Rliberni's Blog – Radical language

June 12, 2009


Filed under: Improving English language skills — rliberni @ 4:49 pm

This is another area of language that can cause some difficulty for learners and where getting it right helps to improve fluency.

Collocations are words which often go together and are instinctively associated with each other. (The word comes from Latin meaning ‘put together’). It can seem a strange idea that words are linked in this way and also impossible to know which words go with which!

Getting them right is probably more about English style than comprehension. When they are used wrongly they simply sound strange even though you may still be understood.  For example we would always say;

  • raise a family – not – lift a family
  • if I remember rightly – not – if I remember perfectly

Collocations can be

adjective + noun      real leather,  a lengthy meeting

verb + object     throw a party,  raise your hand

verb + adverb      feel strongly,  apologise profusely

adverb + adjective    happily married,  deeply worried

It is worth spending some time on collocations learning certain useful ones as they can make your English sound more natural and also be economical (compare he is in a very deep sleep with he is sleeping soundly)

Here are some words that you might want to investigate further for their collocations:

utterly    This is utterly ridiculous! (you would never use dreadfully)

perfectly   She is perfectly happy with the arrangements. (you would never use utterly)

happily       They have been happily married for 30 years. ( you would never use perfectly)

badly           He was badly affected by losing his job.  (you would never use dangerously)

dangerously      She liked to live dangerously. (live badly would mean something different entirely)

ridiculously    These are ridiculously over-priced! (you would never use utterly)

You should be able to find more examples of collocations in course books and vocabulary books.

I have tried to find some good web-based examples but have so far failed. I will certainly put some on Gapfillers in the near future. If anybody knows of any other sites then please comment here!



  1. […] Collocation: This aspect of language is a good area to concentrate on for advanced students. (See my post on this June 12th 09) […]

    Pingback by An A to Z of effective language practice « Rliberni’s Blog — September 29, 2009 @ 4:03 pm | Reply

  2. […] The difference between these verbs is often quite subtle. They often have similar meanings but are used in different ways.  Sometimes the meaning is identical but a preference for one has been made in English (see post on collocation) […]

    Pingback by English Verbs that Confuse! « Rliberni’s Blog — December 14, 2009 @ 10:21 pm | Reply

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