19 set 2021

Collocations

In English, you can talk about heavy rain, light rain, and, in British English, pouring rain. You do not talk about ‘strong rain’ or ‘mild rain’. Light goes well with rain, while ‘mild’ does not. This sort of language behaviour is called collocation. There are lots of cases in English when it is difficult to know which words will go well with the word we want to use, because there are no clear rules. Some words sound right together, while others do not.
If you want to use a noun in a sentence, you need to know which verb goes with it. For example at bath, it is useful to know that you take a bath, and that especially in British English people say have a bath.
Learners often make mistakes with these verbs. For example they say ‘do an effort’ instead of make an effort; ‘do a crime’ instead of commit a crime; or ‘say a joke’ instead of tell a joke, make a joke or crack a joke.
There are a number of intensifying adverbs that can be used instead of ‘very’ or ‘extremely’ with adjectives, for example highly controversial (=very controversial), deeply offended (=very offended), and bitterly disappointed (=very disappointed).
Often it is difficult to predict which adverb will be used with a particular adjective: some adverbs occur surprisngly often before some adjectives, for example perfectly normal (=very normal) and grossly misleading (=very misleading).
CORRECT: bitterly ashamed / disappointed / cold NOT ‘bitterly successful’.
CORRECT: highly successful / accomplished NOT ‘highly divided / grateful’.
CORRECT: deeply divided / grateful / unpopular NOT ‘deeply developed’.
When you want to describe a noun, there is often a range of different adjectives which you can use. For example when talking about something that might be possible, you can talk about a strong, real or distinct possibility when something is very possible, or a remote or faint possibility if something is not very likely.

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