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Collocations and

Word Partners
Whats the opposite of?
To make students aware that collocations arent always logical!
Ask students to produce a corresponding list of adjective/noun collocations which form the
opposite of those listed. This activity highlights the fact that adjectives can change their
meaning when used in combination with certain nouns.

Possible or not?
To raise students awareness of how certain collocations are possible and others arent
(even if they appear to be logical!)
Give the students a list of sentences containing a mixture of natural and unnatural
Students then try to work out which ones are correct and correct the ones which are
wrong. This activity is particularly useful for mono-lingual classes as it can be adapted to
include examples of collocations students often make mistakes with, due to L1

Food word partnerships

To sensitise learners to word partnerships and to encourage them to notice that many
words occur in groups.
Prepare a series of between 8 and 10 sets of words which all form a strong word
partnership with one word.

1. salad



freshly made


All of these words form a strong partnership with the word sandwich. Prepare at least 7
more sets of words and put their corresponding partner at the bottom. Students match
the headword (e.g. sandwich) with the appropriate set of words.
Follow up
Prepare a short account of your last visit to a restaurant using some of these word

Call out the headword

To recognise multiple partnerships between nouns and verbs.
Choose five verbs which all collocate with the same noun. Say each verb aloud to the class
until someone/one group calls out the collocating noun. If the headword is called out after
the first verb, the person/group gets five points; after the second verb, four points and so
on. If nobody calls out after all five verbs, give the answer to them and come back to it

Spaghetti Matching
To match strong word partners in a visually interesting manner.
This is a standard matching activity made more interesting by joining the word
partnerships with intertwining wiggly lines. Students need to unscramble the lines to find
collocates. Advantages are: self-correcting exercise, students can prepare their own.
The collocates in the activity above could be taken from an authentic text. Once they have
matched the pairs of words, they then need to replace them into the original text. This
highlights the frequency of collocations and will enrich their own writing.

To practise (or revise) previously learnt collocations.
Prepare a grid with collocations which have been previously studied.
Students play the game in groups of 3 or 4. The cards are dealt out so that each student
has an equal number and one card is placed face up in the middle of the group. Students
then take it turns to place matching cards at either end of the existing line of cards (if a
student cannot find a card that matches, they pick up a leftover card, (if there are none
the student must miss a turn). Beware! Unless the collocations are carefully chosen
other combinations become possible and the game may be impossible to complete.

Word order/rearrange sentences

To recognise collocations at sentence level.

Choose a series of natural expressions and then change around the order of the words in
the expressions. Students rearrange into the correct order.
Cut up individual words from an expression and place in an envelope. Do the same with
nine more expressions and put your class into pairs/groups of three. Each group has a
short time to arrange the words into a phrase and write it down before putting it back into
the envelope and passing it to the next pair/group.

Exploiting reading texts for collocations

To help students recognise (and learn) collocations in context.
After reading a text and completing the reading exercises attention can be turned to the
collocations in the text. This can be done in a number of ways but perhaps the simplest
method is to get the students to complete a collocation table where part of the collocation
has been deleted
Alternatives (for Jigsaw Readings)
1. More advanced students can work in groups to design their own tables for other
students to complete.
2. As a follow-up, students relay the information in their text to another student with a
different text, using the collocations.

Idiomatic Intensifiers
To match strong collocations and then integrate them into a text
Select a list of adverbs that form collocations with adjectives and ask students to match
them. Once they have successfully matched them, give them one or two gapped texts
which they complete using the same collocations.

Odd noun out

To help students to discriminate between adjective/nouns which form strong word
partnerships and those that dont.
Choose a number of adjectives where each forms a strong word partnership with up to 5
nouns. Add one more noun that does not collocate with the adjective and ask students to
delete the odd one out.


1. BRIGHT idea






The odd noun out is smell as it does not form a word partnership with the adjective

Odd verb out

As the title suggests, this is the same activity as above but the nouns are replaced by
verbs and the adjectives are replaced by nouns.

1. accept act on disregard follow ignore make


The odd verb out is make as it does not form a word partnership with the noun advice.

Team Collocation Deletion activity

(This is for more advanced groups.) To help students recognise and practise collocations
in context.
Divide the class into teams of 3 or 4 and give each group a different newspaper article.
The students then find 5-10 useful collocations in the text and delete one part of each
The groups then swap texts and try and guess what the missing part is.
Alternative : This kind of activity can be controlled more easily by limiting the students
to particular categories of collocation e.g. adjective + noun.

Weekend Routine
To practise strong collocations with the verbs go, have and get.
Tell your class about your weekend routine, using flash cards. Give them the headwords
go, have and get and ask them to put each of the words/phrases under one of these
verbs. Check together and then run through your story one more time, but this time your
students tell you the story as you hold up your flashcards. Follow up with the same story
as a gapped text which students complete.

The Love Affair

To categorise collocations into a specific topic area.

Give one copy of the worksheet to each student in the class and ask them to work in pairs
to decide on the most likely order of a series of collocations associated with the topic of
relationships. Once they have chosen their order, they should prepare a short story which
follows their chosen order.

Scotts Terrible Life

To present and practise collocating phrases with the verb get.
Show the students a picture of an old man, who looks like hes had an interesting life!
Introduce him as Scott (or choose your own name!). Explain to the class that he has led
a terrible life, full of tragedy. It is down to them to decide how his life went. Copy and cut
up the worksheet (given in the session) and give a set of cards to each team (2-4
students). Get the students to order the cards in a logical and interesting way. Encourage
them to add detail to their story. They could write it down and/or read it to the class. Its
always interesting to see how different each teams story is, despite having the same
cards to start with.

Happy Have
To integrate a series of words/phrases which collocate with the verb have.
Students order a series of expressions using the verb have + word/phrase into the
framework for a story and then tell/write the story which should have a happy ending.
(See worksheet handed out in the session)
Many of the activities listed here were taken/adapted from Implementing the Lexical Approach (1997) and Teaching Collocation (2000)
by Michael Lewis of LTP