30 Common English Collocations You Should Know

Have you ever wondered why some words in English just seem to go together better than others?

For example, why do we say “heavy rain” instead of “big rain,” or “fast food” instead of “quick food”?

The answer lies in something called “collocations.”

What Are Collocations?

In simple terms, collocations are words that naturally go together in English.

They are pairs or groups of words that native speakers use together so often that they sound “just right” to our ears.

Learning collocations is a great way to make your English sound more natural and fluent.

In this post, we’ll look at 30 common English collocations that you’ll hear in everyday conversations.

I’ve grouped them into different categories to make them easier to remember.

Weather Collocations

Heavy rain: When it’s raining a lot, we say it’s “heavy rain,” not “big rain” or “strong rain.”

Example: “Take an umbrella; the forecast predicts heavy rain today.”

Strong wind: When the wind is blowing hard, we call it “strong wind,” not “heavy wind” or “big wind.”

Example: “The strong wind blew my hat right off my head!”

Clear sky: When there are no clouds, we say it’s a “clear sky,” not a “clean sky” or “empty sky.”

Example: “It’s perfect weather for stargazing—there’s a clear sky tonight.”

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Food and Drink Collocations

Fast food: Food that’s prepared and served quickly is called “fast food,” not “quick food” or “speedy food.”

Example: “After a long day, I just want to grab some fast food for dinner.”

Homemade meal: When you cook food at home from scratch, it’s a “homemade meal,” not a “house-made meal.”

Example: “Nothing beats a homemade meal after a week of eating out.”

Fresh juice: We say, “fresh juice” for juice made from fruit on the spot, not “new juice.”

Example: “I love starting my day with a glass of fresh orange juice.”

Health and Fitness Collocations

Balanced diet: A diet that includes all the right nutrients is called a “balanced diet,” not a “fair diet.”

Example: “To stay healthy, you should maintain a balanced diet.”

Regular exercise: When you work out often, we say you do “regular exercise,” not “usual exercise.”

Example: “Regular exercise can help reduce stress and improve sleep.”

Catch a cold: When you get sick with a cold, we say you “catch a cold,” not “get a cold” or “receive a cold.”

Example: “I always seem to catch a cold in the winter.”

Work and Study Collocations

Start a business: When you create your own company, you “start a business,” not “begin a business.”

Example: “After years of planning, she finally decided to start a business.”

Meet a deadline: When you finish work on time, you “meet a deadline,” not “reach a deadline.”

Example: “I worked all night to meet the project deadline.”

Take notes: In class or meetings, you “take notes,” not “write notes” or “make notes.”

Example: “It’s important to take notes so you don’t forget key points.”

Technology Collocations

Send an email: You “send an email,” not “deliver an email.”

Example: “I’ll send you an email with all the details.”

Browse the internet: You “browse the internet,” not “look at the internet.”

Example: “I love to browse the internet for new recipes.”

Charge a battery: You “charge a battery,” not “fill a battery.”

Example: “Don’t forget to charge your phone battery before the trip.”

Travel Collocations

Book a flight: You “book a flight,” not “reserve a flight.”

Example: “I just booked my flight to Tokyo for next month.”

Go sightseeing: When you visit famous places as a tourist, you “go sightseeing,” not “do sightseeing.”

Example: “When in Paris, you must go sightseeing to see the Eiffel Tower.”

Take a vacation: You “take a vacation,” not “make a vacation” or “do a vacation.”

Example: “After this busy year, I really need to take a vacation.”

Relationships Collocations

Make friends: You “make friends,” not “do friends” or “create friends.”

Example: “It’s easy to make friends when you share common interests.”

Fall in love: You “fall in love,” not “drop in love” or “jump in love.”

Example: “They met in college and quickly fell in love.”

Get married: You “get married,” not “become married.”

Example: “After dating for five years, they decided to get married.”

Money Collocations

Save money: You “save money,” not “keep money” or “hold money.”

Example: “I’m trying to save money for a new car.”

Earn a living: You “earn a living,” not “make a living” (though “make a living” is also correct).

Example: “As an artist, it can be hard to earn a living.”

Pay a bill: You “pay a bill,” not “give a bill.”

Example: “Don’t forget to pay your electricity bill on time.”

Decisions and Choices Collocations

Make a decision: You “make a decision,” not “do a decision” or “take a decision.”

Example: “We need to make a decision about where to live.”

Have a choice: You “have a choice,” not “own a choice.”

Example: “You have a choice: we can eat Italian or Chinese food.”

Take advice: You “take advice,” not “receive advice” (though “receive advice” is also correct).

Example: “You should take your parents’ advice; they have more experience.”

Time Collocations

Spend time: You “spend time,” not “pass time” (though “pass time” can be used in some contexts).

Example: “I love spending time with my grandparents.”

