Collocation: Finding The Right Words For The Job
Image courtesy of Janet Galore (CC Flickr)
Even Words Love and Hate Each Other!
Many of us are picky when it comes to socialising. We hang out with the people we like; and as for the others – we don’t tend to bother.
Guess what? Words do the same, in the sense that they are often seen together in exclusive groups. This relationship that words in a language share with each other is known as collocation. For example, you can have a drink or make a cup of tea, but you can’t do a drink.
Types of collocations
There are different varieties of collocations in English. Here are some:
|adjective + noun||express train|
|verb + noun||run a marathon|
|noun + noun||car salesman|
|verb + adverb||speak softly|
|adverb + adjective||newly married|
|verb + prepositional phrase||run out of|
Why words collocate
There’s no specific reason. It’s just that users of a language put certain words together more frequently than they do others. This also means that there are no clear rules that govern the use of collocations. So, as a learner, you just have to know which words go with which others.
Why learn collocations?
When you learn collocations, you are learning words in chunks, or groups of words. Naturally, this not only improves your accuracy but also fluency. For instance, suppose you learn the word ‘good’ along with the many other words it collocates with; this will widen your vocabulary and enable you to speak more fluently.
|good||at something||able to do something well||He is good at singing.|
|with something||able to use something well||She is good with computers.|
|for health||having a useful effect||This drink is good for health.|
|to me||Loving, friendly||My Grandma is really good to me.|
Remember, English tests such as IELTS assess a candidate’s ability to use collocations correctly. So, learn new vocabulary in chunks, never in isolation.
|Meaning||:||describes someone who is difficult to please|
|Example||:||Olga is quite picky about what she eats.|
|Meaning||:||to spend time with particular people in a particular place|
|Example||:||Sylvan enjoys hanging out with his cousins at the local pub.|
|Meaning||:||(often used in a negative sense) to spend time or energy doing something|
|Example||:||Miguel doesn’t bother brushing his hair.|
|Meaning||:||ability to speak or write a language easily and to a high standard|
|Example||:||Philip is fluent in Swahili.|
|Meaning||:||the state of being alone or separate|
|Example||:||Prisoners at this prison are kept in isolation if they cause trouble.|