Collocation is the relationship between two words or groups of words that often go together and form a common expression. If the expression is heard often, the words become 'glued' together in our minds. 'Crystal clear', 'middle management' 'nuclear family' and 'cosmetic surgery' are examples of collocated pairs of words. Some words are often found together because they make up a compound noun, for example 'riding boots' or 'motor cyclist'.
Examples of phrases: a person can be 'locked in mortal combat', meaning involved in a serious fight, or 'bright eyed and bushy tailed', meaning fresh and ready to go; 'red in the face', meaning 'embarrassed', or 'blue in the face' meaning 'angry'. It is not a common expression for someone to be 'yellow in the face' or 'green in the face' however. Therefore 'red' and 'blue' collocate with 'in the face', but 'yellow in the face' or 'green in the face' are probably mistakes.
English has many of these collocated expressions and some linguists (e.g Khellmer 1991) argue that our mental lexicon is made up of many collocated words and phrases as well as individual items. Some words have different collocations which reflect their different meanings, e.g 'bank' collocates with 'river' and 'investment'.
A good place to look for collocations is a corpus database of language, which has been concordanced, or selectively organised and indexed around a word. The VLC concordancer does this.
If you would like to go to the VLC's Web Concordancer, CLICK HERE.
If you would like to sample the Cobuild concordancer materials, CLICK HERE
If you are interested in reading more about collocations and their usage, CLICK HERE
The Hong Kong Polytechnic
University Library has a dictionary of collocations. The reference is:
Kjellmer, Goran (1994) A dictionary of English collocations Oxford : Clarendon Press : Oxford University Press. Call Number PE1689 .K54 1994. Three copies, reference section, library use only.
Extract: (words in brown are collocates from the dictionary)
You can buy a dictionary of collocations, and one is on order for CILL.
The reference is:
Hill, Jimmie & Lewis, Michael LTP Dictionary of Selected Collocations ISBN 1 899396 55
Other Dictionaries include those below. N.B collocations are not always
clearly indicated. When this
happens, the collocational information is often given indirectly through phrases in bold print or
The Cassell Dictionary of Appropriate Adjectives
(1994; paperback edition, 1995). By E.H. Mikhail. London: Cassell. 342 pp.
Cambridge International Dictionary of English
The Collins COBUILD ESL Dictionaries
COBUILD is one of the pioneers in collocational use in ESL learner's dictionaries. They continuously put out new dictionaries. For order information, check out http://titania.cobuild.collins.co.uk/cgi-bin/shop
Collin's Cobuild Students Dictionary Online
Longman's ELT Dictionaries
Longman is also a publisher that pays attention to collocations. They typically put their collocations in bold print. For more information on their products, check out http://www.awl-elt.com/dictionaries/dict.html
The Newbury House Dictionary of American English http://www.heinle.com/eslsites.html .
The Newbury House Online Dictionary. Collocations in bold print http://nhd.heinle.com/
The Oxford Advanced Learners Dictionary
Collocational Dictionaries in English
The Advanced Reader's Collocation Searcher
By Horst Bogatz. This is the first searchable collocations dictionary I have seen. It can search from English to English or German to English. Here's the review article on the dictionary: http://www.geocities.com/Athens/Acropolis/7033/review.html. Here's the address for the ARCS website: http://www.geocities.com/Athens/Acropolis/7033/
LTP Dictionary of Selected Collocations. Edited by Jimmie Hill and Michael Lewis. This dictionary is written by EFL teachers for EFL learners, intermediate level and above. It lists the collocations, much like BBI, and it provides information on how to combine words into collocations. The Dictionary includes over 50,000 collocations. E-mail
LanTeaPub@aol.com for more info.
The BBI Combinatory Dictionary of English Word Combinations, by Benson, Benson, and Ilson. (1997?) This revised edition is based on comments and suggestions from ESL learners. http://www.benjamins.com/cgi-bin/toonboek.cgi?1084
Using the BBI: A Workbook exercises for the BBI Combinatory Dictionary of English By Benson, Benson, Ilson, and Young. Companion workbook to the BBI Combinatory Dictionary. Lots of good exercises to use with the dictionary. Most of these exercises are collocations awareness building exercises. (1991). John Benjamin Publishing Company.
Bilingual Collocational Dictionaries (geared towards ESL learners)
A Dictionary of English Collocations (English/Chinese) "Yingyu Dapei Dacidian"
By Wang, Wenchang of Suzhou University, China. I haven't seen this yet but I was told it
was a really good dictionary. (1988). Published by the Jiangsu Jiaoyu Chubanshe. 1928
pages. ISBN 7-5343-0400-8. The dictionary is also published in Taiwan by the
Zhongyang (Central) Tushu (book) Chubanshe (publisher), 1990, ISBN 957-637-082-5,
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