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martes, 29 de mayo de 2012


"You shall know a word by the company it keeps." 
J.R. Firth (1890-1960)

What is a collocation?
Collocations are common word combinations, words that often go together that just sound "right" to native English speakers, who use them all the time, such as bright idea, talk freely.

Why learn collocations?
(It´s all advantages!)
- You will be more natural and easily understood. 
- You will have alternative and richer ways of expressing yourself.
- You will express yourself as a native speaker and that´s the whole point, right?
- It is easier for our brains to remember and use language in chunks or blocks rather than as single words.
- if you are getting yourself ready for an English exam, collocations might make the difference between passing ot or not.

How to learn collocations.
- Be aware of collocations, and try to recognize them when you see or hear them.
- Treat collocations as single blocks of language. Think of them as individual blocks or chunks, and learn strongly support, not strongly + support.
- When you learn a new word, write down other words that collocate with it (remember rightly, remember distinctly, remember vaguely, remember vividly).
- Read as much as possible. Reading is an excellent way to learn vocabulary and collocations in context and naturally.
- Revise what you learn regularly. Practise using new collocations in context as soon as possible after learning them.
- Learn collocations in groups that work for you. You could learn them by topic (time, number, weather, money, family) or by a particular word (take action, take a chance, take an exam).
- You can find information on collocations in any good learner's dictionary. And you can also find specialized dictionaries of collocations.

Strong and weak collocations.
If we look deeper into collocations, we find that not only do the words "go together" but there is a degree of predictability in their association. Generally, in any collocation, one word will "call up" another word in the mind of a native speaker. In other words, if I give you one word, you can predict the other word, with varying degrees of success. This predictability is not 100%, but it is always much higher than with non-collocates. It depends on how frequent/infrequent the colllocation is.

- The predictability may be strong for example  with "auspicious" as it collocates with very few words:

auspicious occasion.
auspicious moment.
auspicious event.

- But the predictability may be weak with for example, "circuit" as it collocates with more than 20 words:

circuit collocates. 
racing circuit .
lecture circuit.
closed circuit.
integrated circuit.
printed circuit.
circuit breaker.
circuit training.
circuit judge.

Types of collocations.
They can be “grammatical collocations” or “lexical collocations”:
-  A “grammatical collocation” contains a noun/verb/ adjective plus a preposition or a particular form of the verb (-ing or infinitive).

Verb + Preposition: depend on (NOT depend of)
Adjective + Preposition: afraid of (NOT afraid at)
Noun + Particular form of verb: strength to lift it (not strength lifting it)

- In a “lexical collocations” a verb, noun, adjective or adverb forms a predictable connection with another word, as in:

Adverb + Adjective: completely satisfied (NOT downright satisfied.)
Adjective + Noun: excruciating pain (NOT excruciating joy.)
Noun + Verb: lions roar (NOT lions shout.)

These are some of the most common types:
- Adjective +preposition: keen on sports, fond of music, hungry for knowledge, angry at the children.
- Adjective+to infinitive: it´s nice to be here, it´s necessary to work on that issue.
- Adjective +that clause: They were afraid that they wouldn´t win the match.
- Noun + Noun: a surge of anger (NOT a rush of anger.)
- Noun+preposition: apathy towards, dissatisfaction with, differences with, reason for...
- Noun+to infinitive: I felt the urge to do it, It was a pleasure to see you, they made an attempt to do it.
- Noun +that clause: We reached an agreement that she would come with us.
- Verb + Noun: commit suicide (NOT undertake suicide), keep an eye on. 
- Verb + Expression With Preposition: burst into tears (NOT blow up in tears), apply for a job.
- Verb + Adverb: wave frantically (NOT wave feverishly), drive dangerously.
- Preposition+noun: by chance, at random, in pain.
- Different verb patterns in English (verb+inf) She began to cry, (verb+bare infinitive) we must do it.

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