English language collocations

collocations

Collocations are words that combine well together, making set phrases. “Do your homework”, “a brief period”, “a bunch of flowers” — all of these are collocations, accepted combinations of words. It is one of the fundamental aspects of natural English. Good knowledge of collocations makes your speech sound effortless and cohesive.

Why you should learn collocations

  • Proper use of collocations makes your speech and writing more natural. You say Do me a favour, not make me a favour
  • Gives you more freedom to paraphrase your ideas correctly. Examples: to get a job, to find a job, to look for a job
  • Collocations are tough to guess if you don’t know them. It takes a very developed “feel” of the language to guess them correctly

Types of collocations

  • Noun+noun. (a flock of birds, a giant of a man, file and rank)
  • Noun+adjective. (a major problem, a key point, a plausible outcome)
  • Noun+verb. (I like to watch TV; he shut the door)
  • Verb+adverb. (to step lightly; he easily defeated him; they barely moved)
  • Adverb+adjective (I was pleasantly surprised to learn that)

This is a list of basic collocation groups. There are some more, but for now we shall concentrate on those above.

There are two ways to learn new collocations. You can use specialized dictionaries and dedicated textbooks for that. Alternatively, you may want to note any collocations in text you read and write them down. Of course, you have to be experienced enough to be able to recognize them.

This article contains the most basic collocations. They are grouped by words rather than types. I believe such grouping makes more practical sense. To make sense is a collocation too by the way.
Some verbs have explanations (in brackets), mostly more complex ones. All of the verbs have illustrative examples.

Collocations with “do”

Do a favour Do me a favour, stop pestering me with your problems
Do one’s best (try very hard to achieve smth.) — I did my best and we won
Do the dishes/cleaning/laundryHave some tea, I have to do the dishes
Do one’s hair (to comb, wash, arrange hair) — I want my hair done
Do damage/harmLast night’s storm did much damage to the house
Do an experimentThey have done some experiments on animals

Collocations with “make”

Make a fuss (to cause argument, commotion) — She made a fuss over the fact that the waitress didn’t smile at her
Make noise — The noise her rusty old car was making could was terrible
Make a choice — The choice had to be made as soon as possible
Make a mistake — Making such mistakes is unacceptable
Make a phone call — She has to make a few calls before noon
Make a decision — Making this decision wasn’t easy for either of us
Make an effort (to attempt, to try to do something) — They made an effort to reach out to them

Collocations with “get”

Get upset He got upset because of your behaviour
Get better (to recover e.g. from illness) — Our dog is getting better
Get angry You shouldn’t get angry at him, he’s too young
Get married Nowadays people get married in their thirties
Get permission I got the permission to leave from my boss
Get drunk Last Friday we got so drunk I don’t remember anything
Get up (to wake up or to stand up) — Get up, it’s time to go
Get lost (to lose one’s way) — Once she got lost in the woods there
Get away (to run away or to remain unpunished) — I don’t understand how does he manage to get away with his behaviour

Collocations with “go”

Go hiking/jogging/sightseeing Would you like to go jogging with me early in the morning?
Go to bed After the army I go to bed at 10 pm sharp
Go missing (to get lost) — The lady went missing two days ago
Go abroad (go to another country) — We don’t go abroad very often
Go mad (become crazy) — There’s something wrong with Jack, I think he went completely mad
Go quiet (become silent) — Suddenly, the street went completely quiet

Collocations with “catch”

Catch a cold (get or suffer from cold) — He forgot his cap and caught terrible cold last night
Catch a taxi/bus/train Hurry up or we wont be there in time to catch out train!
Catch smb red-handed (catch committing crime) — The robbers were caught red-handed by the police
Catch sight of smb (notice someone) — I caught sight of your yesterday evening in the mall
Catch smb’s eye (to attract attention) — The girl by the arcade machine really caught my eye

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