Гарасименко Б.С. General Characteristics of Everyday Collocations in the English Language

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Гарасименко Богдана Сергіївна – студентка Педагогічного інституту Київського університету імені Бориса Грінченка, напрям підготовки «Початкова освіта», кафедра іноземних мов і методик їх навчання Київського університету імені Бориса Грінченка

У статті автор дає загальну характеристику сталих виразів розмовного мовлення, зокрема фразеологічних висловів, ідіом, особлива увага приділяється загальній характеристиці словосполучень. Автор демонструє різноманітні варіанти класифікацій сталих виразів, а також пропонує приклади виразів у практичному застосуванні. Автор висвітлює ідеї учених, які досліджували формування та використання сталих виразів та словосполучень.

Ключові слова: сталі вирази розмовного мовлення, фразеологізм, ідіома, словосполучення, сполучник.

В статье автор дает общую характеристику устойчивых выражений разговорной речи, в частности фразеологических выражений, идиом, особое внимание уделяется общей характеристике словосочетаний. Автор демонстрирует различные варианты классификаций устойчивых выражений, предлагает примеры выражений в практическом применении. Автор освещает идеи ученых, исследовавших формирования и использования устойчивых выражений и словосочетаний.

Ключевые слова: устойчивые выражения разговорной речи, фразеологизм, идиома, словосочетание, союз.

In the article the author gives general characteristics of everyday expressions, in particular phraseological expressions, idioms, phrases in the English language, particular attention is paid to the general characteristics of collocations, the author demonstrates some of the classifications of phrases, also gives some examples of the expressions and shows their practical application. The author exposes the ideas of some scholars, who studied expressions and collocations.

Key words: everyday collocation, phrase, everyday expression, conjunction, definition.


Problem formulation

Nowadays the value of English in the world is so large that it is not the privilege of knowing and development. This language isan aliveinstrument of communication. Any educational person must have simply knowledge in English.The process of learning any foreign language is difficult, long and thorough, that requires certainefforts. It usually includes grammar, vocabulary and phonetics. But if you want to use a word naturally, be fluent in daily English, you need to learn the other words that often go with it (word partners or collocations), to develop real-life communicative skills and powers of self-expression, based on a language-rich, lexical/grammatical syllabus, practices vocabulary, collocations, fixed expressions and idiomatic language.

Analysis of recent achievements and publications

There are many researches, who have studied the expressions, phrases, fixed expressions in the English language such as S. Clarke, Hugh Dellar, Jenny Dooley, Robert Ellis, Virginia Evans, Darryl Hocking, Jon Marks, Sam McCarter, Colin Phillips, Liz Soars, Andrew Walkley, Alison Wooder, George Woolard.

Some research has already been done about collocations expressions. Michael McCarthy, O’Dell Felicity studied collocations expressions; Macmillan Education published “Macmillan Collocations Dictionary”.

The objective of the article

Knowledge of word combinations greatly improve the ability to speak English, because they are important building blocks in the formation of the deals, you just need a little change them grammatically. Knowledge of such phrases will also improve your ability to listen and accept the English language: you'll expect the next word of the speaker and, therefore, to understand and respond more quickly. In addition, the phrase is much easier to remember than just individual words, because our memory links between words of the whole phrase serve as the association. Your speech sounds more natural and for listeners it is easier to understand you.

It is important to learn collocations, because they are important for the naturalisation of one’s speech. Besides, they broaden one’s scope for expression.

The objective of the article is to give general characteristics of everyday collocations. We were delivered the following tasks: 1) demonstrate some of the classifications of collocations; 2) give some examples of the expressions; 3) show their practical application.

The statement of the fundamental material

The term collocation was coined by J.R. Firth in the 1950s to mean the common co-occurrence of particular words. The British linguist famously said: “You shall know a word by the company it keeps”. Firth considers that part of the meaning of a word derives from the words with which it co-occurs[4].

Meaning of the collocation is an abstraction at the syntagmatic level and is not directly concerned with the conceptual or idea approach to the meaning of words. One of the meanings of night is its collocability with dark, and of dark, of course, collocation with night. (Firth, 1957)[4].

