What are collocations?
Collocation are words that often go together in English. Native English speakers automatically use these words with each other because they sound "just right."
Whenever we hear someone using words that DON'T seem to go together, we automatically think it sounds "wrong," not English.
Using the "right" combination is more about sounding natural than about being
understood. When you use two or three words together in a different way than we do, we might understand you, but you sound "strange", " wrong" or unnatural. We know right away that you are an ESL speaker who is not really comfortable with the language.
The Expression "Awkward" in Your Writing
I'm sure that many of your teachers have handed back compositions with the expression "awkward" written on top of your sentences. Each time this happens, your teachers really mean that a native speaker would NOT use these words together. They are not fluent.
The message is that you need to go back and rewrite your sentences in a way that sounds English.
Awkward English vs Normal Collocations
Someone has a
Someone is well-educated, has a good education or is well-educated
acquire or gain knowledge , OR even better just learn.
make a living, support my family
What are the advantages of learning collocations?
- The most important advantage is that you will immediately sound more natural and fluent and we will understand you much better
- Research has proven that our brain learns and remembers language much better if it you learn it in chunks, or groups of words than if you only learn and try to remember single words.
- You are much more likely to use new vocabulary if you know how to use it with more than one other word.
- You will be able to express yourself in more ways with a richer and more expressive vocabulary. That means your writing will improve dramatically.
- You will feel more confident about your speaking and writing, which means you will want to speak and write more often than you used to. As you know, this will help you improve even faster.
But, if you learn that the word lack can be used with many other words, you might begin to use it. Take a look at the graphic on your left. We can use the verb lack with all those nouns.
I will discuss types of collocations and how you can learn them in my next post. In the meantime, let's look at two verbs that often cause problems.
Do and Make
Non-native speakers often confuse the verbs do and make. Although their meanings are similar, there ARE differences. We can't simply interchange them.
Do for activities.
Use the verb do to express daily activities or jobs. Notice that these are usually activities that do NOT product a physical object.
- do housework
- do homework
- do the dishes
Use the verb do when speaking about things in general and you are not specifically naming an activity. We often use this expression with "something, nothing, anything, everything."
- What did you do today?
- What do you do? = What is your job? your occupation?
- The storm did a lot a damage.
- I haven't done anything all day. I need to get busy.
- I hope you do well on the exam.
- make a cake
- make a bed
- make friends
- make a mistake
- make a suggestion
a difference a cake
a mistake trouble
an effort to a suggestion
an attempt(to) a mess
friends with money
a promise a deal with/ to
progress a fuss about
an offer an excuse for
fun of a mess
a decision to/about a face
noise a date
arrangements with/.to money
sure of something room (for)
appointment to/for a date (with)
an excuse for a fuss (about)
the most of (something) sense
it clear that love
the most of something
the best of (something)
it clear to/ that
(a, any, no difference) to
a fuss about
business (with) nothing
something a favour (for)
the dishes the shopping damage/ harm(to) the laundry
drugs an experiment
a project a puzzle
your hair your nails
overtime an activity
time in prison a poll/ a survey
an exercise something over
do your best
do your duty
do well/ do badly
do the right thing
do a bad/ good job
Practice make and do with the following quiz.