A collocation is when two or more words often go together. For example, in English we usually say use the verb ‘strike’ before the noun ‘deal’. So the collocation is ‘strike a deal’ which means to succeed in securing a deal with a company. Although you could say we ‘hit a deal’ it sounds unnatural, when to ‘strike a deal’ is a natural example. Some common verbs used in collocations are: have, go, make, do, take, break, catch, save, keep, pay, among many others.
Don’t forget to download your free Collocations Cheat Sheet at the bottom of the blog!
What’s the difference between a collocation and a phrasal verb?
As stated in the first paragraph, a collocation is a group of words that naturally go together. Some examples include: ‘make a mistake’, ‘take a break’, ‘break a record’, etc.
A phrasal verb is very close to a collocation but the main difference is the way it is formed. A phrasal verb is made up of a verb + preposition. For more information about phrasal verbs, check out our blog.
It is important to remember that the meaning of a phrasal verb is different to the original verb. For example: ‘Look after’ means to care for someone whilst ‘look’ means to use your eyes to see something.
A note on ‘have’ and ‘make’
We typically use the verb ‘have’ when we’re talking about possession/ownership. For example: I have a dog. (The dog belongs to me. / I own the dog.)
When we use collocations, ‘have’ is typically used when we talk about fixed events, such as a meeting. For example: Let’s have a meeting. / We’re having a meeting. You can find more collocations about meetings over at the meetings course.
We typically use the verb ‘make’ when we talk about creating something. For example: I’m going to make you a promise. (I’m going to create a promise for you.)
When we use collocations with ‘make’ we’re usually talking about planned activities. For example: I made an appointment with the doctor.
Natural v Unnatural
Let’s start by looking at some more examples of natural collocations versus unnatural ones.
Have a rest (natural).
Do a rest (unnatural).
Make a noise (natural).
Make a haircut (unnatural).
Commit a crime (natural).
Commit a goal (unnatural).
Fast food (natural).
Quick food (unnatural).
Below are a few examples of collocations. A comprehensive list would be the length of an entire book so I’ve just gathered a few ideas here.
take, break, catch, save, keep, pay, catch
|Have children||Make a mess|
|Have surgery||Make a noise|
|Have a good time||Make a fuss|
|Have difficulty||Make a fool of yourself|
|Have a feeling / Have a funny feeling||Make a cup of tea / make some food|
|Have breakfast / lunch / dinner||Make friends|
|Have no fear||Make a profit|
|Have a bite||Make a phone call|
|Have a busy day||Make a comment|
|Go on through||Do the ironing|
|Go on an adventure||Do the dishes|
|Go out of business||Do some research /work|
|Go to the beach / cinema||Do my hair|
|Go figure||Do (someone) a favour|
|Go bankrupt||Do nothing|
|Go through me||Do over|
|Go on holiday||Do without|
|Go to university||Do my best|
|Break a habit||Take a bow|
|Break a promise||Take a look|
|Break the law / rules||Take a message|
|Break even||Take a photograph|
|Break loose||Take a nap|
|Break new ground||Take a risk|
|Break a window||Take an opportunity|
|Break (someone’s) heart||Take (good) care of|
|Break free||Take part|
Match the words to form natural collocations.
Create ten sentences using a collocation in each. You can then book a lesson with one of our teachers to discuss your sentences.
Grab your free downloadable collocations cheat sheet right here!
This content was written and recorded by Intrepid English Teacher Thomas.
You can find out more about Thomas on his Intrepid English Teacher Profile Page.
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