The correct use of collocations is an essential part of improving your English level and boosting your IELTS score. Using collocations correctly allows you to write and speak more like a native speaker and they are also one of the things that examiners look out for when marking your tests.
Learning new words as part of a collocation is a much more effective way of improving our vocabulary than simply learning single words by themselves.
What is a collocation?
A collocation is two or more words that often go together. These combinations just sound “right” to native English speakers, who use them all the time. On the other hand, other combinations may be unnatural and just sound “wrong”. Look at these examples:
|natural English…||unnatural English…|
|the fast train|
|a quick shower|
a quick meal
Why learn collocations?
- Your language will be more natural and more easily 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.
Collocations are two or more words that naturally go together. They sound ‘correct’ to a native speaker. Using other combinations that do not form natural collocations might sound ‘incorrect’.
We could describe a night out as ‘great fun’, but we would not describe it as ‘big fun’. Similarly, we could describe the rain as being ‘heavy’, but we would not say that it is ‘weighty’ or ‘big’ rain.
There are many different types of collocations that you should be aware of. Below are the main ones and some examples.
How to learn collocations
- Be aware of collocations, and try to recognize them when you see or hear them.
- Treat collocations as single blocks of language. Think of 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 distinctly, remember vaguely, remember vividly).
- Read as much as possible. Reading is an excellent way to learn vocabulary and collocations in context and naturally.
- Revise what you learn regularly. Practise using new collocations in context as soon as possible after learning them.
- Learn collocations in groups that work for you. You could learn them 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 any good learner’s dictionary. And you can also find specialized dictionaries of collocations.
Types of collocation
There are several different types of collocation made from combinations of verb, noun, adjective etc. Some of the most common types are:
- adverb + adjective: completely satisfied (NOT
- adjective + noun: excruciating pain (NOT excruciating
- noun + noun: a surge of anger (NOT a
- noun + verb: lions roar (NOT lions
- verb + noun: commit suicide (NOT
- verb + expression with preposition: burst into tears (NOT
blow up intears)
- verb + adverb: wave frantically (NOT wave
Some Examples of 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
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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.
5. verb + noun
- 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
- 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
- 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.
Words with Have, Do ,Make, take , Get and More
|An accident||The housework / chores||A cake|
|A shower||Your homework||A cup of coffee|
|A drink||Something||Someone happy / smile / sad|
|A haircut||nothing||An arrangements|
|Lunch / Breakfast / dinner||The dishes||A decision|
|A problem||The laundry||A choice|
|A holiday||A favor||A comment|
|An obligation||The shopping||A speech|
|An objection||Someone’s best||A suggestion|
|An access||The washing up||A plan|
|Tendency||A job||A call|
|An argument||Damage||A date|
|A hard / good time||Harm||A fortune|
|A shower||A job||Someone’s bed|
|A role||Get in|
|A break||Get Back|
|The lead||Get in front|
|A chance||A shock|
|An opportunity||The impression|
|A picture||The sack|
|An example||Access||A diary|
|A presentation||Support||An eye on someone|
|An explanation||A clue|
|An overview||An alternative|
|Someone an impression|
|Early / late||Respect||A leg|
|Into view||A fine||A promise|
|To a decision||Cash / by credit card||A record|
|To an end||Somebody a visit||Someone’s heart|
|The bill||The rules|
|Catch the bus / train||Bankrupt||Money|
|The flue||Crazy||Someone a seat|
|You breath||Fishing / Camping / sailing / hiking||Your strength|
|A glimpse||Mad||Someone’s life|
|Red-handed||Online / offline|
|Disease / illness||Overseas|
|Some rays||On foot|
English Collocations With The Word BIG
The word big is often used in collocations with a happening or event, for example:
- a big accomplishment
- a big decision
- a big disappointment
- a big failure
- a big improvement
- a big mistake
- a big surprise
(Big is also used when talking about size – click here to learn the difference between big, large, tall, and long in English.)
English Collocations With The Word GREAT
The word great is often used in collocations with feelings or qualities.
- Great + feelings
- great admiration
- great anger
- great enjoyment
- great excitement
- great fun
- great happiness
- great joy
- Great + qualities
- in great detail
- great power
- great pride
- great sensitivity
- great skill
- great strength
- great understanding
- great wisdom
- great wealth
English Collocations With The Word LARGE
The word large is often used in collocations involving numbers and measurements.
- a large amount
- a large collection
- a large number (of)
- a large population
- a large proportion
- a large quantity
- a large scale
English Collocations With The Word STRONG
The word strong is often used in collocations with facts and opinions:
- Strong + facts/opinions
- strong argument
- strong emphasis
- strong evidence
- a strong contrast
- a strong commitment
- strong criticism
- strong denial
- a strong feeling
- a strong opinion (about something)
- strong resistance
- Strong + senses
- a strong smell
- a strong taste
English Collocations With The Word DEEP
The word deep is used for some strong feelings:
- deep depression
- deep devotion
It is also used in these expressions:
- in deep thought
- in deep trouble
- in a deep sleep (when the person won’t wake up easily)
English Collocations With The Word HEAVY
Heavy is used for some weather conditions…
- heavy rain
- heavy snow
- heavy fog
The word heavy is also used for people with bad habits:
- a heavy drinker
- a heavy smoker
- a heavy drug user
There’s also the expression “a heavy sleeper” – that’s not someone who sleeps a lot; instead, it’s a person who doesn’t wake up easily when sleeping.