Tell time: You “tell time, “not “say time.”

Example: “Can you tell time on an analog clock?”

Save time: You “save time,” not “keep time” or “hold time.”

Example: “Using a dishwasher saves time on kitchen cleanup.”

Why Are Collocations Important?

You might be wondering, “Why should I learn collocations?

Can’t I just use any words that mean the same thing?”

Well, you could, but your English wouldn’t sound natural to native speakers.

Let’s look at some examples:

Wrong: “I want to do a decision about my future.”
Right: “I want to make a decision about my future.”

Wrong: “He began a business selling handmade jewelry.”
Right: “He started a business selling handmade jewelry.”

Wrong: “We’re going to take a journey to Europe next year.”
Right: “We’re going to take a vacation to Europe next year.”

In each of these examples, even though the wrong sentence uses a word with a similar meaning, it doesn’t sound right to a native English speaker.

Using the correct collocations makes your English sound more natural and fluent.

How to Learn Collocations

Learning collocations might seem challenging, but there are many fun and easy ways to do it:

Read a lot: The more you read in English—whether it’s books, newspapers, or online articles—the more collocations you’ll see in context.

Watch movies and TV shows: Native speakers use collocations all the time in their everyday speech. Watching English-language media can help you pick up these natural word pairings.

Listen to music and podcasts: Song lyrics and podcast conversations are full of collocations. Plus, the rhythm and repetition in songs can make collocations stick in your memory.

Use a collocation dictionary: There are special dictionaries that list common word pairings. These can be very helpful when you’re not sure which words go together.

Practice, practice, practice: Try to use the collocations you learn in your own sentences. The more you use them, the more natural they’ll feel.

Common Mistakes with Collocations

Even advanced English learners can make mistakes with collocations. Here are some common ones to watch out for:

Using the wrong verb:

Wrong: “She did a mistake on her test.”
Right: “She made a mistake on her test.”

Using the wrong adjective:

Wrong: “We had strong rain all day.”
Right: “We had heavy rain all day.”

Using a word-for-word translation from your language:
In some languages, you might say “do homework,” in English too, we say “do homework.”

Mixing up similar-sounding words:

Wrong: “I need to make a shower before work.”
Right: “I need to take a shower before work.”

Remember, it’s okay to make mistakes—they’re part of learning!

The more you practice with collocations, the fewer mistakes you’ll make over time.

Advanced Collocations

Once you’re comfortable with basic collocations, you can start learning more advanced ones.

These might be less common but are still used frequently by native speakers:

Crack a joke: To tell a joke.
Example: “He always knows how to crack a joke and lighten the mood.”

Pursue a career: To follow a particular profession.
Example: “She decided to pursue a career in medicine.”

Break a habit: To stop a repeated behavior.
Example: “It’s hard to break the habit of checking my phone every five minutes.”

Learning these more advanced collocations can take your English to the next level, making you sound even more like a native speaker.

Collocations in Different English Varieties

It’s important to know that some collocations can be different in American English, British English, Australian English, and other varieties.

For example:

American English: “Take a vacation”
British English: “Go on holiday”

Both mean the same thing, but each is more common in its respective form of English.

As you learn, try to notice these differences. Over time, you’ll get a feel for which collocations are used where.

The Joy of Learning Collocations

Learning collocations isn’t just about improving your English—it can also be a lot of fun! It’s like solving little language puzzles.

Each time you figure out which words naturally go together; you’re unlocking another secret of the English language.

Plus, using collocations correctly can give you a real confidence boost.

When you say something like, “I’m trying to break my habit of eating fast food and start making homemade meals,” and a native speaker doesn’t even blink, you’ll know your English sounds perfectly natural.

That’s the power of collocations!

Wrapping Up

In this blog, we’ve explored 30 common English collocations, covering everything from weather and food to money and time.

We’ve seen why collocations are important—they make your English sound natural and fluent.

We’ve also looked at how to learn collocations, common mistakes to avoid, and even some advanced collocations for when you’re ready to take your skills further.

Remember, learning a language isn’t just about knowing lots of words; it’s about knowing how those words work together.

Collocations are the glue that holds English together, making sentences flow smoothly and sound “just right.”

So, the next time you’re about to say “big rain,” stop and think—“Isn’t it heavy rain?”

By choosing the right collocations, you’re not just speaking English; you’re speaking it beautifully.

Keep practicing, stay curious, and soon you’ll be using collocations like a native speaker.

Good luck on your English journey!

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Check out these awesome collocations books I recommend:

English Collocations in Use Intermediate Book with Answers

Oxford Collocation Dictionary

Advanced English Collocations & Phrases in Dialogues

OXFORD PHRASAL VERBS DICTIONARY FOR LEARNERS OF ENGLISH

Collocations For Eloquent Communication

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