A collocation is a combination of words that are commonly used together; the simplest way of describing collocations is to say that they ‘just sound right’ to native English speakers. Other combinations that may mean the same thing would seem ‘unnatural’. Collocations include noun phrases like ‘strong coffee’ and ‘strong feelings’, phrasal verbs such as ‘to get together’ and other stock phrase such as ‘the rich and famous’[7].

A collocation is a pair or group of words that often used together. Some combinations just sound ‘wrong’ to native speakers of English. For example, the adjective fast collocates with cars (or train), or food. But we can’t say the quick train or quick food. (fast train, fast food, quick shower, quick meal).The adjective quick collocates with shower or meal. But we can’t say fast shower or fast meal.

Learning collocations is an important part of learning the vocabulary of a language. Some collocations are fixed, or very strong, for example take a photo, where no word other than take collocates with photo to give the same meaning. Some collocations are more open, where several different words may be used to give a similar meaning, for example keep to/stick to the rules. Here are some more examples of collocations:

• You must take an effort and study for your exam.

• Did you watch TV last night?

• This car has a very powerful engine. It can do 200 km an hour.

• There are some ancient monuments nearby.

Sometimes, a pair of words may be absolutely wrong, and people will understand what it means, 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 say I made a few mistakes [1, p.3-4].

It is necessary to pay our attention to the most common collocations. We split them into five categories according to their structures: adjective and noun; verb and noun; adverb and adjective; verb and adverb; verbs and expression with prepositions.

Here are some examples:

Adjective +and +noun

Common adjective often combine with a wide range of nouns.

A great success

definition: very successful;

example: The man worked for years before … achieved great success.

Hard work

definition: hard physically or mentally;

example: It was hard work organizing the conference, but I think it was a great success.

Heavy traffic

definition: a lot of cars;

example: You always get heavy traffic during the rush hour.

A strong accent

definition: strong accent;

example: I can’t understand his English because he has such a strong accent.

Bright color

definition: bright color giving out or reflecting a lot of light; example: Jean always wears red or yellow or some others bright colors.

Major problem

definition: bigger problem;

example: Unemployment is a major problem for the government at this moment.

Verb +and + noun

The meaning of many of these examples may be clear.

Miss a person

definition: be unhappy because that person is not there;

example: I was really homesick and missed my family like mad.

Get on a bus

definition: on time;

example: I didn’t oversleep and get on a bus.

Create opportunities

definition: bring new opportunities;

example: the Internet has created opportunities for our business

Do my homework

definition: school work that a pupil is required to do at home;

example: I'm not going to do any homework today.

Make a bed

definition: put your bed in a good condition;

example: I always try to do my homework in the morning, after making my bed.

Give a presentation

definition: make a speech, accompanied with some pictures using IT;

example: He has been asked to give a presentation about his work.

Noun + noun

There are a lot of collocations whit the pattern a … of… .

A surge of anger

definition: a sudden angry feeling;

example: As Sam read the lies about him, he felt a surge of anger.

A sense of pride

definition: a feeling that you are proud of something that you or someone connected with you has achieved;

example: Every parents feels a sense of pride when their child does well or wins something.

Tang of nostalgia

definition: a feeling of pleasure and also slight sadness when you think about things that happened in the past;

example: I felt a pang of nostalgia when I saw the old photos of the village when I grew up.

Round of days

definition: day-and-night , round-the-clock;

example: Try to keep this feeling in a round of days.

Round of applause

definition: a period of time during which people are clapping;

example: Let's give Mr. Jones a round of applause.

Bars of soap

definition: a peace of soap;

example: I'd like to buy two bars of soap please.

Adverb +and+Adjective

Terribly sorry

definition: dreadfully, so sorry;

example: It was terribly sorry to hear about your accident.

Highly unlikely

definition: to be almost sure that something won’t happen;

example: He’s highly unlikely to come now.

Fully aware

definition: to know a lot about something;

example: She is fully aware of the problem.

Vitally important

definition: extremely important;

example: It is vitally important that you make a note of common collocations in your notebook.

Verb + and + adverb

Some verbs have particular adverbs which regularly collocate with them.

Speak politely

definition: to talk correctly and in a quiet voice;

example: The boy spoke politely and was very well-behaved.

Speak fluently

definition: to have good knowledge in foreign language;

example: After two years in London, she spoke English fluently.

