Develop collocation competence

It is important to have knowledge of appropriate collocations in order to learn vocabulary effectively.

Published: 29th August 2016 06:00 AM  |   Last Updated: 29th August 2016 12:12 PM   |  A+A-

Very recently, I came across the following sentences in the writing assignments of students whose mother tongue is Tamil:

1. He is a leather specialist. (instead of using the term skin specialist)

2. I went to tie the exam fee. (instead of using the pay exam fee)

3. I gave the examination. (instead of saying I took the examination)

4. She is a birth doctor. (instead of using the word gynecologist)

5. We should produce money for the project. (instead of saying generate fund)


“You shall know a word by the company it keeps,” are the words of J.R.Firth, who is said to have coined the terms ‘collocation’ and ‘collocability’ in 1950s.   Ever since linguists and language teachers realized the meaning and importance of the quote, the need for teaching collocation (co-occurrence of words or natural combination of words) to learners of English as a second or foreign language became a topic of serious discussion among English language teachers. 

It is important to have knowledge of appropriate collocations in order to learn vocabulary effectively and convey meanings clearly while communicating with others. If learners have a good stock of conventional collocations, they will be able to able to speak and write naturally.

Knowledge of collocation is the key to mastering vocabulary. Here is a list of some common verbs that collocate with nouns:

- run a business / a campaign / a company / a factory / a restaurant / the economy

- make an appointment / a bargain / a deal / an investment / a killing / a loan / money / a profit / a transaction

- do the accounts / business / the catering / a deal / the marketing / some research

- launch a campaign / a career / an initiative / a product / a project / a scheme / a website

- generate business / cash / profit / revenue


Here is a list of some common nouns and their collocations:

slight / last-minute / legal / technical hitch (adjective + hitch)

anonymous / unsigned / lengthy / guest editorial (adjective + editorial)

admire / appreciate / value / question honesty (verb+ honesty)

angry / strong / violent / peaceful / massive / formal / political / social  protest (adjective + protest)

Dr Albert P’ Rayan is an ELT Resource Person and Professor of English. He can be contacted at

Stay up to date on all the latest Edex news with The New Indian Express App. Download now
(Get the news that matters from New Indian Express on WhatsApp. Click this link and hit 'Click to Subscribe'. Follow the instructions after that.)


Disclaimer : We respect your thoughts and views! But we need to be judicious while moderating your comments. All the comments will be moderated by the editorial. Abstain from posting comments that are obscene, defamatory or inflammatory, and do not indulge in personal attacks. Try to avoid outside hyperlinks inside the comment. Help us delete comments that do not follow these guidelines.

The views expressed in comments published on are those of the comment writers alone. They do not represent the views or opinions of or its staff, nor do they represent the views or opinions of The New Indian Express Group, or any entity of, or affiliated with, The New Indian Express Group. reserves the right to take any or all comments down at any time.

flipboard facebook twitter whatsapp