Tuesday, 28 June 2016


The explanation pages on this website cover the big grammar topics, such as verb tenses,
the articles, the passive. With such topics it is appropriate to use the words correct and incorrect. 
For example, it is incorrect to say: My father don't like German food or Do you have dog?
However, there are aspects of language where correct/incorrect are not the right terms.
Consider the sentence: She is completely beautiful. Many native English speakers would say
that the expression completely beautiful does not sound quite right;
that incredibly beautiful or extremely beautiful sound better.
But the expression is certainly not incorrect in the way that Do you have dog? is.
This aspect of usage (the expected combination of words) is called collocation.
A grammarian would say that incredibly and beautiful collocate more strongly than completely and beautiful.
There are no collocation rules that the student of English can sensibly learn.
He or she must be prepared to use a dictionary in each case to find out about 
the expected word combinations, or to ask a native speaker.
An excellent modern alternative is to type the word combination into Google 
and see how many results are returned.
In the example above completely beautiful got 36,100 hits,
whereas incredibly beautiful got 861,000. It is very clear which is the stronger collocation 
(more common usage).

p.s.  As a natural born English speaker I often use the synonyms option in MS Word
or a Thesaurus if I don’t want to repeat the same word in a sentence/paragraph.
Or I want to check the word’s generally understood meaning – its collocation
– is in harmony with what I want to express.
p.p.s. I don’t know why ‘do you have a dog?’ is wrong.
                  Should it be 'have you got a dog?'

A co-occurrence of words >
the association between two words that are typically or frequently used together.
The closeness of things >
an arrangement in which things are placed next to each other or close together.


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