Types of Collocations


In our previous lesson, we introduced the concept of collocations: groups of two or more words that are commonly-used together. We also discussed how English collocations are largely idiomatic. A collocation is considered “correct” only because its use has been widely-accepted by native English speakers.


In this lesson, we’re going to examine the parts of speech that make up English collocations. While it’s true that the specific words used in collocations do not follow any particular set of “rules,” the types of words used have a finite series of combinations.


The Grammar of Collocations

English collocations typically follow one of the following seven grammatical structures. These seven structures are listed below, along “correct” and “incorrect” examples of each.

  • adverb + adjective
    • Correct: fully aware
    • Incorrect: outright aware
  • adjective + noun
    • Correct: deep sleep
    • Incorrect: low sleep
  • noun + noun
    • Correct: round of applause
    • Incorrect: group of applause
  • noun + verb
    • Correct: cats purr, dogs bark
    • Incorrect: cats bark, dogs purr
  • verb + noun
    • Correct: give a speech
    • Incorrect: send a speech
  • verb + expression with preposition
    • Correct: run out of time
    • Incorrect: speed out of time
  • verb + adverb
    • Correct: speak loudly
    • Incorrect: speak blaringly


Collocation Examples

Here are some more examples of common English collocations:


adverb + adjective adjective + noun noun + noun noun + verb
Absurdly easy Deep sleep Bar of soap Cats purr
Fully aware Low/high cost Business English Dogs bark
Painfully slow Maiden voyage Round of applause Engines roar
Widely believed Rich history Surge of energy Snakes hiss
Utterly appalled Strong coffee Trade agreement Snow falls
verb + noun verb + expression with preposition verb + adverb
Break a leg Burst into tears Act rashly
Get the message Filled with awe Clean thoroughly
Give a speech Roped into helping Criticize harshly
Keep a secret Put off the decision Speak loudly
Make the bed Run out of time Walk softly