Collocations are an important part of your language. These are the words that belong together in a phrase and are commonly used by speakers of English. An example of a collocation is:
I was in such a rush this morning that I forgot to make my bed.
In this case, the verb ‘make’ is used with the noun ‘bed’. So the collocation here is:
make someone’s bed
Using a wide range of collocations accurately can help you achieve a higher band score for Lexical Resource. This means it is important to be able to group your words together properly, including smaller items like prepositions. Let’s look at how collocations vary between different parts of speech.
A. Switching between different parts of speech
My grandfather influenced me greatly when I was a youngster.
Collocation: influence someone greatly
My grandfather had a great influence on me when I was a youngster.
Collocation: have a great influence on someone
You will see that the noun form uses the preposition ‘on’ whereas the verb does not. The language is also different because it uses the adjective form of ‘great’ instead of the adverb, plus it uses the verb ‘have’. Take care when switching between different parts of speech of a word as the collocations may change.
B. More complex collocations
I prefer traditional food over fast food because it is much more delicious.
Collocation: prefer something
I have a preference for traditional food over fast food because it is much more delicious.
Collocation: have a preference for something
I find traditional food more preferable than fast food because it is much more delicious.
Collocation: find something more preferable
You will see that the verb form is the simplest of all three options, so one thing to consider is which part of speech is best to use in your speaking and/or writing. Using the noun or adjective form of the word can be more helpful in this because the collocations are much more complex. This is more helpful in achieving a higher band score for Lexical Resource.
C. Collocations between synonyms
Parents can help their children (to) prepare for adult life by giving them chores to do around the home.
Collocation: help someone (to) do something
Parents can assist their children in preparing for adult life by giving them chores to do around the home.
Collocation: assist someone in doing something
Be careful when using synonyms, because not all of them have the same collocation. As you can see here, the verb ‘assist’ uses a different preposition ‘in’, plus the verb form after the preposition is in –ing form.
D. Multiple options
If I want to enter the course, I have to take a test.
If I want to enter the course, I have to sit a test.
If I want to enter the course, I have to do a test.
In this case, there are three possible verb + noun collocations in this particular context, with all three of them having the same meaning. In this case, look at the option which is less common and try to use that one first (e.g. sit a test). Be careful with other collocations which can change the meaning, such as ‘set a test’ or ‘make a test’. This is something a teacher does, not a student.
Learning different collocations instead of individual words is a great way to build your lexical resource and helps you sound more fluent and natural.
Enjoying reading our A to Z of IELTS series? Stay tuned for our next story (D is for 'Do's and don'ts of IELTS').