What is a collocation?

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. some combinations just sound ‘wrong’ to native speakers of english. FOr example, the adjective fast collocates with cars, but not with a glance.

Learning collocation is an important part of learning hte vocabulary of a language. some collocations are fixed, or very strong, for example take a photo, where no word other than take collocates with photo to give the same meaning. Some collocations are more open, where several diferent words may be used to give a similar meaning, for example keep to / stick to the rules. Here are some examples of collocations.

You must make an effort and study for your exams (not DO an effort).
Did you watch TV last night? (not LOOK AT TV)
This car has a very powerful engine. It can do 200 km an hour. (not STRONG engine)
There are some ancient monuments nearby. (not ANTIQUE monuments)

Sometimes, a pair of words may not be absolutely wrong, and people will understand what is meant, but it may not be the natural, normal collocation. if someone syas I did a few mistakes he will be understood, but a fluent speaker of English would probably say I made a few msitakes.

(McCarthy & O’Dell.2007. English Collocations in Use. CUP)



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