What is Collocation?

We say that words that occur together frequently “collocate”. Words that don’t collocate almost never occur together. If we try, they sound unnatural and wrong:

There are no rules or logical explanations for why some words collocate and others do not. For example, we can talk about an academic year but not a studying year. Discussions can be productive or fruitful but not prolific.

Grammatical Forms

Fixed and Open Collocations

Some collocations are fixed phrases which cannot usually be changed.

Some words have a very limited number of collocates. We call these “strong collocations”. They are often highly idiomatic:

Other words have a larger number of possible collocates. We call these “weak” collocations. They are more common than “strong” collocations.

Some collocations can be changed by using different grammatical forms or adding other words:

However, some collocations cannot make these changes without sounding very unnatural:


Using what you have learned, complete the activity.