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In the beginning of my seminar paper I will introduce you with two terms which
are of the utmost importance to the lexical semantics and to the basic knowledge of
English language itself: Collocations and Idioms. After doing so, I will bring you their
usages, definitions, functions and aspects. Afterwards, I will show you the examples of
usage both the collocations and idioms. Furthermore, I will present you the basic
difference between collocations and idioms. At the very end, I will make a brief
summary of the whole material included in the text by giving the highlights and the most
important features of the Collocations and Idioms.


A collocation is a combination of two or more words which frequently occur
together. If someone says, Shes got yellow hair, they would probably be understood,
but it is not what would ordinarily be said in English. Wed say, Shes got blond hair.
In other words, yellow doesnt collocate with hair in everyday English. Yellow collocates
with, say, flowers or paint.
Learning collocations is an important part of learning the vocabulary of a
language. Some collocations are fixed, or very strong, for example take a photo, where
no word other than take collocates with photo to give the same meaning. Some
collocations are more open, where several different words may be used to give a
similar meaning, for example keep to/ stick to the rules. Here are some more examples
of collocations:
1. You must make an effort and study for your exams (NOT do an effort)
2. Did you watch TV last night? (NOT look at TV)
3. This car has a very powerful engine. It can do 200 km an hour. (NOT strong
4. There are some ancient monuments nearby. (NOT antique monuments)

Sometimes, a pair of words may not be absolutely wrong, and people will
understand what is meant, but it may not be the natural, normal collocation. If someone
says / did a few mistakes they will be understood, but a fluent speaker of English would
probably say I made a few mistakes.
An appreciation of collocation will help you to:
- Use the words you know more accurately
In other words, youll make (NOT do) fewer mistakes.
- Sound more natural when you speak and write:
By saying, for example, of great importance, rather than of big or high
importance, wont just be understood, you will quite rightly sound like a fluent
user of English language.
- Vary your speech and, probably more importantly, your writing
Instead of repeating everyday words like very, good or nice, you will be able to
exploit a wider range of language. You would gain more marks in an exam, for
instance, for writing We had a blissfully happy holiday in a picturesque little
village surrounded by spectacular mountains than for We had a very happy
holiday in a nice little village surrounded by beautiful mountains, even though
both sentences are perfectly correct.
- Understand when a skillful writer departs from normal patterns of collocation
A journalist, poet, advertiser or other inventive user of language often creates an
effect by not choosing the expected collocation. For example, a travel article
about the Italian capital might be entitled No place like Rome, a reference to the
popular expression Theres no place like home.

Grammatical Categories of Collocations

1. Verb + Noun

verb noun example Meaning of verb
Draw up
A list
A contract
Our lawyer drew up a contract for us to sign.
Prepare something,
usually official, in writing
Pass up
A chance
An opportunity
I didnt want to pass up the chance of seeing
Hong Kong, so I agreed to on the trip.
Fail to take advantage of
The impact
The police officers vest can withstand the
impact of a bullet.

2. Noun + Verb

noun verb example
opportunity arise An opportunity arouse for me to work in China, so I went and spend a year there.
standards Slip People feel educational standards slipped when the government cut finances.

Felicity ODell, Michael McCarthy, English Collocations in Use Advance, Cambridge 2008, page 6.
3. Noun + Noun

- Noun + Noun collocations used to describe groups or sets:
There has been a spate of attack/thefts in our area recently. (unusually large
number happening in close succession)
The minister had to put up with a barge of questions/insults from the angry
audience. (unusually large number, happening at the same time)
- Noun + Noun collocations used with uncountable nouns:
By a stroke of luck I found my keys in the rubbish bin! (sudden, unexpected
piece of luck)
She gave me a snippet of information which is top secret. (small piece of

4. Adjective + Noun

This is not an idle threat; I will call the police if this happens again! (simply a threat)
He waited in the vain hope that the Minister would meet him. (unlikely to be fulfilled
There is mounting concern/criticism/fury over the decision. (growing concern etc.)
The simple/plain truth is that no one was aware of the problem.

5. Adverb + Adjective

The article provides an intense personal account of the writers relationship with his
Joes sister was a stunningly attractive woman.

6. Verb + Adverb or prepositional phrase

The teenager tried to persuade his mother that he was innocent but he failed
I dont like to travel with my brother because he drives recklessly. (wildly, without
As soon as the singer came on stage she burst into song.
If your dog starts to foam at the mouth, you should take it to the vet immediately.


Idioms are fixed combinations of words whose meaning is often difficult to guess
from the meaning of each individual word.
For example, if I say I put my foot in it the other day at Lindas house I asked her if
she was going to marry Simon, what does it mean? If you do not know that put your
foot in it means say something accidentally which upsets or embarrasses someone, it
is difficult to know exactly what the sentence means. It has a non-literal or idiomatic
Idioms are constructed in different ways and this paper gives you practice in a wide
variety of types of idiom. Here are some examples:
Tim took a shine to (immediately liked) his teacher. (verb + object + preposition)
The bands number one hit was just a flash in the pan (something that happens only
Little Jimmy has been as quiet as a mouse (extremely quiet) all day. (simile)
We arrived safe and sound (safely). (binominal)
Idioms are often based on everyday things and ideas, for example, the human body:
Mark and Alistair dont see eye to eye. (dont agree with each other)
Many idioms are quite informal, so you have to be very careful when it comes to its
usage. You will need to be able to understand a lot of idioms if you want to read English
fiction, newspaper or magazines, or understand TV shows, films and songs. People

Micheal McCarthy, Felicity ODell, English Collocations in use, Cambridge 2006, page 12.
also often use idioms for humor or to comment on themselves, other people and