IELTS Grammar Tip (3): Collocation

The public version of the IELTS Writing Band Descriptors mention that an IELTS 7 writer shows an ‘awareness of style and collocation’. Collocation is the act of putting the right words together. For example, in Chinese, you can say …

  • Big rain
  • Big wind
  • Big noise


But in English, we would say …

  • Heavy rain
  • Strong wind
  • Loud noise.


These second pairs of word ‘collocate’ together more naturally, and knowing this collocation takes time. The collocation could be …

  • Verb + noun             (launch a spacecraft)
  • Adjective + Noun    (financial priorities)
  • Adverb + verb         (ultimately establish)
  • Adverb + adjective (seemingly innocuous)


There are many examples and exercises on my website, where this issue is explored at length (click Good Collocation to see that), but I’ll add a few new examples here (taken at random from recent students’ essays). Can you see the incorrect collocation? Can you correct the sentences?

  1.   Obtain more concerns
  2.   To encounter the future
  3.   I deeply agree that
  4.   Provoke creativity
  5.   Some opinions feel
  6.   Repair heritage
  7.   It is substantially expensive.
  8.   The radiation has influenced thousands of people.
  9.   Mosquitoes happen everywhere.
  10.   … because of dengue disease.


Remember, being able to do this correctly is a sign of an IELTS 7! See the next post for the answers.





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