Collocation: which words go together
Adjective + noun collocations
Nouns often have typical adjectives which go with them. Here are some examples.
Compare thing and article:
we don't usually say
the real thing
the genuine thing
the genuine article
the real article
I don't like five-a-side football; I prefer the real thing. [i.e. real football, with 11 players in each team]
These trainers are the genuine article. Those others are just cheap imported copies.
You can give a broad summary of something (NOT a wide summary).
You can describe something in great detail (NOT in big detail).
Some adjectives go with a restricted range of nouns. For example:
a formidable opponent/reputation/task/challenge
Verb + adverb collocations
Often, verbs have typical adverbs that collocate with them. The lines here show which collocations
She always walks too
swiftly on to the next point.
It's something I feel strongly about (NOT I feel powerfully about).
If I remember rightly, it happened at about 6.30 (NOT If I remember perfectly).
Adverb + adjective collocations
It is useful to learn which adverbs most typically modify particular types of adjectives. For example,
the adverb utterly, which means totally or completely, very frequently occurs before adjectives with
negative connotations, although it can also be used with neutral or positive words. Typical examples
are: appalling, dismal, depressed, disgusting, distasteful, exhausted, false, fatuous, impossible,
lost, ludicrous, naive, pointless, ridiculous, unacceptable, useless, wrong. Try to notice this kind
of regularity when learning words.
Verb + object collocations
Verbs and their objects often form collocations.
You raise your hand to ask a question (NOT lift your hand).
You can raise a family. [bring up children] (NOT lift a family)
You can visit / go to / click on / check out a website.
Collocation is concerned with the way words regularly occur together, often in unpredictable ways.
It is a very good idea when learning new words to learn any typical collocations that go with them.
Is the correct word real or genuine in these sentences? Choose the more normal
collocation. If both are acceptable, choose them both.
The photos of the pyramids are wonderful. One day I"d love to see the real / genuine thing.
He just doesn't live in the real / genuine world. He lives in a fantasy world all the time.
This handbag is made of real / genuine leather.
She is a very real / genuine person. If she promises something, she"ll do it.
This home-made champagne is nice, but it's not as good as the real / genuine article.
Choose one of the words below each sentence to fill the gaps. In each case only one of
them is the normal collocation for the underlined word. Use a dictionary if necessary.
1 After his death, she went to the hospital to collect his personal
attempt at an apology, but it didn't convince anyone.
2 He made a rather
opponent, and I respected him for that.
3 George was a
anxious when she didn't arrive.
4 I began to feel
bewildered by the answer they gave her.
5 She seemed to be
Choose the most suitable collocation in these sentences. The word you choose should
have the approximate meaning given in brackets. Use a dictionary if necessary.
1 A brisk / brusque / brash walk before breakfast helps to enforce / sharpen / grow the appetite.
(quick and energetic; increase, make stronger)
2 The death tally / tale / toll in the earthquake has now risen to 20,000. (number or total)
3 Let's take a sluggish / plodding / leisurely stroll along the beach, shall we? (slow and not energetic)
4 If you want to stay at home tonight, that's utterly / perfectly / blatantly OK with me.
5 My aunt bequeathed / bequested / bereaved £20,000 in her will to cancer research. (gave after
6 If I remember rightly / keenly / fairly, she had two brothers, both older than her. (correctly)
7 If you want information about the publisher of this book, you can accede / call / visit their website
at www.cambridge.org. (consult, look at)
8 Eating all those peanuts has spoilt / attacked / lowered my appetite. I don't feel like dinner now.
Which collocation is more likely? Choose the correct answer.
a strong car / a powerful car
strong tea / powerful tea
auburn hair / an auburn carpet
a doleful party / a doleful expression
a lengthy room / a lengthy meeting
Over to you
During the next week, try to find one new collocation that you were not aware of before for
each of these categories:
ADJECTIVE + NOUN VERB + OBJECT ADVERB + ADJECTIVE