The word heavy is also used in collocations with two unpleasant things: TRAFFIC and TAXES!
- heavy traffic
- heavy taxes
Collocations with Go with Examples
1. Go abroad
E.g. I think we should go abroad on holiday this year.
2. Go astray
E.g. John will go astray if he becomes friends with Bad Jack.
3. Go bad
E.g. The milk will go bad if it is not kept in the fridge.
4. Go bald
E.g. Many men go bald at an early age.
5. Go bankrupt
E.g. The company is about to go bankrupt.
6. Go blind
E.g. The old cat is starting to go blind.
7. Go crazy
E.g. The old man is going to go crazy.
8. Go deaf
E.g. Many old people go deaf.
9. Go fishing
E.g. I would like to go fishing this weekend.
10. Go insane (idiom)
E.g. If you don’t stop making that noise, I’m going to go (completely) insane!
11. Go mad/angry
E.g. My parents will go mad if they catch me smoking.
12. Go missing
E.g. Cats often go missing in the city.
13. Go on a date
E.g. He called me and we’re going on a date next Saturday night.
14. Go on a picnic
E.g. We could go on a picnic today.
15. Go on foot
E.g. I don’t have a car, so I will go on foot.
16. Go online
E.g. Go online and learn about writing correct English.
17. Out of business
E.g. The farmer is going out of business.
18. Go out of fashion
E.g. Blue jeans never seem to go out of fashion.
19. Go overseas
E.g. I often go overseas on business trips.
20. Go quiet
E.g. When the solar eclipse takes place, everything will go quiet.
21. Go sailing
E.g. I like to go sailing at the weekend.
22. Go smoothly
E.g. Elections don’t always go smoothly in developing countries.
23. Go to the beach/to the movie
E.g. I want to go to the beach with my friends at weekend.
24. Go to war
E.g. I hope we don’t go to war.
Common Collocations with TAKE
Here is the list of useful collocations with TAKE in English with example sentences.
Take (sb) To court
E.g. They wouldn’t honour their contract, so we took them to court.
Take (sb’s) Temperature
E.g. After my temperature was taken, my blood pressure was checked.
Take a bite
E.g. Do you want to take a bite into this Apple?
Take a bow
E.g. During the show, I could barely take a bow.
Take a break
E.g. Let’s take a short break.
Take a call
E.g. I’m sorry, but I have to take this call.
Take a chance
E.g. Take a chance at it. You might win.
Take a class
E.g. I have to take a class on Saturdays this semester.
Take a decision (make)
E.g. You have to take lots of decisions in life.
Take a holiday
E.g. I’m going to take a holiday in June. I’m going to Spain.
Take a lesson
E.g. I’m talking English lessons to help me prepare for the IELTS
Take a look
E.g. I’ll take a look at the website and let you know what I think.
Take a message
E.g. Debra’s not here just now. Can I take a message?
Take a nap
E.g. The baby takes a nap every day at 2 pm.
Take a number
E.g. I think it will take a number of months for this to play out.
Take a photo/ a photograph
E.g. Why did you take so many photos on holiday?
Take a picture
E.g. Could I take a picture of you?
Take a rest
E.g. After work, I like to take a rest before cooking dinner.
Take a risk
E.g. Mountaineers take many risks when they climb high mountains.
Take a seat
E.g. I walked into her office and she told me to take a seat.
Take a shower (have)
E.g. We’ll be leaving in five minutes. I’ll just take a shower first.
Take a step (1)
E.g. If you take another step, I’ll shoot you.
Take a step (2)
E.g. You’ve taken an important step on the road to recovery.
Take a taxi/bus/train/plane
E.g. Richard takes a taxi to work every day.
Take A test
E.g. Have you taken your driving test yet?
Take a while/ a minute/ five minutes
E.g. Take a minute to read the question before answering it.
E.g. If we don’t take action soon, it’ll be too late.
Take advantage (of)
E.g. We take advantage of that.
E.g. I took my doctor’s advice and stopped drinking alcohol.
E.g. Finding a parking spot in the city takes ages.
Take an exam/ a test/ a course
E.g. I’m going to take a Maths exam next week.
Take an opportunity
E.g. It was a very difficult decision, leaving Leicester, but I had to take an opportunity that doesn’t come round often.
E.g. Take care, won’t you? It can be dangerous around here at night.
Take care of
E.g. Who’s taking care of your pets while you’re away?
E.g. Who’ll take charge if the mayor is sent to prison?
Take charge (of)
E.g. He decided to take charge of the whole meal.
E.g. Lots of young people were taking drugs like marijuana in the sixties.
E.g. My doctor says I should take more exercise.
