Difference between collocation, fixed expression and idioms?

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Gold member Asked on 30/09/2014 in English Grammar.

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on 02/12/2016. Edit Delete
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Thank you for your question!

Collocations, fixed expressions and idioms all relate to the combination of words.

[Tweet “Collocation refers to the way in which some words regularly occur together.”]

Collocation refers to the way in which some words regularly occur together.

For example:

  • Do homework
  • Make the bed
  • A golden opportunity
  • Take a risk
  • A faint smell

 

There are no rules on how these collocations are formed, they simply ‘sound right’ to the native speaker.

For example:

  • You say heavy smoker but you would never say strong smoker and you say a powerful car not a strong car.
  • Referring to height, we would never say Tom is high, we say Tom is tall.
  • We take a quick shower, not a fast shower and eat fast food, not quick food.
  • We have a blazing row, not a burning row and have a heated argument, not a hot argument.

 

There are different types of collocations:

 

Adjective-noun:

  • Stale bread
  • Rotten apples
  • Regular exercise
  • Weak tea
  • Bright light

Check out
The 5 most common adjective-noun collocations

 

Noun + verb:

  • Cats purr
  • Fire burns
  • Snow falls
  • Wind blows
  • Kettle sings

 

Verb + noun:

  • Give a presentation
  • Do homework
  • Take a shower
  • Commit murder
  • Make a complaint

Check out
The most common collocations with Do

 

Adverb + adjective:

  • Fully aware
  • Completely satisfied
  • Utterly appalled
  • Terribly disappointed
  • Absolutely exhausted

 

Noun + noun:

  • Liquor licence
  • Milk chocolate
  • Round of applause
  • Bar of soap
  • Fire safety

 

Verb + adverb / Adverb + verb:

  • Finely chopped
  • Rely heavily
  • Rain heavily
  • Whisper softly
  • Flatly refuse

 

Check out these links for more collocations:

Collocations with TRAFFIC

Collocations with PRIDE

Collocations with FRIEND

 

An excellent online collocation dictionary can be found here:

http://oxforddictionary.so8848.com/

 

[Tweet “A fixed expression is the standard way of expressing a concept or an idea.”]

A fixed expression is a form of expression that has taken on a more specific meaning than the words themselves. It is the standard way of expressing a concept or an idea; it is something we ordinarily say in certain situations.

 

Examples include:

  • Pleased to meet you
  • All of a sudden
  • On the other hand
  • More trouble than it’s worth
  • Neither here nor there

 

[Tweet “An idiom is an expression that cannot be understood from the meanings of its separate words but that has a separate meaning of its own.”]

An idiom is an expression that cannot be understood from the meanings of its separate words but that has a separate meaning of its own.

Examples include:

  • A can of worms (a complicated problem)
  • A chip of the old block (a child with similar characteristics to one of their parents)
  • To be out for the count (to be sleeping peacefully)
  • Rub someone the wrong way (annoy or bother someone)
  • Pull someone’s leg (tease someone by trying to make them believe something that is not true)

 

Check out this excellent link for lots of different examples of idioms:

English Idioms

Default Answered on 04/11/2014.
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