Grammar

Collocations English Grammar

by VIDYANAND

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What are Collocations?

Collocations are groups of two or more words which are generally used together. A collocation is therefore a fixed combination of words which are used in order to convey a specific meaning. For example, the words ‘make’ and ‘belief’ are used together in order to mean ‘fake’. 

Consider the following examples:

CorrectIncorrect
Break the lawCrack the law
Crack the examBreak the exam

The words ‘break’ and ‘crack’ are synonyms. However, we always use ‘break’ and not ‘crack’ with ‘law’. Similarly, ‘crack’ is always used with ‘code’. This predetermined combination of words is known as collocation. 

CorrectIncorrect
Fast foodQuick food
Quick wittedFast witted
Catch a cold Grab a cold
Grab a biteCatch a bite
Watch TVLook TV
Look into the matterWatch into the matter

Importance of Collocations 

  • A sound knowledge of collocations can be helpful in learning the vocabulary of the language.  It helps the learner grasp the finer nuances of the usage of the language. 
  • It enriches the language by giving the speaker alternative ways of expressing the same idea. Example:
    • A variety of tests 
    • A battery of tests

Types of Collocations

Following are some of the combinations of collocations in English:

Adjective and nounrich vocabulary, stark contrast, heavy traffic, sharp features
Verb and nounaccept the offer, brew coffee, entrust responsibility, cry wolf, hold forth
Noun and nounfuel tank, post office, soap bar, printer cartridge, round of applause  
Verb and adverbcry bitterly, fail miserably, cost dearly, speak softly, guess correctly  
Adverb and verbhappily married, highly paid, grossly misunderstood, vaguely remember
Verb with preposition and nounbeamed with pride, take after someone, burst into tears
Noun and verbflowers bloomed, plane taxied, bomb went off

Some Collocations Based on Common Verbs

Make 

Make arrangements: The staff made arrangements for the picnic.
Make a choice: The customer has already made a choice.
Make progress: Raju made great progress in his new business.
Make an effort: She made an effort to reach out to her friends.
Make a contribution: The tenants made contributions to the charity.
Make a call: Can I use your phone to make a call?
Make a change: She is ready to make changes in the presentation.
Make a comment: Lalitha made a comment on how companies can usher in a change.

Do

Do ones best: I will try to do my best to find your lost pet.
Do business: It is risky to do business with him. 
Do harm: The humid weather did more harm than good. 
Do damage: The rumours did considerable damage to his reputation.
Do (someone) a favour: My friend did me a favour by letting me lend his house.
Do good: The coastal air did her health some good.
Do research: The team did research on the deteriorating quality of the city’s air.
Do time (spend time in jail): He did time for an offence he committed in the 80s. 
Do the dishes: Manu is in charge of doing the dishes.

Have

Have an advantage: The company had an advantage over their competitors. 
Have an appointment: Christina left early since she had an appointment with the doctor.
Have fun: The children had fun at the village fair.
Have an argument: The tenants had an argument over the destroyed flowerbed. 
Have a breakthrough: Tim had a breakthrough during his time at the medical school. 
Have a care (be careful): He warned him before he left, “Have a care.”
Have a conversation: Meena and Dev had a conversation over coffee.
Have a grudge: Sachin had a grudge against me over a trivial argument we had in school.
Have a heart: How could you be so cruel! Have a heart!

Collocations Based on Body

CollocationMeaningUsage 
Have an eye for Good at noticing She has an eye for details.
Keep an eye onObserveKeep an eye on the students lest they copy.
Foot the billPay the billThe one who comes late foots the bill.
Go hand in handGo togetherLying goes hand in hand with stealing.
Head somethingLeadMarina headed the team.
Nod one’s headAgreeShe nodded her head in approval.
Shake one’s headDisagreeGeeta shook her head at her son’s insolence.
Raise an eyebrowSuspicious His sudden disappearance raised many eyebrows.
Clear one’s throatDraw attentionThe teacher cleared her throat in class.
Fingers crossedHope Let’s keep our fingers crossed for the results.

Collocations Based on Movement

CollocationUsage 
Walked straight intoHe walked straight into the library.
Run intoGeorge ran into a debt. 
Take offThe guests took off after the lunch.
Push (something) acrossMartin pushed the bag across the table.
Charge atThe bull charged at the matador. 
Jumped atManisha jumped at the opportunity.
Back down The enemies backed down in the face of opposition.
Hit the rocksMr and Mrs Sharma’s marriage hit the rocks.

Collocations Based on Thinking

CollocationUsage 
Think out of the boxWe need fresh ideas, so please think out of the box.
Nagging doubtMeena had a nagging doubt whether she locked the door.
Fuel speculations The fight fuelled speculations that they are no longer friends.
Think deeplyI thought deeply about her question.
Fertile imaginationLittle children have a fertile imagination.
Strongly believeArjun strongly believes that the watchman is the thief.
Bear in mindPlease bear in mind that you will have to be vigilant.
Wrestle with a thoughtLata wrestled with the thought of leaving her family. 

Collocations Based on Business

CollocationUsage 
Record profitsThe company announced record profits this year.
Pay rich dividends A good decision will pay rich dividends later.
CollocationUsage 
Make a profitThe company made profit in the last quarter.
Dismiss an offerThe management dismissed Ganesh’s offer.
Go bankruptYasir went bankrupt after his last venture.
Impose a dutyThe government should impose a higher duty on aluminium. 
Widespread assumptionRachna challenged the widespread assumption that girls are weak.
Move up the ladderRamesh knew how to move up the social ladder through glib talk.
Fierce competition The product faced fierce competition from local players.

Collocations Based on Education and Knowledge

CollocationUsage 
Gifted personShe is a gifted person since she possesses so many qualities.
Thirst for knowledgeWhat drives him is his thirst for knowledge.
Fight illiteracy The new government strives to fight illiteracy.
Higher educationMaria left for USA for higher education.
Vocational educationThe colleges imparted vocational education to the students.
Pass an examinationKrishna passed the examination with flying colours.