By Jacqueline Schaalje
Collocations are words that go together well. You can have collocations in any language.
Has it happened to you that you said something that was a perfect transtation from a combination of words in your language, and then your English teacher or English friend started giggling?
For instance you said hard rain. And your English teacher/friend will correct this to: heavy rain.
Then you’ll say heavy wind, and she will point out to you that you should say: hard wind.
Then you try one more time. You say: a soft pulse (a heartbeat). Your English friend/teacher will say: a weak pulse.
Ready to give up now?
I’m sure you will get some collocations really quickly. For instance, you probably know how to say hot guy. And not burning guy. Am I right?
Here are some common collocations for you to practice. These are so common that you can probably use them every day.
Coffee can be black, creamed or sugared. Most importantly, it can be weak or strong.
Wind can be soft or hard.
If you’d like to talk in a more advanced way, you can say there is a gentle breeze.
But when a person is a fresh wind, it means that they’re bringing new ideas.
Rain can be heavy or light.
A meal can be heavy or light.
A worker can have a poor performance. Or he can be an outstanding worker.
You can have a quick look at something. Sorry, you can’t have a slow look.
But a long look means staring.
You can’t have a short look.
Why? It just doesn’t exist.
People can have a burning desire for something. Let’s say for, um, chocolate.
And they can have an icy stare.
Many people will say it’s freezing cold when they mean you need to wear a coat outside. It doesn’t have to freeze before you can say this.
It’s scorching hot or scaldingly (= burning) hot. It can also be burning hot or boiling hot.
You can have a quiet understanding with someone. This means that you have an agreement that you don’t talk about. For instance you can have a quiet understanding with your spouse that when you cook, she does the dishes, and vice versa (just an example). Or you can have a quiet understanding that you won’t play the piano when your partner is watching the news on TV.
Quiet colours are colours that don’t attract attention. These would be colours you can wear when you work in a bank. Such as cream, grey, brown and navy blue.
Loud colours are bright shades that attract attention, such as red, yellow, orange, or bright green. Orange and purple together would be really loud.
You say loud music and not hard music, even if you can say this in your native language.
The opposite is soft music or quiet music.
Go ahead and try the quiz!
Choose the right word.
1 It’s very quiet in here. Why is the music so ___________?
2 I love my balcony with a view to the sea and the __________ breeze.
3 But in winter my balcony gets __________ cold because of the icy winds.
4 Don’t try to lift those pots. They’re ___________ hot!
5 You shouldn’t try to become a medical doctor, unless you have a ___________ desire to study for many years.
6 Can we meet Wednesday? – Let me just have a ___________ look in my calendar.
7 Would you like your espresso __________ or strong?
8 They were having a __________ look at those pretty girls at the bar.
9 Don’t you ever do any of the housework? – No, we have a ________ understanding that my husband washes the floor.
10 We were so disappointed by the students’ ________ performance in the exam that we will need to reevaluate the questions.