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Collocations in English - Article

Updated: Feb 16, 2023


This article explains the concept of collocations in English language, which refers to words that combine well together to form set phrases. It highlights the importance of learning collocations for speaking and writing in a more natural manner, as well as for having the freedom to paraphrase ideas correctly. The article describes the different types of collocations such as noun + noun, noun + adjective, noun + verb, verb + adverb, and adverb + adjective. The article also provides tips on how to learn collocations, including using specialised dictionaries, noting collocations in texts, practicing with native speakers, and reviewing what has been learned. The article concludes by listing common collocations with words such as "do," "make," "get," "go," and "catch."


Collocations are words that combine well together, making set phrases. “Do your homework”, “a brief period”, “a bunch of flowers”. All of these are collocations, accepted combinations of words. It is one of the fundamental aspects of natural English. A good knowledge of collocations will definitely make your speech and writing sound more natural.

Collocations sound natural to native speakers, but students of English have to make a special effort to learn them because they are often difficult to guess. Some combinations just sound ‘wrong’ to native speakers of English. For example, the adjective fast collocates with cars, but not with a glance. We say fast cars, not quick cars.

Why you should learn collocations

The correct use of collocations makes your speech and writing more natural.

  • We say Do me a favour, not Give me a favour.

Gives you more freedom to paraphrase your ideas correctly. Examples:

  • to get a job, to find a job, to look for a job.

Collocations are tough to guess if you don’t know them. It takes a very developed “feel” of the language to guess them correctly and we don’t recommend you try to guess them. If you don’t know, for example, that “big decision” is a collocation, it is not so easy to guess.

Types of collocations

Noun + Noun

1. We need to improve our sales figures (sales figures)

2. He had difficulty managing his workload (workload management)

3. They've come up with a new internet solution (internet solution)

4. She was extremely satisfied with the customer service (customer service)

5. We need to make sure the product delivery is on time (product delivery)

Noun + Adjective

1. He gave a cheerful smile (cheerful smile)

2. She wore a glittering dress (glittering dress)

3. The children had an adventurous spirit (adventurous spirit)

4. He had a determined attitude (determined attitude)

5. Her eyes were full of deep sadness (deep sadness)

Noun + Verb

1. He thoughtfully listened to his teacher (thoughtfully listen)

2. She composed a beautiful song (compose a song)

3. They courageously faced their fears (courageously face)

4. She carefully read her book (carefully read)

5. The children eagerly awaited their rewards (eagerly await)

Verb + Adverb

1. She slowly moved forward (slowly move)

2. He quickly responded to the question (quickly respond)

3. They quietly waited for their turn (quietly wait)

4. She joyfully celebrated her success (joyfully celebrate)

5. He deliberately chose his words (deliberately choose)

Adverb + Adjective

1. He spoke extremely softly (extremely softly)

2. She worked diligently on her project (diligently)

3. The students studied thoroughly for their exams (thoroughly)

4. They moved swiftly through the forest (swiftly)

5. He ate heartily at the feast (heartily)

Ways to lean collocations

There are two ways to learn new collocations. You can use specialised dictionaries and dedicated textbooks. Alternatively, you may want to note any collocations in a text you read and write them down. Of course, you have to be experienced enough to be able to recognise them.

Learning collocations can be a fun and rewarding experience. It will help you improve your English language skills and help you become more fluent in speaking and writing.

The key to effectively learning collocations is to practice regularly, be patient and set yourself achievable goals. To do this, you need to create an effective strategy for memorizing new words.

Firstly, identify the types of words that you need to learn. Collocations are made up of two or more words that often go together, such as “make progress” or “read a book”. Focus on the most frequent and useful combinations in the language so that you can use them accurately.

Secondly, create a list of the collocations you want to study. This will serve as a reference when writing or speaking English. Additionally, you can use online resources such as word games, flash cards, vocabulary lists and audio recordings to supplement your studies.

Thirdly, practice using the collocations. The best way to improve your knowledge is through conversation with native speakers, by reading materials and listening to recordings in English. Try to reproduce the expressions in your own sentences and use them in daily conversations.

