The importance of collocation


February 28, 2012

One of the most-overlooked aspects of language learning is collocation.  Collocation is the pattern of co-occurrence of words. In other words, it's which words tend to appear together.

Take a word like “cease”: there are certain set phrases that we associate with the word, such as “cease fire,” “cease and desist”, “wonders never cease”, “cease production”, “cease to exist”, etc.  For a word like “cease”, it’s actually quite rare that someone uses the word at all outside of these well-established phrases. 

It's extremely important to know what words pair with each other. In the past, not many people knew about the idea of collocation. Teachers and textbooks did’t usually provide information about it.  Words were almost always presented by themselves. In recent years, language teachers have started to pay more attention to collocation, but you'll still find a lot of books and courses that don't address it at all. 

Learners who aren't aware of collocation won’t bother to learn what words go well with each other.  Most English learners thinks of learning languages in terms of vocabulary (individual words) and grammar (a small set of sentence patterns).  Collocation falls somewhere in the middle.


(Print this article)