Place gently

definition: to put carefully;

example: He placed the beautiful vase gently on the window ledge.

Whisper softly

definition: to speak very quietly, using the breath but not the voice, so that only the person close to you can hear you

example: ‘I love you and want to marry you’, Derek whispered softly to Marsha.

Smile proudly

definition: in a way that shows you are pleased about something you have done, something you own, or someone you know

example: She smiled proudly as she looked at the photos of her new grandson.

Verbs and expressions with prepositions

Some verbs collocate with particular prepositional expressions.

Swell with pride

definition: look extremely proud

example: As Jack went on stage to receive his gold medal for the judo competition you could see his parents swelling with pride.

Fill with horror

definition: full of a ghost/horror story

example: I was filled with horror when I read the newspaper report of the explosion.

Burst into tears

definition: start to suddenly crying

example: When she split juice on her new skirt the little girl burst into tears[1,5,2, 7].

Common Collocations. Every language has certain words that go together. Collocation is another way of saying word partners. These are very common in English. In such cases, we have more freedom to make combinations, but there are certain restrictions what is possible or probable. That’s why it is rather important to perform the collocations with the same words. For example there are a lot of verbs which are often used in different collocations (have, do, make, take, break, catch, save, keep, come, go, get, fall). But their meaning is different in every phrase.

The verb to have: to have a bath, to have a drink, to have a good time, to have sympathy, to have holiday, to have a problem, to have relationship, to have a rest, to have lunch.

The verb to take: to take a break, to take a chance, to take a rest, to take a seat, to take a taxi, to take an exam, to take notes, to take a look, to take someone’s place.

The verb to break:to break a habit, to break a leg, to break a promise, to break a record, to break a window, to break my heart, to break the ice, to break the law, to break the news, to break the rules.

The verb to catch: to catch a ball, to catch a cold, to catch a bus, to catch a chill, to catch a thief, to catch sight of, to catch your attention, to catch my eye, to catch the flu, to catch fire.

The verb to save: to save an electricity, to save my stress, to save me a seat, to save my life, to save money, to save something to, to save space, to save time, to save energy, to save me the trouble.

The verb to keep: to keep a diary, to keep a promise, to keep a secret, to keep calm, to keep control, to keep in touch, to keep quiet, to keep my place, to keep the change, to keep an appointment.

The verb to come: to come first, to come close, to come complete, to come direct, to come early, to come into view, to come last, to come on time, to come prepared, to come late.

The verb to go: to go abroad, to go astray, to go bad, to go bald, to go blind, to go crazy, to go dark, to go deaf, to go finish, to go mad, to go missing, to go on foot, to go online, to go quiet, to go sailing, to go out of business.

The verb to get: to get permission, to get pregnant, to get ready, to get started, to get the impression, to get the message, to get upset, to get wet, to get worried.[2]

As there are so many variants of these collocations. Many learners have problems with some of them. For example: make and do. If you remember that the basic meaning of make is about producing something and the basic meaning of do is about performing an action.

Garasymenko 26.jpg

The verb go. Go is used for changes in people’s personality, appearance and physical abilities. People go mad/bald/grey/deaf. Go is often used for sudden, usually negative, changes: He was very embarrassed and his face went red. Suddenly the sky went very dark and it starred to rain. Go can also be used for slower color changes: The pages of the book had gone yellow over the years.

The verb to turn. Turn often collocates with colors: The sky turned gold as the sun set. When the tomatoes turn red, the farmers pick them and sell them. The news gave his mother such a shock that her hair turned white overnight [1].

The verbs to get and to become. Get and become can often be used with the same collocations, but become is more formal and is therefore more appropriate in essays: She gave up smoking when she became pregnant. I would like to become involved in raising money for charity. The same is true for collocations with adjectives such as angry, bored, excited, depressed, upset, impatient, violent: He became depressed after his wife’s death [1].

In our opinion, every learner should pay attention to the collocations with “have”, “take” and “pay” as they are always used in our everyday speech.

The verb to have. Note that these verbs collocate with have rather than any other verbs.

Have an accident

definition: to urinate or excrete(=pass solid waste)when you do not intend to;

example: Even a six-year-old can have an accident at night sometimes.

Have an argument

definition: to have the reasons for your opinion about the truth of something or an explanation of why you believe something should be done;

example: We have an argument about how to fix the car.

