collocationELTEnglish Languageteaching



A collocation is a pair of group of words that are often used together. These combinations 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 handsome collocates with men, but not with trees. Some collocations are fixed, or very strong, for example take a photo, where no word other than take collocates with photo or give the same meaning. Sometimes, a pair of words may not be absolutely wrong, and people will understand what is meant, but it may not be the natural, normal collocation. If someone says I did a few mistakes they will be understood, but a fluent speaker of English would probably say I made a few mistakes.

You need to learn collocations because they will help you to speak and write English in a more natural and accurate way. People will probably understand what you mean if you talk about ‘making your homework’or say ‘My dad is a very high man’but your language will sound unnatural and might perhaps confuse. Also, learning collocations will help you to increase your range of your vocabulary. For example, you’ll find it easier to avoid words like very or nice or beautiful or get by choosing a word that fits the context better and has a more precise meaning. This is particularly useful if you are taking a written exam in English and want to make a good impression on the examiners.



enhance or improve                               your appearance

have or get                                          a taboo done

have or get                                          a piercing, nose pierced

use/wear/apply/put on                           make up, cosmetics

sashay/ strut down                                the catwalk

pull on/off                                            coat, socks, gloves

wear                                                   perfume, accessories



freeze/open                                         a bank account

live on                                                 pension, a low wage, salary

inherit/amass                                        wealth, a fortune

earn                                                    a keep

extend/renew/terminate                          the lease/tenancy/contract

put                                                     your home/property on the market                                                                                       (sell)

survive/weather/experience/suffer            a recession/downtown

accumulate/incur/run up                         debts

retain                                                  customer/clients

face/be plunged into                              an economic crisis

combat/fight                                        inflation/unemployment



foster/strengthen                                             cooperation

exercise/defend                                               national sovereignty

provoke/spark                                                         criticism/discussion

bring down/overthrow/topple                                      the government

abolish/restore/topple                                               the monarchy

lead/spearhead                                               a campaign/movement

have seats                                                     in parliament

introduce/draw up/pass/adopt/draft                              a bill/law legislation

veto/oppose/vote against                                 a bill/proposal

perpetuate/conform to/fit/defy                          a common/negative stereotype

entrench/perpetuate                                        racist attitude

deport/repatriate                                             illegal immigrants

outlaw/end                                                     segregation

practice                                                         racial/religious tolerance/segregation

fear/escape from/flee                                                racial/political/religious persecution



get                                                               Aids/cancer/flu/cold

be infected with                                              a virus/HIV

feel                                                               ill/sick/nauseous/queasy

put on/rub on/apply                                        cream/lotion/ointment

dress/bandage/clean                                        a bullet wound

suffer/sustain                                                  an injury, a hairline fracture

have                                                             a fall/an injury

absorb/extract/release                                     nutrients



exercise/defend                                               national sovereignty

embrace/resist/drive                                        globalization

take on/do                                                     freelance work

raise/withdraw/overrule                                    an objection

lodge/file                                                       an appeal

carry/face/serve                                              a seven year life sentence

impose/enforce/lift                                          a curfew

house/resettle                                                          refugee


reject/accept/violet                                          a peace treaty

cut short                                                        a trip/holiday/vacation

train/equip/deploy                                           army/military/combat/unit

deploy/send/station/pull back                                     troops

enforce                                                         law/regulation



carve                                                            a figure/image/sculptor/relief

sculpt                                                            a status/an abstract figure

etch                                                              a line/pattern/design/name into the                                                                                        glass

install/place                                                    a sculptor on something

showcase/feature/promote                               a conceptual artist



The weather brightens/improves/worsens/breaks. (changes suddenly)

A storm breaks/passes/brews/abates (grow less strong)

The sun breaks through the clouds.

The sky clears/brightens up.

The clouds part/clear.

The rain holds off.

The wind dies down.

The mist/fog lifts or clears.

The sun warms/beats down on something.

The sunshine breaks/streams through something.

A fine mist hangs in the air.

Thunder rolls, rumbles, sounds, etc.

We forecast/expect/predict—– rain/snow.



A phobia is an extreme or unnatural fear of something.

Aichmophobia                                       fear of sharp or pointed object

Ailurophobia                               fear of cats

Brontophobia                              fear of thunder

Crystallophobia                           fear of glass

Kathisophobia                                       fear of sitting down

Kinosophobia                              fear of motion

Triskaidekaphobia                        fear of the number



Take notice of the following words that go together with the highlighted words.



Hi! Sameer,
We’re so glad we decided to take a holiday here. Yesterday we took a trip to the mountains. First we took a bus to a little village and got off when we saw one that we took a liking to. Of course, we were taking a risk as we didn’t know exactly we’d find there. But we were lucky. Some kids took an interest in us and showed us some great places. We took a lot of photos.
Have you done anything yet about your job? I’d take a chance and leave if I were you. No point in staying somewhere where the boss has taken a dislike to you! Take advantage of being in Kathmandu—there are always plenty of jobs there. You’ll soon find something else, so take action, that’s my advice! Good luck!


Physical appearance

The words that are likely to obstruct your understanding have been glossed below.


My father has a round face, with chubby cheeks and a droopy moustache. My mother has a more pointed face and a straight nose. My younger sister is more like my father. She has an oval face and an upturned nose. My older sister is like a model. She has a slim figure and a slender waist. She has a lovely complexion and beautiful sleek, waist-length hair, and she’s always immaculately groomed. If eel so ordinary next to her—I’ve got coarse hair and rather broad hips, but she always says I look nice.
a)    chubby    fat in a pleasant and attractive way
b)   droopy    long and hanging down heavily
c)    sleek       smooth and shiny


My father and my two older brothers are all well-built with broad shoulders. My father is going bald but he still has a very youthful appearance for someone who is over forty. My brothers both have thick hair and bushy eyebrows. My younger brother is only two—he’s just a tiny tot, but he’s very cute. My mother’s sides of the family mostly have dark hair—in fact my mother had jet-black hair when she was younger, before she went white—but on my father’s side some have fair hair and some have ginger hair.
a.    well-built = have strong, attractive bodies
b.    bushy = very thick
c.    tot = a small child
d.    jet-black hair = completely black
e.    ginger = a red or orange-brown colour; used of people’s hair



The following words are usually mispronounced by non-native speakers of English. The readers need to consult an up-to-date English dictionary.

aesthetic       apple            April             Asian            autopsy        aisle             bathe 

balloon                   behind          bouquet        cauliflower     council          cuisine          dais             

deity             delicious        depot           devil             elephant        exhibition       familiar

felicitate        gauge           geography     ghee             guardian        hammer        healthy

hurricane       increase        January         jeans            jersey           leopard         liaison

luxurious        majority        maternal        mature                   militia            newspaper     oblige

obtain           of                oil                orchard         pamphlet       paralysis        parent

penchant       pencil            phenomenon  phoenix         precious        photography  quiet

question        recitation       regime          release                   renaissance    registration    resort

résumé         risen             roster           salad            salon            salt               science

shaman         specific                   specimen       suggestion     suicide          Switzerland    thesis

threw            tomb            tortoise         used to         vacancy        vacation        vase            

vehicle          visa              women                  



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