Why do you need a collocations dictionary?

Or maybe we should start from the beginning and say what a collocation is?

A collocation is a partly or fully fixed expression, which has been established in use by native speakers who used it repeatedly in context, for example, “fast food” or “crystal clear“. Because they have evolved in real life use, collocations sound natural and simply right.

There are different types of collocations:

  • noun+noun, e.g. car seat

  • verb+noun, e.g. drive a car

  • adverb+adjective, e.g. extremely fast

  • verb+prepositional phrase. e.g. go by car

  • verb+adverb, e.g. drive slowly

Why is learning collocations so important?

  • they are natural combinations of words,

  • knowing collocations, you can avoid overusing such common and ambiguous words as “very” or “nice”,

  • their meaning fits the context precisely,

  • they carry precise meaning,

  • ignoring collocations can make you sound awkward or cause misunderstandings even if your sentences are grammatically correct.

It means that it’s not enough to know separate words to form natural-sounding sentences.

Also, what often happens is that people copy collocations from their native language and just translate separate words into English.


What to do then? How to learn collocations?

It’s a good habit to start using a collocations dictionary while writing.


What is a collocations dictionary?

It’s a dictionary which presents word combinations that are natural in a given language.

For example, if you want to check what words collocate with the word car, go to the dictionary and it’ll tell you that there are verbs, nouns and adjectives that go naturally with the noun car.

There’s, for example, a getaway car, and not an escape car, you drive a car, there is a car seat, car window, and so on.

Check out the pages from the collocations dictionary available at www.ozdic.com for more examples:

How to use a collocations dictionary?

It’s just a good idea to use it routinely to check nouns, verbs and adjectives you intend to use in your writing, to make sure you’re not copying collocations from your native language.

There are a few online collocations dictionaries offering free access.

I personally use and recommend the above mentioned dictionary available at: www.ozdic.com

Apart from collocations, it also offers example sentences and simple definitions.


When do I use a collocations dictionary?

I routinely consult one when I want to make sure the word combination I’m using is a natural collocation in English or that I’m not copying collocations from my native Polish.

Another way of learning collocations is to check them out and record when you want to learn a new word. Instead of writing it down without a context, it’s a good idea to remember the lexical item in a context of the collocations.

You may want to use or try different techniques, such as mind maps, diagrams, tables, like the ones I made (below) or invent your own.


So, why do you need a collocations dictionary?

  1. To learn vocabulary in context.

  2. To use language which is natural and native-like.

  3. To avoid awkwardness, foreignness and take your language to a higher level.


How do you learn collocations? Can you recommend a collocations dictionary?






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