Collocation is the habitual grouping of a particular word or words with another word or words; particularly nouns, verbs, adjectives and adverbs. They are word ‘partnerships’ and unlike idioms, the individual words in a collocation contribute to the overall meaning.
The way words combine in collocation is key to language use. Using collocations leads to effective communication. Collocations are like chunks of speech that make it easier to express complete ideas. Understanding and learning collocation improves vocabulary skills and helps with the acquisition of correct pronunciation: fixed expressions provide you with the stress pattern of the phrase as a whole.
Examples are spare time, spare change, get married and go bankrupt.
Happy New Year, Happy Anniversary, Happy Birthday and Merry Christmas are all collocations. Although ‘happy’ and ‘merry’ are synonyms, we do not say Merry New Year or Merry Birthday or Happy Christmas.
Collocations are exact. House work is not the same as home work; nor are overhang and hangover or look over and overlook the same.
There are several types of collocation, including:
- Noun and verb
- Verb and noun
- Noun and noun phrase
- Adjective and noun
- Adverb and Adjective
- Verb and Adverb /Adverb and Verb
- Verb + expression with preposition
Examples of each type are:
- The dog began to bark when it saw the cat moving.
- Snow was falling as our plane took off.
- The man was convicted of committing murder.
- Amy always does her homework in the evening after washing the dishes.
- The students gave their teacher a round of applause.
- The first hint that a storm was imminent was a clap of thunder.
- His doctor ordered him to get regular exercise.
- The Titanic sank on its maiden voyage.
- Cheating on his final law exam was an utterly stupid thing to do.
- Are you fully aware of the implications of your action?
- Mary whispered softly in John’s ear.
- I vaguely remember that it was growing dark when we left the house.
- We had to return home early because we had run out of money.
- When Jane heard about her friend’s death, she burst into tears.