Common Collocations


Some of the problems that face Thai learners of English (in fact all learners) are the combination of certain words. We call these combinations collocations. A typical example of collocation that I am sure Thai people know of is the way we describe someone who is good-looking. We say “She is a beautiful girl” and “He is a handsome man”, but we don’t often say “a handsome girl” or a “beautiful man.”

Here is a list of common collocations

How to learn collocations

Usually there are no rules for forming collocations – you have to learn them. The best way to learn collocations is to recognize them and remember them as blocks of language. For example “Bang on time”. Learn the whole collocation and not the words “Bang” + “on time”. Then use them. The more you use them the more you will remember.

About collocations

High and tall are both words that are used to describe the height of something but they can rarely be interchanged. Examples of collocations using these words are: A high mountain and a tall man. We don’t say a high man (unless he is on drugs or under the influence of alcohol). How about a high window and a tall window? Big, great and large mean pretty much the same and we can talk about a big building, a large building or a great building, but if we use these words when describing a man , then they take on different meanings. A big or large man is not the same as a great man. You can make a big mistake or a great mistake but not a large mistake.


Do, make and take are often confused by Thai learners of English. Do we make a mistake, do a mistake or take a mistake. Of course we make a mistake. How about a phone call? Make, take or do? Here we can use make or take. Make a phone call is to call someone and to take a phone call is to pick up the phone and answer a call.

Verb Collocations

make a mess
make a mistake
make a promise
make or do the beds
make a noise
make a speech
make a wish
make a telephone call

do the housework
do a test
do a job
do someone a favour
do your best
do the shopping do damage
do your hair (i.e. comb it or make it tidy

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

take a break
take a chance
take 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

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