Wednesday, March 27


First, take a look at our phrases below. Then, tell me what you think of them: 

take a mistake

get an accident

take breakfast

eat medicine

make homework

What do you think?

If you feel that there’s something strange with all our examples, then you are correct. As a matter of fact, all of them are wrong.

But the real, more important question is: Why are they wrong? What makes them wrong?

If you study our phrases one by one, you will notice that according to grammar, there’s nothing wrong with them. Take a look:


a mistake

an accident

breakfast / lunch / dinner



The combination:

Verb + Noun

is very common in English. 

So, based on the rules of grammar, all our examples are Ok. It doesn’t matter which word we use because all of them are Verbs anyway.



In English, we have what we call “collocation.”

Collocation” means the combination of 2 or more words. These words very often come together or are used together by native speakers. So, we don’t separate or change these words.

 images courtesy of stock.xchng 

In fact, the Verbcollocate” comes from the Latin word collocatus, meaning: (1) com = together + (2) locare = to place.

So, “collocation” means words that usually stay together.

Consider our examples again:

take a mistake = X

get an accident = X

take breakfast = X

eat medicine = X

make homework = X

The grammar function of the words might be Ok, but it is rare or uncommon to hear these combinations of words.

As you can imagine, it’s difficult for non-native speakers to develop the “ear” to catch and realize such collocations in English.

How to Learn Collocations

When learners hear how native speakers use words, they don’t pay enough attention. This is the real problem. Maybe learners do care a lot, but they kind of ignore the words.

This is really bad because the only way to learn collocations is to copy them. You have to repeat exactly what the native speakers say. Memorize the combination, and then practice.

This is the only way to learn collocations because, like I told you, they are not part of grammar. Grammar can’t explain them and it’s useless to apply grammar rules on them.

More than grammar, collocations are like Vocabulary. So, keep them in mind and just copy.

I’ll give you 2 examples...

First, I used this phrase above: “pay attention.” Did you notice it?

I said that: “When learners hear how native speakers use words, they don’t pay enough attention.”

Right now, some of you might be getting confused because the Verbpay” is usually used together with money.

Yes, this is true. But not only in this case.

We also often combine: “pay + attention.”

And we also combine: “pay + a visit.”


No reason. It’s just the collocation or natural combination. If you don’t do it, it’s up to you. But your English won’t sound natural and it might sound funny to native speakers.

Here’s our 2nd example:

Well, sorry for this next example. It’s a bit negative but… what kind of Verb do we usually combine with the word “suicide?”

These are all wrong:

Do suicide

Have suicide

Make suicide

The correct answer is “commit + suicide.”


Again, no reason. Just collocation.

Collocation is Important

In summary, collocation happens when native speakers combine particular words but not others. There is usually no reason why they choose such words. But because many people keep using the same words together, when somebody (usually a non-native speaker) makes a different combination, it sounds weird.

Of course native speakers would probably understand what you mean or what you want to say, but your knowledge of collocation says something about your English level. Fluent speakers of English can follow good collocation.

Going back to our examples above, here are the right collocations:

make a mistake = Ok

have an accident = Ok

have / eat breakfast = Ok

take medicine = Ok

do homework = Ok

And here are other common collocations you can use:

Other Collocations in English

Break + a habit / a promise

Make / give + a speech

Break + a record
Make + a friend

Break + the law / rules

Make + a mess

Catch + a bus
Make + a noise

Catch + a cold
Make + tea / coffee

Do + damage

Make + the bed

Do + business
Show / pay + respect

Do + exercise

Take / Catch + a nap
Do + the shopping/ laundry / dishes

Take / do + an exam
Do + your nails / hair / teeth 

Take / have + a shower
Get + a boyfriend / girlfriend
Take / have + a vacation / holiday

Have / Get into + trouble
Take + a taxi / the bus/ the subway

Have + a chat / conversation
Take + a walk

Keep + a diary / journal
Take + lessons

Keep + a promise

Take + a look
Keep + a secret

Take + a rest
Keep + an appointment

Take + a chance

Hope You Learned Something!

Keep on learning !

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