ESL Term:


ESL/EFL Glossary: A Guide to applied linguistics terminology.


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collocates: words that tend to be associated with each other, or co-occur in sentences. Some words that collocate well with  wedding are white, cake, ring, shotgun, and vows. Collocates are important in ESL because they help to explain why some learner language is grammatically correct and the meaning is apparent, yet the utterance seems strange - we don't usually say that. For example, in North America, I am going to clean my teeth is a grammatically correct and comprehensible sentence, but teeth collocates so well with brush that it seems awkward (In England, however, clean and teeth do collocate well). Collocations often interfere in native like production* as learners substitute the collocations from their own language into English grammar. Koreans, for example, will say, "I am going to go eye-shopping." in place of "window-shopping."

For a very interesting web site with a tool on how to check collocates, visit the Collins Cobuild Concordance and Collocation Sampler.

*Native like is a controversial term because native speaker is not well defined. The collocations that one set of 'native speakers' use may be different from another set of 'native speakers'. There is no standard by which all language can be compared.