September 2009 — Volume 13, Number 2

English Collocations in Use: Advanced

Author:Felicity O’Dell và Michael McCarthy (2008)

Within the area of corpus linguistics, collocation is defined as a sequence of words or terms that co-occur more often than would be expected by chance. Collocation comprises the restrictions on how words can be used together, for example which prepositions are used with particular verbs or which verbs & nouns are used together. Collocations are examples of lexical units & should not be confused with idioms. Unlike the majority of idioms, collocations are subject to syntactic modification. For example, we can say effective writingwrite effectively. Learning collocations will help a learner speak & write English in a more natural & formal way. A native speaker listener will know what make a crime means but commit a crime is standard usage. Learning collocations increases the range of one’s English vocabulary, so as to avoid or go beyond words lượt thích very or nice by choosing a word that fits the context better & has a more precise meaning.

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A các mục of reasons for learning collocations we might present to lớn learners could include (1) your language will be more natural and more easily understood; (2) you will have alternative and richer ways of expressing yourself; và (3) your brain will probably have an easier time processing language in chunks or blocks rather than as single words. Skilled users of English may choose to lớn create stylistic effects by varying the normal patterns of collocation with the aim of, for example, startling or amusing their audience. However, to vày this effectively it’s best to lớn have first assimilated the standard language patterns presented in this book, all of which were selected from those identified as significant by the CANCODE corpus of spoken English. CANCODE was developed at the University of Nottingham in association with Cambridge University Press & the Cambridge International Corpus of written & spoken English.

This book has sixty two-page units. The left-hand page presents the collocations focused on in the unit. The reader will usually find examples of collocations in typical contexts with, where appropriate, any special notes about their meaning and their usage. Practice exercises on the right-hand page kiểm tra whether learners have understood the information on the left-hand page. Among thousands of collocations in English the authors selected those that they think would be most useful for improving fluency & accuracy. At first the authors decided khổng lồ choose collocations from everyday written & spoken English; for example in the unit “Health and Medicine” we find Shake off a cold and respond well lớn treatment but not grumbling appendix, which is a strong collocation, that is, one in which the words are very closely associated with each other. Then, setting the bar higher, the authors focused on those collocations not so readily produced by even advanced learners. Instead of very common groupings like a pretty girl, a modern car, or to buy a ticket they chose less obvious word combinations, for instance, flatly contradict (instead of strongly contradict) & bitter enemies (instead of serious enemies).

The textbook’s first section “Learning about Collocations” includes six units delineating collocations’ hierarchy, for example, strong, fixed & weak; grammatical categories, for example, verb+noun, noun+verb, noun+noun; và information on how to combine these parts to complete sentences, và the resultant meaning of such combinations. Then there is a section focusing on different kinds of collocations, for instance metaphor, where the words have a non-literal sense: When we say a writer casts light on a situation, we mean that the writer helps us understand it more clearly, in the same way that turning a light on in a dark room helps us see more clearly. Or when we say Mary decided to shoulder the blame for the problem, we mean that she took responsibility for what happened. As another example, when saying unemployment goes hand in hand with social unrest, we use these words in a non-literal sense khổng lồ suggest that unemployment & social unrest happen at the same time.

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The rest of the book sorts collocations by topics, concepts & functions into corresponding sections:

Topics: Work and study, Leisure & lifestyle, The modern world, and People

Basic concepts: Time and space, Sound, Difficulty, Making things easier, Quantity và size, and Change

Functions: Stopping and starting, Cause & effect, Describing groups & amounts, Comparison and contrast, Making an effort, Social English, Discussing issues, Negative situations and feelings, Positive situations and feelings

O’Dell & McCarthy make further distinctions among collocations và patterns. For example, in Unit 17 “Student Life” a student would learn that to secure a place is a formal collocation and to get a place an informal one or discover that a seat of learning is a very formal collocation for an educational institution with a very good reputation. In Unit 46 “Time & Space” students learn lớn say ample space/room, leave space/room, short of space/room, and take up a lot of space/room. Lest students think there are no exceptions to lớn the pattern about the concept space, they are alerted that it’s okay to say waste of space, but not waste of room. We are told that bygone era is a literary collocation that means a time in the distant past. Và in the 54th unit “Describing groups và amounts” we learn that when you want khổng lồ describe a group of animals, the word you use depends on the animals you are talking about: a pack of dogs, hounds or wolves but a herd of cattle or elephants (and other large herbivorous mammals); a swarm of bees/locusts (and other flying insects) but a flock of birds & also a flock of sheep.

At the end of the book, there’s an exercise key & an index listing all the collocations presented & where each can be found.

English Collocations in Use Advanced should help advanced learners acquire the knowledge they need about English collocations and enjoy themselves along the way. Besides its more obvious use as a classroom text, the book could also be used as reference when students are writing their university essays & research reports & want to be in the know.

Iman TohidianUniversity of Kashan, Iran