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!