Collocation, collocation, collocation (Brazilian learners)

What is a collocation?

A collocation is two or more words that often go together. These combinations just sound “right” to native English speakers, who use them all the time. On the other hand, other combinations may be unnatural and just sound “wrong”. Look at these examples:

Natural English… Unnatural English…
the fast train
fast food
the quick train
quick food
a quick shower
a quick meal
a fast shower
a fast meal

See what Brazilian students say and what would be the correct form:

Nós estávamos sem carro.
O que os estudantes brasileiros costumam dizer: They were without a car.
O correto é: They didn´t have a car.

Eu estava com frio.
O que os estudantes brasileiros costumam dizer: I was with cold.
O correto é: I was cold.

Eu fiquei esperando por ela durante uma hora.
O que os estudantes brasileiros costumam dizer: I stayed waiting for her for an hour.
O correto é: I waited for her an hour.

Eu fiquei muito feliz.
O que os estudantes brasileiros costumam dizer: I stayed very happy.
O correto é: I was very happy.

Não tenho condições de tirar férias.
O que os estudantes brasileiros costumam dizer: I don´t have conditions to take a holiday.
O correto é: I can´t take a holiday at the moment.

Faz muito tempo que ele não escreve para ela.
O que os estudantes brasileiros costumam dizer: There is a long time that he didn´t write to her.
O correto é: It has been a long time since he wrote to her.

O que eu fiz?
O que os estudantes brasileiros costumam dizer: What I did?
O correto é: What did I do?

Eu gosto muito dos poemas dele.
O que os estudantes brasileiros costumam dizer: I love a lot his poems.
O correto é: I love his poems so much.

Repete, por favor?
O que os estudantes brasileiros costumam dizer: Repeat, please?
O correto é: Could you repeat that?

Eu não tenho dinheiro.
O que os estudantes brasileiros costumam dizer: I don´t have money.
O correto é: I have no money.

Você não tem um bom inglês.
O que os estudantes brasileiros costumam dizer: You don´t have a good English.
O correto é: Your English is not very good.

On this page you can find a few short lists of collocations to give you more of an idea about them. Many good learner’s dictionaries show collocations associated with specific words.

have a drink
have a good time
have a haircut
have a holiday
have a problem
have a relationship
have a rest
have lunch
have sympathy

do business
do nothing
do someone a favour
do the cooking
do the housework
do the shopping
do the washing up
do your best
do your hair
do your homework

make a difference
make a mess
make a mistake
make a noise
make an effort
make furniture
make money
make progress
make room
make trouble

take a break
take a chancetake a look
take a rest
take a seat
take a taxi
take an exam
take notes
take someone’s place
take someone’s temperature

break a habit
break a leg
break a promise
break a record
break a window
break someone’s heart
break the ice
break the law
break the news to someone
break the rules

catch a ball
catch a bus
catch a chill
catch a cold
catch a thief
catch fire
catch sight of
catch someone’s attention
catch someone’s eye
catch the flu

pay a fine
pay attention
pay by credit card
pay cash
pay interest
pay someone a compliment
pay someone a visit
pay the bill
pay the price
pay your respects

save electricity
save energy
save money
save one’s strength
save someone a seat
save someone’s life
save something to a disk
save space
save time
save yourself the trouble

keep a diary
keep a promise
keep a secret
keep an appointment
keep calm
keep control
keep in touch
keep quiet
keep someone’s place
keep the change

come close
come complete with
come direct
come early
come first
come into view
come last
come late
come on time
come prepared
come right back
come second
come to a compromise
come to a decision
come to an agreement
come to an end
come to a standstill
come to terms with
come to a total of
come under attack

go abroad
go astray
go bad
go bald
go bankrupt
go blind
go crazy
go dark
go deaf
go fishing
go mad
go missing
go on foot
go online
go out of business
go overseas
go quiet
go sailing
go to war
go yellow

get a job
get a shock
get angry
get divorced
get drunk
get frightened
get home
get lost
get married
get nowhere
get permission
get pregnant
get ready
get started
get the impression
get the message
get the sack
get upset
get wet
get worried

bang on time
dead on time
early 12th century
free time
from dawn till dusk
great deal of time
late 20th century
make time for
next few days
past few weeks
right on time
run out of time
save time
spare time
spend some time
take your time
tell someone the time
time goes by
time passes
waste time

annual turnover
bear in mind
break off negotiations
cease trading
chair a meeting
close a deal
close a meeting
come to the point
dismiss an offer
draw a conclusion
draw your attention to
launch a new product
lay off staff
go bankrupt
go into partnership
make a loss
make a profit
market forces
sales figures
take on staff

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