A collocation simply means words that often go together. It could be as simple as what we see in phrasal verbs, e.g. get along (relate well to each other), get up (rise in the morning), get into (become interested in, as a hobby). For all of these examples, you could say the word get collocates with the others. But in the example above, drift apart, you can see it has a deeper meaning. It means any words (even non-idiomatic words) that native speakers tend to put together. For example, although it’s possible to say quick car, we tend to say fast car. It collocates better. Another way of looking at it is, if you are reading a book and the last word on the page is drift, a native speaker would be able to guess that the following word was apart if given the context, even though there are other words that could be used there. A collocation, in other words, is the preferred combination of words. Instead of saying, “Over the years they drifted away”, we’d tend to say “Over the years they drifted apart”, even though both expressions would be correct English and convey the same idea.
Basically, a collocation is usually a smaller unit of meaning or function than an idiom or a proverb. For a final example, take the words break + down. You could say that, among other things, break collocates with down to mean separate or stop functioning.
Look at these examples:
|the fast train, fast food
||the quick train, quick food
|a quick shower, a quick meal
||a fast shower, a fast meal
Watch this video about collocations: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CqRloBkyqQs
Why learn collocations?
- Your language will be more regular and more effortlessly 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
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. Usually, in any collocation, one word will “call up” another word in the mind of a native speaker.
How to learn Collocations:
- Try to recognize collocations when you see or hear them.
- Treat collocations as single blocks of language. Consider 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 vaguely, remember distinctly, remember vividly).
- Reading is an excellent way to learn vocabulary and collocations in context and naturally.
- Revise and Practise using new collocations in context as soon as possible after learning them.
- You could learn collocations 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 specialized dictionaries of collocations.
Do the following exercises on collocations. Write down the collocations that you missed and make a list of them. When we are done we’ll do a quizlet-set with them.
Near and close: http://speakspeak.com/english-grammar-exercises/upper-intermediate/vocabulary-near-close-difference
Assignment: write a story with at least 15 collocations from your list. You are allowed to change the tense of the collocation. Mark the collocation in bold. Hand in your story as well as the list of collocations you missed.
Example of a story with collocations : Some time ago there was a man who had risen to the upper echelons of American politics. He played a vital role in waging war on obesity because it destroyed the vital organs of so many Americans. People welcomed the change that this vocal critic against the fast food industry had brought.
To be continued ….
Extra: (if you have some time to spare)
Example of a story. Fill in the gaps to practice your collocations.
Deeply Held – a short story by Andreas Lapouridis. Fill in the gaps.