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Collocations - What are they and how to use them

What is collocation?

Collocation is ‘a predictable combination of words‘  for example we can say heavy rain but not strong rain because it does not sound right’ likewise, we can say ‘do exercise’ but not ‘make exercise’.  Collocations can be made up of any kinds of words such as verbs, nouns, adverbs and adjectives. There are no rules for collocations in English Language, they are just combinations of words that we can become familiar with and then use correctly.

Why learn collocations?

As your English language level improves, you have mastered several grammar structures and can communicate successfully, you may find that you have reached a point where your progress has slowed down.  At this point, it is important to work on your vocabulary, by learning new words and how to use them accurately and more naturally. Collocations can provide a short cut to accuracy as you don’t have to learn lots of words and then figure out how to put them together, you just learn one ‘piece of language’.

Common mistakes with collocations

Can you correct the following sentences? (You can check your answers at the bottom of the page)

I very enjoyed the party.

I’ve made my homework

I had a strong meal this morning.

The Shard is the highest building in the UK.

I lost the train so I was late.

I did a mistake.

I’m not very good in maths.

I can’t listen the recording, it’s too quiet.


Noticing collocations

Collocations are everywhere so you don’t need to be in class to learn them. Whenever you read something in English- a book, a news story or even a website, you can find collocations.  The important thing is to start noticing them and recording them so you can start to use them yourself to learn English.  Look at the following text, can you find any collocations? (You can check at the bottom of the page)

After giving Mark a lift to the airport, Cathy made her way home. What an exciting life he led! At times Cathy felt desperately jealous of him. She spent her time doing little more than taking care of him and the children. Now her sister was getting divorced and would probably be making demands on her too. Cathy had promised to give her sister a call as soon as she got home but she decided to run herself a bath first. She had a sharp pain in her side and hoped that a hot bath might ease the pain. After giving her sister a ring Cathy went to bed.

Once you have found collocations you could record them in a word web such as the one below for collocations with ‘get’.

I hope this blog has been helpful for you and good luck with your journey of collocation discovery!


Answers to common mistakes and noticing collocations:

really enjoyed the party.

I’ve done my homework

I had a heavy meal this morning.

The Shard is the tallest building in the UK.

missed the train so I was late.

made a mistake.

I’m not very good at maths.

I can’t hear the recording, it’s too quiet.


After giving Mark a lift to the airport, Cathy made her way home. What an exciting life he led! At times Cathy felt desperately jealous of him. She spent her time doing little more than taking care of him and the children. Now her sister was getting divorced and would probably be making demands on her too. Cathy had promised to give her sister a call as soon as she got home but she decided to run herself a bath first. She had a sharp pain in her side and hoped that a hot bath might ease the pain. After giving her sister a ring Cathy went to bed.