocations based on 'll: I'll give you a call. I'll be in touch. I'll get back to you as soon as I can. I'll be back in a minute. I'll see what I can do.

Collocations
1. to burst into laughter 2. to bear witness to (something) 3. to carry something too far 4. to cast an eye over (something) ( = to examine something briefly) 5. to catch (one's) eye

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6. to change one's mind 7. to carry/convey a message 8. to cause damage to 9. to take care of somebody / something 10. to come to somebody's rescue/aid 11. to come off in an examination 12. to commit crime 13. to draw (one's) attention to (something) 14. to make comparison 15. to drive (someone) mad 16. to drop a line to (someone) ( = to write to somebody) 17. to turn a deaf ear to 18. to have something done (by somebody) 19. to do somebody a favour 20. to look down on somebody 21. There is a great demand for 22. to eat one's words

23. to exercise (one's) right 24. to engage a telephone line 25. to earn a living 26. to have a good/bad effect on 27. to enrich one's knowledge 28. to come to an end 29. to pay attention to (someone)

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30. to place an order 31. to play tricks on (someone) 32. to put the blame on (someone) 33. to pay a visit to 34. to pick up a bad habit 35. to put an end to 36. to raise a question/an objection 37. to read between the lines (= to look for the underlying meaning of one's words) 38. to receive a good education 39. to receive a letter from 40. to take (one's) time (= to do something slowly) 41. to throw cold water on something (= to discourage someone from doing something) 42. to turn a blind eye to 43. to tackle a problem 44. to take the chance 45. to keep track on 46. to take shape English the verb perform is used with operation, but not with discussion: The doctor performed the operation. Collocates of 'bank' are: central, river, account, manager, merchant, money, deposits, lending, society. These examples reflect a number of common expressions, 'central bank', 'bank or building society', and so forth. It is easy to see how the meaning of 'bank' is partly expressed through the choice of collocates. High collocates with probability, but not with chance: a high probability but a good chance Herd collocates with cows, but not with sheep: a herd of cows but a flock of sheep The adjective dry can only mean 'not sweet' in combination with the noun wine.

A more illustrative example is the one given below:

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   

white wine white coffee white noise white man

In none of the examples does white have its usual meaning. Instead, in the examples above it means 'yellowish', 'brownish', 'containing many frequencies with about equal amplitude', and 'pinkish' or 'pale brown', respectively. 'Crystal clear', 'middle management' 'nuclear family' and 'cosmetic surgery' are examples of collocated pairs of words. Some words are often found together because they make up a compound noun, for example 'riding boots' or 'motor cyclist'. Examples of phrases: a person can be 'locked in mortal combat', meaning involved in a serious fight, or 'bright eyed and bushy tailed', meaning fresh and ready to go; 'red in the face', meaning 'embarrassed', or 'blue in the face' meaning 'angry'. It is not a common expression for someone to be 'yellow in the face' or 'green in the face' however. Therefore 'red' and 'blue' collocate with 'in the face', but 'yellow in the face' or 'green in the face' are probably mistakes. English has many of these collocated expressions and some linguists (e.g Khellmer 1991) argue that our mental lexicon is made up of many collocated words and phrases as well as individual items. Some words have different collocations which reflect their different meanings, e.g 'bank' collocates with 'river' and 'investment'. Here’s an example of collocations for a common and important word in English: money These are fairly set pairs of words - the trick is to find out which verbs and adjectives are used with which nouns. Money - with verbs spend money save money make money earn money lose money exchange money put money in the bank deposit money in the bank take money out of the bank withdraw money from the bank Money - with adjectives fake money extra money

When our focus is on collocation, we might say something like the following:

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"An important verb for dream is have. Two frequently appearing modifiers for dream are bad and recurrent, and two prepositions that often occur with dream are about and in: 'I had a dream about.. and 'In my dream, I was ..' In addition, dream can be used as a modifier in words like dream catcher and dream diary. When we put a child to bed at night, we often say, 'Sweet dreams!'"
Let's + verb which directs an audience's attention + preposition + noun which describes an idea. This is a commonly used structural pattern into which you can insert a variety of words and still have commonly used patterns:

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Let's Let's Let's Let's Let's

move on to the next point. go back to the last chapter. move away from this paragraph look at tomorrow's homework. go on to the main point.

However, there are still a limited number of words which will "fit" into this pattern. So, for example, we don't typically say "Let's go out of this paragraph". W e say "Get on a bus"/"climb on a bus" but usually not "enter a bus" or "get in a bus". However, we say "get in a car". W e say "take the bus"/"ride the bus"/"go there on the bus" but usually not "W e can drive there on the bus". However we say "W e can drive there in her car."

Can you recognize collocations?
Fill in the blanks in the sentences below with words that you think might belong there. The blank s represent one part of a collocation. Some of these collocations are more fixed than others, so in some cases, there might be several words that could be used in the blanks. Example He only sees his sister once in a _______________. Alm ost every native speaker in the U.S. would almost immediately write either "while" or "blue moon" in the blank . The phrases "once in a while" and "once in a blue moon" are collocations, learned as chunk s of language. Now see what you can do with the following sentences: 1. 2. 3. His angry ex-wife claim s he has never ________________ his responsibilities to his children because he has not paid enough child support. She was excused for being late due to extenuating _________________. "Can you give me directions to the freeway from here?" "45th Street is the next left. If you follow 45th for about a mile, you can __________________ the freeway there." "Can you give me a _________________ with this?" "I'm so hungry, I _____________________."

4. 5. 6.

Look at these collocations w ith strong . How many w ords w ould be needed to translate strong in you language?

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a strong personality; strong enough to; strong w ind/current; strong impression/incentive/influence; strong opinions; strong w ords; strong action; strong language; a strong case against; a strong possibility; strong points; a strong team; a strong currency; strong drink; a strong colour; a strong taste.

Answers(Can you recognize collocations?): 1) fulfilled, honored, carried out, met 2) circumstances 3) get on 4) hand 5) could eat a horse

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