Hi everyone and welcome to Collocation of the Day, a podcast in which I help you to learn collocations in English. The concept is simple: I study collocations every day for about 30 minutes, and twice a week I’ll share with you some of the things I’ve learnt.
Before we start, let me tell you how you can get the most out of this podcast with help from the this mini FAQ:
How much time will it take you to listen to this podcast?
Every episode is between 15-20 minutes long, but to get the most benefit from the podcast you should study and revise to make the collocations your own, so it might take you 60 minutes per episode.
How many collocations will you learn?
Every episode contains at least 20 collocations that relate to particular topics such as “Commuting” or “Meetings” or “Sport” or “Friendship”. You can do the bare minimum (learn the collocations mentioned in the episode), or you can go the extra mile and add your own collocations in your notebook. As a general rule, the more you put in, the more you will get out. Ultimately, it’s really up to you!
Do you need any textbooks to follow along?
I use the English in Use series, the Oxford Collocations dictionary and surprise, surprise… Google. So if you want to follow along, I highly recommend that you get access to these resources. Also, you need a notebook in which you can write down the collocations that we study in this podcast, as well as any others that you come across elsewhere.
All right then, now that we’ve dealt with the mini FAQ, let’s dive into today’s topic: strong, weak and fixed collocations.
First, let’s answer the question: what is a strong collocation?
A strong collocation is one in which the words are very closely associated with each other.
For example, the adjective “mitigating” almost always collocates with “circumstances” or “factors”; it rarely collocates with any other word. Here’s an example sentence for you: “Although he was found guilty, the jury felt there were mitigating circumstances. [= factors or circumstances that lessen the blame]”
Here are some other examples of strong collocations:
“Inclement weather was expected”. Comment: (very formal) = unpleasant weather. Inclement collocates almost exclusively with weather.
She has auburn hair. = hair of a reddish-brown colour. Auburn collocates only with words connected with hair (e.g. curls, tresses = a long lock of a woman’s hair., locks).
I felt deliriously happy. = extremely happy. Strongly associated with “happy”. Not used with glad, content, sad, etc.
The chairperson adjourned the meeting. = have a pause or rest during a meeting/trial. Adjourn is very strongly associated with meeting and trial.
What are fixed collocations?
Fixed collocations are collocations so strong that they cannot be changed in any way. For example, you can say “I was walking to and fro” (meaning I was walking in one direction and then in the opposite direction, a repeated number of times). No other words can replace to or fro or and in this collocation. It is completely fixed.
The meaning of some fixed collocations cannot be guessed from the individual words. These collocations are called idioms and as I’ve already mentioned in the previous episode, I’m not going to talk about them in this podcast series.
What are weak collocations?
Weak collocations are made up of words that collocate with a wide range of other words. For example, you can say you are in “broad agreement with someone” [generally in agreement with them]. However, broad can also be used with a number of other words – “a broad avenue, a broad smile, broad shoulders, a broad accent [a strong accent], a broad hint [a strong hint] and so on. These are weak collocations, in the sense that broad collocates with a broad range of different nouns.
Strong collocations and weak collocations form a continuum, with stronger ones at one end and weaker ones at the other. Most collocations lie somewhere between the two. For example, the (formal) adjective “picturesque” collocates with “village, location and town”, and so appears near the middle of the continuum.
So, to sum it all up: Strong collocations are where the link between the two words is quite fixed and restricted. Weak collocations are where a word can collocate with many other words. For example, the expression “turn on a light” is a strong collocation. Most other synonyms will sound very strange and unnatural, whether “start a light”, “activate a light”, etc.
Weak collocations are the reverse of strong collocations. They include words that have many other options. The expression “very interesting” is commonly used, but the collocation is weak: “extremely interesting”, and “really interesting” are all acceptable substitutes.
Now, I’m going to give you nine words. It is your task to think of as many collocations as you can for each word. Then look in an online dictionary for other suitable words.
2 an effort
5 … a living
6 … a meeting
7 … feature
1 extremely hot / tired / easy / expensive
2 make / require / be an effort
3 cancel a class / a meeting / a match / an agreement
4 deliver a letter / a warning / a baby / goods
5 earn / make / scrape a living
6 in / have / call / hold a meeting
7 main / new / unique / best feature
8 engage with / the services of
9 bright light / sunshine / idea / future
How useful do you think the collocations in this episode are for you personally? Choose which collocations are most important to you and make sentences with them.
Okay then, that’s it for this episode. You’ve probably noticed that I use these first episodes to lay the strong foundation for your collocation learning. I’m aware that I’ve been mainly talking about the concept of collocations, but I hope I made it interesting enough by giving you plenty of examples.
In the next episode we’re going to be talking about grammatical categories of collocations. Verb + noun, noun + verb, noun + noun, adjective + noun and so on.
All right, there’s nothing left for me to say, except that I hope you take care of yourself, and each other. Be sure to tune in to the next episode, okay?