A collocation is two or more words that tend to be used together by native speakers of a language. The best way to understand a collocation is to see one in action:
This is strong coffee.
The collocation here is ‘strong’ and ‘coffee’. But what happens if we replace ‘strong’ with a synonym like ‘powerful’? Can we say ‘powerful coffee’?
To a native speaker ‘powerful coffee’ sounds strange and incorrect. So we need to know which words will work together to make word combinations that sound correct.
Most Common VERB NOUN Collocations 🍦
This is, of course, what makes collocations difficult for non-native speakers. You have to know which words go together, and the best way to do that is to learn them together.
There are a number of different word combinations that can make up a collocation. For example, there are verb + adverb collocations (agree completely) and adverb + adjective (fully aware). Strong coffee is an example of an adjective + noun collocation, which is what we shall be looking at in this lesson.
5 Most Common Adjective – Noun Collocations
Let’s start with some adjectives and see which nouns they are commonly used with:
1. express (adjective)
an express bus / coach / train (travelling very fast; operating very quickly)
- Susan took the express train to the airport in order to save time.
express service / mail (for a letter / package)
- Send the letter by express mail if you want it to arrive tomorrow.
an express wish / aim / purpose (clearly and openly stated)
- I came here with the express purpose of speaking with the manager.
2. chilly (adjective)
a chilly day / night / wind chilly weather (too cold to be comfortable)
- Take a jacket with you. It’s a chilly night.
a chilly reception (not friendly)
- They gave him a chilly reception.
3. rich (adjective)
a rich person (having a lot of money or property)
- She is one of the richest women in the world.
a rich history / culture / vocabulary (very interesting and full of variety)
- This region has a rich history and culture.
- He has a rich vocabulary.
a rich sauce / cake (containing a lot of fat, butter, eggs, etc. and making you feel full quickly)
- The spaghetti was covered in a rich sauce.
rich colors / sounds / smells / tastes (strong or deep; very beautiful or pleasing)
- The artist is famous for the use of rich reds in her paintings.
4. heavy (adjective)
a heavy book / bag / suitcase / load (weighing a lot)
- The woman was struggling with a heavy suitcase.
heavy traffic / rain / snow (worse than usual)
- The noise of heavy traffic can drive you crazy.
a heavy coat / sweater (made of a thick material or substance)
- He put on his heavy coat and walked out into the snow.
heavy features (not delicate)
- He was tall and strong with heavy features.
5. strong (adjective)
a strong person / animal / wind / current (having great physical or natural power)
- He’s a strong athlete.
- A strong wind was blowing.
a strong supporter / opponent (holding an opinion or a belief very firmly and seriously)
- She was a strong supporter of the government.
a strong smell / taste / colour / accent (easy to see, hear, feel or smell)
- He spoke with a strong Irish accent.
- There was a strong smell coming from the rubbish bin.
strong coffee / cheese (containing a lot of substance or having a lot of flavour)
- She drinks strong coffee.
- He loves strong cheese.
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