Finally, review what you have learned periodically so that you remember it better. Make sure that you are conscious of the precise meaning and correct use of each expression. Regular repetition and practice are essential in mastering collocations.

Some common collocations

This post contains the most basic collocations. They are grouped by words rather than types. We believe such grouping makes more practical sense. To make sense is a collocation too by the way.

Collocations with “do”

1. Do justice: To judge, administer or execute the law in a fair and equitable manner.

2. Do the math: To calculate a numerical equation.

3. Do good: To provide help and assistance to those in need.

4. Do time: To serve a prison sentence.

5. Do the right thing: To act morally and ethically.

6. Do your research: To investigate and study a subject matter.

7. Do a favour: To offer a service to somebody.

8. Do a double take: To look at something twice in surprise.

9. Do business: To engage in a commercial transaction.

10. Do damage: To inflict harm or destruction.

Collocations with “make”

1. Make an effort (try hard to do something)

2. Make a decision (decide on an action or course of direction)

3. Make money (generate income)

4. Make progress (advance or move forward)

5. Make time (find the time for something)

6. Make a mistake (err or do something incorrectly)

7. Make a change (alter or modify something)

8. Make a difference (have an impact)

9. Make a complaint (express dissatisfaction)

10. Make amends (correct a wrong-doing)

Collocations with “get”

1. Get an idea (form a notion or concept)

2. Get ready (prepare or become prepared)

3. Get permission (seek approval before doing something)

4. Get married (attain the state of matrimony)

5. Get results (derive a desired outcome)

6. Get dressed (dress oneself)

7. Get a haircut (shave or trim one's hair)

8. Get a degree (earn a diploma or qualification)

9. Get a taste (sample something in small amounts)

10. Get along (develop a good relationship with someone)

11. Get involved (take part in or become associated with something)

12. Get excited (feel enthusiasm about something)

13. Get informed (acquire knowledge about something)

14. Get started (begin to do something)

15. Get a job (find employment)

16. Get lost (become confused and disoriented)

17. Get some rest (take a break and relax)

18. Get hurt (suffer an injury or physical pain)

19. Get angry (feel rage or fury caused by something)

20. Get help (seek assistance from someone else)

Collocations with “go”

1. Go shopping (retail therapy)

2. Go wild (act in an uninhibited manner)

3. Go back (return to a place or position)

4. Go to bed (retire for the night)

5. Go fishing (angling sport)

6. Go out (leave one's home to socialize or participate in an activity)

7. Go on a trip (travel to another location)

8. Go wrong (experience an unexpected setback)

9. Go ahead (proceed with an action or idea)

10. Go through (examine or experience something completely)

11. Go together (match or fit harmoniously)

12. Go to work (commute to or begin working at a place of employment)

13. Go abroad (travel outside one's local area or country)

14. Go up (increase in size, quantity or value)

15. Go down (reduce in size, quantity or value)

16. Go off (come to an end or stop working abruptly)

17. Go out of business (cease trading activities permanently)

18. Go on strike (refrain from work as protest or demand better working conditions)

19. Go for it (make an attempt despite potential risks and difficulties)

20. Go without (manage without something deemed necessary)

Collocations with “catch”

1. Catch a cold (contract an illness)

2. Catch a bus (board public transportation)

3. Catch up (overcome arrears or regain pace)

4. Catch fire (ignite/burn with flames)

5. Catch a break (have good luck or a stroke of fortune)

6. Catch sight of (notice, view or perceive)

7. Catch on (Grasp the meaning or become popular)

8. Catch someone's eye (attract attention)

9. Catch someone off guard (surprise by being unprepared)

10. Catch a glimpse (see for a brief moment)

11. Catch someone red handed (find someone with evidence of wrongdoing)

12. Catch your breath (regain composure from exertion)

13. Catch up with (overtake while in pursuit)

14. Catch your eye (attract attention visually)

15. Catch phrase (expression that is widely known)

16. Catch a train (board public transportation)

17. Catch some Z's (slang for sleep or rest)

18. Catch a cheater (discover someone cheating on a test or exam)

19. Catch some rays (sunbathe or get exposed to sunlight)

20. Catch a wave (ride the swell on a surfboard or body board)


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