Have a conversation

definition: have an informal, usually private, talk in which two or more people exchange thoughts, feelings, or ideas, or in which news or information is given or discussed;

example: We had a brief conversation Friday.

Have some experience

definition: the processs of getting knowledge or skill that is obtained from doing, seeing, or feeling things, or something that happens which has an effect on you;

example: Do you have any experience working with children?

Have a holiday

definition: to have a vacation; to have a day for celebration when many people are allowed to stay away from work or school;

example: She generally had a short holiday in July or August.

Have a look

definition: to look;

example: The teacher wanted to have a look at what we were doing.

Have a problem

definition: to find something or someone annoying or offensive;

example: Ask the teacher if you have problems with the exercises.

The verb to take

Take a break

definition: Have a short rest from something;

example: At work during the morning I usually take a break between 11:00 and 11:30.

Take a chance

definition: Risk something in the hope of a favorable outcome;

example: If I leave now I’m not sure I’ll catch the bus, but I’ll take a chance.

Take a look

definition: Have a look at / examine something carefully;

example: take a look at the view; it’s really beautiful.

Take a rest

definition: Have a rest;

example: I was up really late last night. I need to take a rest

Take an exam

definition: Have / sit an exam or test;

example: I’ve taken an exam twice now

Take notes

definition: Record what is observed or heard;

example: take notes when you attend a lecture or you will forget what you heard.

Take someone's place

definition: happen / occur;

example: I can’t go to the conference anymore. Do you want to take a place? [3]

The verb to pay

Pay attention

definition: to watch, listen to, or think about something carefully;

example: You weren't paying attention to what I was saying.

Pay someone a compliment

definition: a remark or action that express approval, admiration, or respect;

example: She paid him a high compliment by saying she read all his books.

Pay someone a visit

definition: to visit someone;

example: Why don’t you pay us a visit next time you’re in town?

Pay the price

definition: to experience the bad result of something you have done or that someone else has done;

example: It is inexcusable for students to be paying the price for backroom deals in the student loan industry [1].

Also if you need you can use different dictionaries of collocations, for example, Oxford Collocations Dictionary for Students of English, Oxford University Press, 2002; The BBI Combinatory Dictionary of English, John Benjamins Publishing Company, 1986[6].

Conclusion and the prospects of the above research

During our research we studied that we use a great number of collocations in everyday communication.

The present study assumes that learning collocations is an efficient way to improve the learner’s language fluency, native-like selection of language use, and vocabulary retention. In addition to this, it is assumed that the most frequent collocations are usually the most useful because frequent collocations have greater chances of being met and used. It is easier for our brains to remember and use the language in chunks or blocks rather than as single words. To be fluent in English, you need to know which words go together. Learning the correct combination of words will help you sound more natural. That’s why we try to pay your attention to different groups of everyday collocations that can make the process of learning English easier and more pleasant.


  1. McCarthy M. English Collocations in Use - Intermediate / M. McCarthy, F. O’Dell. – United Kingdom: Cambridge University Press, 2005. – 192 с. – (The press syndicate of the University of Cambridge).
  2. MED – Macmillan English Dictionary : for advanced learners. – Oxford: Macmillan Education, 2012. – 1872 с. – (Macmillan Education published).
  3. McCarthy M. English Collocations in Use: Advanced / M. McCarthy, F. O'Dell. – British: Cambridge University Press, 2010. – 192 с. – (Cambridge University Press,).
  4. Leon J. J. “Meaning by collocation. The Firthian filiation of Corpus Linguistics / J. Leon J., 2007. – 404 с. – (John Benjamins Publishing Company).
  5. Redman S. English Collocations in Use Pre-Intermediate and Intermediate / S. Redman. – United Kingdom: Cambridge University Press, 1997. – 269 с. – (The press syndicate of the University of Cambridge).
  6. Collocations [Електронний ресурс] // EnglishLeap. – 2013. – Режим доступу до ресурсу: http://www.englishleap.com/improve-english.
  7. Longman Dictionaries Online [Електронний ресурс] // Free Download -- OXFORD Collocations Dictionary. – 2013. – Режимдоступудоресурсу: http://oxforddictionary.so8848.com/.

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