Good Collocation


What is ‘collocation’? Collocation involves putting single words together in ways that are natural, nice sounding, and regularly used by most speakers. Remember, English has the most vocabulary of any language in the word, and these words fit together in generally accepted patterns. The term ‘collocation’ appears in the Band 7 Speaking and Writing IELTS Descriptors (public version).

Speaking IELTS 7

Shows some awareness of style and collocation

Writing IELTS 7

Uses words with some awareness of style and collocation

Source: Public Version of the IELTS Band Descriptors


This means collocation is equally important for both Speaking and Writing. Let us look at examples. Many Chinese speakers, translating directly from their language, will say …

  •  big windIELTS Test
  •  big noise
  •  big rain
  •  big damage
  •  big pressure
  •  big stress

… but better speakers will say …

  •  strong wind
  •  loud noise
  •  heavy/torrential rain
  •  serious damage
  •  heavy pressure
  •  extreme stress

The second examples show better ‘collocation’. These examples are (adj.) + (n.), but there are others.

Read any sample essay in my IELTS Test Practice Book (see picture at right) to see examples of beautiful collocation – certainly easily worthy of an IELTS 9. Here are some examples from Page 161 of this book.

Verb + Noun

Adjective + Noun

Adverb + Verb

Adverb + Adjective

launch a spacecraft

financial priorities

ultimately establish

seemingly innocuous

facing problems

apocalyptic scale

inevitably raises

statistically negligible

announced intentions

crucial forewarning

fortuitously exploded

measurelessly complex

These single examples of collocation are often combined in sentences, as shown below [collocation coloured].

‘Space is undeniably a mysterious frontier, its limitless realms essentially unexplored’.

And, here’s an example for a Writing Task One Answer (page 149).

‘… the ascendancy of salads, which, originally the least consumed, gain increasing favour, and, if predictions prove correct, are destined to eventually rival their carbohydrate-heavy counterparts.’

So, an IELTS 7 begins to show an ‘awareness’ of this. IELTS 8 or 9 users of the language just do it better. This section will give you this awareness, piece by piece. It is the key to a higher IELTS score. Good luck.

And now, here is the usual warning: memorising this vocabulary and writing it mechanically usually takes your mark down! A constant theme in this website (and my IELTS books) is that memorisation is the wrong strategy.

Notice that the words are given one at a time, with full explanations, other forms of the word, and example sentences. Play with the words one at a time, explore the meaning, check it also in your dictionary, and write it in your vocabulary notebook with an example sentence [Reading Strategy #6]. Remember, simply studying a list of words is a BAD strategy [Check: Tricks Bad School Use #3].

Collocation 1

Collocation 1

2. Collocation, to take an inevitable toll-page-002










Collocation 3

Collocation 3

Collocation 4

Collocation 4











Collocation 5

Collocation 5


Collocation Exercise (1)

Collocation Exercise (1)

Answers to Collocation Exercise (1)

Answers to Collocation Exercise (1)











[Be patient: more material will be added – but I’m VERY busy].