E.g. Several foreign workers were taken hostage by rebel fighters.
E.g. Has grandpa taken his medicine yet?
E.g. If I don’t take notes, I forget too many important details.
E.g. Don’t take any notice of what he says. It’s all nonsense.
E.g. During the debate, those taking part will be sitting on the stage.
E.g. Where did the meeting take place?
Take pride in
E.g. You should take pride in the fact that your English is improving.
E.g. After the battle was over, we took hundreds of enemy soldiers prisoner.
Take sb’s place
E.g. If a player’s injured, another player takes his place in the team.
Take someone’s temperature
E.g. I took my temperature and I found that Iam running a fever.
E.g. Changing the way people think takes time, so you have to be patient.
Take time of (away form work for holidays or to do sth)
E.g. I’m exhausted. I think I’ll take some time off and spend a few days with my sister in the countryside.
E.g. If we take turns driving, we can travel all night.
Take up space
E.g. Most of the space on my hard disk is taken up by movie files.
Take your time
E.g. There’s no time limit, so you can take your time
Verb and Preposition Combinations
1. Verb + To
- Talk to
Example: Are you talking to me?
- Listen to
Example: Little girls like to listen to lullabies at bed time.
- Speak to
Example: You should speak to the boys about their behaviors
- Apologize to
Example: Go and apologize your sister for what you said!
- Belong to
Example: This book belongs to me.
- Happen to
Example: What happen to you at the party?
- Turn to
Example: A student who needs money turns to his parents.
- Used to
Example: She used to be lonely until she found Mr.Right.
- Wait for
Example: hey, slow down & wait for her!
- Look for
Example: Are you looking for this book?
- Ask for
Example: If you don’t ask for it, you won’t get it.
- Apply for
Example: I am going to apply for a new job today.
- Blame for
Example: Why do you always blame me for everything?
- Care for
Example: the mother is caring for her sick child.
- Long for
Example: He longs for the days when he used to have a job.
- Head for
Example: When shopping, he heads straight for the beer shelf.
3. Verb + At
- Smile at
Example: When she smiles at me, I become dizzy.
- Stare at
Example: Don’t stare at me like that!
- Aim at
Example: Aim at the target if you want to hit it.
- Look at
Example: Look at me! I’m talking to you!
- Point at
It is rude to point at people
- Laugh at
Why do you laugh at me?
4. Verb + From
- Recover from
He luckily recovers from a terrible accidence.
- Borrow from
If you want to run your own business, you could borrow money from the bank.
- Escape from
Luckily, I escape from a thief.
- Graduate from
I’ve just graduated from university this year.
Common Words We Use with MAKE
1) Produce sound
- Make a noise/ a sound
E.g. That you frequently make noise in class will affect the other students.
- Make a speech
E.g. The company president made a speech about ethics in the workplace.
- Make a joke
E.g. Harold always make jokes, but no one finds them funny.
- Make a phone call
E.g. Kate had to make a phone call during her break.
- Make a comment/ remark
E.g. The teacher made a few critical comments on my essay.
2) Produce things
- Make money / a profit / a fortune
E.g. Big companies employ smart people to ensure they pay very little tax on the huge profits they make.
- Make art (music/ paintings / sculptures)
E.g. He makes music from his basement.
- Make a mess
E.g. She didn’t like to make a mess.
- Make love
E.g. Most people feel a bit nervous before making love for the first time.
3) Produce reactions
- Make your eyes water
E.g. The covers will make your eyes water!
- Make you happy / sad / smile
E.g. He always make you happy so you will miss him a lot.
- Make you sleepy
E.g. Listen, this song will make you sleepy.
4) Mental / intangible activity
- Make a plan
E.g. We’re making plans to travel to Australia next year.
- Make a decision / your mind up / a choice
E.g. Have you made a decision yet?
- Make an arrangement / deal / compromise
E.g. I’m sure we can make an arrangement for that to happen, he said.
- Make a mistake
E.g. Whenever we make mistakes, our teacher corrects them for us.
- Make a suggestion / a point
E.g. John always makes himself a cup of tea when he gets to work.
- Make an effort / an excuse
E.g. You can’t learn a language without making an effort.
- Make a complaint
E.g. I made a complaint to the manager about the poor service in the restaurant.
- Make a difference
E.g. Higher wages would make a big difference to our quality of life.
- Make sure/ peace / believe
E.g. Both countries can rebuild now that they have made peace with each other.
Our kids love to make believe they’re superheroes with superhuman powers.
- Make time
E.g. It’s important to make time to read toy our children.
- Make friend
E.g. Jenny finds it hard to make friends.
5) Prepare something
- Make a cake / (a cup of) tea / coffee
E.g. Can you make a cake in the shape of Australia?
- Make breakfast / lunch / a sandwich
E.g. I’m making dinner – it’ll be ready in about ten minutes.
- Make the bed
E.g. I always make the bed before cleaning my teeth, washing my face, combing my hair every morning.
- Make a booking/ reversation
E.g. Shall I make a reservation for 8 o’clock at that Japanese restaurant?
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