Collocations may sound complicated or difficult when you first hear about them when learning to speak English. Collocations are just English speakers all agreeing that a single way of saying something is the best way to say it. All the other ways of saying these groups of words are unnecessary.
Humans like patterns, we feel comfortable when we share patterns with each other. This might be an image we can all look at and understand, or a pattern of music which makes us all feel the same way. So it should be no surprise we do the same with our spoken language. Humans like to be lazy (or efficient!) at conveying feelings and ideas when communicating with words, for native English speakers “less is more”.
So now we know what a collocation is, how do we learn them? It’s a pattern, and that means a strong learning technique is repetition. So listening to a native English speakers say these collocations will help train your brain, to store the common word combinations, until you recognise them automatically.
Because native English speakers use collocations all the time, they just sound “right”. If you change the word combinations, you will just sound “wrong” when you speak English. So you definitely want to practice listening and remembering the more common combinations!
collocations collocation fluently
Hi there and welcome to this latest podcast from Adept English. Today let’s do a podcast on how to speak English fluently and confidently. If this is your first time on Adept English – and your goal, your aim is to speak English fluently and confidently, then I’m so pleased that you’ve found us! This could be a new beginning or a turning point in your language learning! Listen to this podcast and then try a couple more of our podcasts – and visit our website at adeptenglish.com. We’ve got so much material to help with your English language learning!
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So today we’re going to talk about collocations. That’s C-O-L-L-O-C-A-T-I-O-N-S. Now if you ask a native English-speaking person ‘What is a collocation?’ then they probably wouldn’t know! But if you explain it to them, they’d say ’Oh yes, of course, I use those all the time!’ They’re so familiar to English speakers, we don’t even have a word for them, we don’t even know the name for them. We just use them automatically all the time.
But as a non-native English speaker, it’s well worth you learning about collocations, because they’re such a big part of the English language, especially spoken English, which is what we are mostly interested in here. So if you want to know how to speak English fluently and confidently, then spending time getting to know collocations is a good idea. Let me do a bit of teaching and then at the end of this podcast, we’ll have a test, a quiz – and then you can test your knowledge of collocations – of which words commonly go together!
So collocations are words in English, which frequently go together. So if it’s someone’s birthday – the anniversary of the day they were born – then you would always wish someone ‘Happy Birthday’. You wouldn’t say ‘Merry Birthday’ or ‘Joyful Birthday’.It would be ‘Happy Birthday’. Otherwise people would look at you strangely. If it’s the 25th December in the UK, it’s usually ‘Merry Christmas’. You might get away with ‘Happy Christmas’, but ‘Merry Christmas’ is more usual. So there are certain phrases, which we almost always use. It’s not wrong to use different words, but it may sound odd.
So ‘Happy Birthday’ and ‘Merry Christmas’ are examples of adjective plus noun collocations. So let’s think of some more examples of this type of collocation. What about if you go and see your doctor? Your GP as it’s known in the UK. Well, he or she will usually recommend ‘a balanced diet’ and ‘regular exercise’. It’s almost always those adjective and noun combinations. (And for those of you who’re keen on grammar – yes, I know ‘balanced’ is a past participle, but we’re using it like an adjective here!). Here are some more adjective and noun collocations:- strong coffee, a direct flight, a return ticket, a big mistake, a fast car or a sports car, a lucky winner. It doesn’t meant that other adjectives are not possible with these nouns, it’s just that these are the ones we’d tend to use for this meaning.
We would be much less likely to say ‘a fortunate winner’, it would always be ‘a lucky winner’. We wouldn’t say ‘powerful coffee’, we’d say ‘strong coffee’ and we’d say ‘a big mistake’ rather than ‘a large mistake’. Although none of these alternatives are grammatically wrong – they do sound a bit strange.
Collocations exist in many forms – not just as an adjective plus a noun. So the examples I’ve given you like ‘Happy Birthday’ – are an adjective and a noun. But collocations can be two nouns together. If there’s clapping after a performance, like that [clapping hand] – that’s me doing it, but imagine it with lots of people doing it. Then we would call that ‘a round of applause’. So ‘round’ there is a noun and ‘applause’ is a noun. We rarely say that a different way. We talk about ‘a tube of toothpaste’, ‘a bar of soap’, ‘a bunch of flowers’ - they would be other examples of noun plus noun collocations. ‘A glass of water’, ‘a pint of beer’, ‘a pair of shoes’, ‘a bunch of grapes’.
How about verb plus noun collocations? Well, there are lots of these too. And in fact, if you learn these phrases, it actually makes English much easier – you don’t have to think hard about vocabulary, you don’t have to think as much about which words to use. Examples of verb plus noun collocations would be ‘to get a job’, ‘to have a drink’ - that usually means alcohol. ‘To go on holiday’ or if you’re in the US, it would be ‘to take a vacation’. Often in formal writing these sorts of phrases are differen. So if you were writing, you might write ‘to gain employment’ rather than ‘to get a job’. And ‘to have a drink’ might be written formally as ‘to consume alcohol’.
A photograph of a man holding a baby you cannot tell the gender of the baby. Used to help explain English grammar she, he and they.
But when you’re speaking to people, you’d always use the shorter collocation. So if you want someone to come to the pub with you, you would never say ‘Would you like to come and consume alcohol with me?’ - unless you wanted to make them smile. You would always say ‘D’you want to come and have a drink with me?’ You always say ‘take a look’, ‘do the dishes’, though some might say ‘wash the dishes’ or ‘wash the pots’. You ‘make the beds’ - that means tidying the bedding after a night’s sleep, not literally putting together a new bed. Children would be told ‘do your homework’ and at work you might ‘make a deal’, then ‘sign a contract’.
So it’s not wrong to use different word combinations – but these are the most commonly used ones. If you know them, if you get familiar with them, it saves you time. There’s another common one – ‘to save time’. You wouldn’t say to ‘salvage time’ or ‘to rescue time’ or ‘to preserve time’. We always say ‘to save time’ if we’re talking about doing something more quickly, that is.
If you are getting up in the morning then you ‘have a shower’ or if you’re in the US, I guess you may ‘take a shower’. But you’d ‘wash your hair’, ‘clean your teeth’ and if you’re a man, you’d perhaps ‘have a shave’. One of the good things about the ‘Listen & Learn’ method, is that it gives you opportunity to pick up these collocations automatically.
How about we do that little test? Can you spot which is the most commonly used collocation in each of these sentences? Which verb goes more usually with the noun to make the collocation?
- The internet has created/made/produced opportunities for new types of business.
- My mother taught me never to speak/tell/say a lie.
- It has been a pleasure to make/have/do business with you.
- They’ll have/get/experience a shock when they see this bill.
- He turned/got/became divorced when he was about 31.
- You would just like to make/say/speak a comment.
- I have done/decided/made the right choice.
- Why should I make/say/speak sorry when it’s not my fault?
OK, so that’s eight questions there for you to test your knowledge of collocations. If you aren’t sure of the answers, then go to the transcript on our website at adeptenglish.com – and have a look. The correct words are underlined in the transcript. ‘Underlined’ means that when you look at the word written down, it has a line under it.
So there we are – how to speak English fluently and confidently, making use of your knowledge of collocations.
Enough for now. Have a lovely day. Speak to you again soon. Goodbye.