Collocation refers to the appearance or occurrence of groups or pairs of words, particularly when more frequent than random chance would suggest.

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24
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6answers
120k views

“Call me through/at/on this number”

What is the difference between the following when referring to telephone calls? Please call me on this number. You can reach me on this number. Please call me at this number. You can reach ...
18
votes
5answers
163k views

What is the difference between “sardonic” and “sarcastic”?

Basically, sardonic and sarcastic both stand for mocking gestures, but what is the difference in their contextual use? Are there any other words that represent a similar gesture?
14
votes
5answers
1k views

What does a door do on its hinge?

In general sense of the language we would say that a door "opens" or "closes". But I am looking for a one-word answer (preferably) that would indicate its motion around the hinge. Does it swivel, ...
13
votes
11answers
3k views

“School Students” — what, like there's any other kind of student?

I think this might be a Pennsylvania thing: every so often, you'll see a van or small bus labeled, not "School Bus" or anything sane normal like that, but "School Students". Whenever I see a van ...
12
votes
3answers
385 views

Extend or go beyond a promise

Can one fulfill “beyond” a promise? Is it possible to say “extending the fulfillment of a promise”? I am trying to express that I hope I fulfilled a promise and then some. This is for the ...
12
votes
4answers
1k views

Can “shrugging” only be done with shoulders?

Please compare He shrugged. and He shrugged his shoulders. Is there anything else that can be shrugged, besides shoulders? To me it sounds like duplication when used in this way. I'm aware ...
11
votes
3answers
1k views

Make/take a photograph?

In English we say "take a photograph" whereas in some other languages one would say "make a photograph". The French say "take" even though they "make" far more often than we do in English, and ...
10
votes
3answers
12k views

“Quick question” vs. “short question”

Which one would you prefer: "quick question" or "short question" for a question that you know is simple and will only take a moment to answer? Or maybe "simple question"? The problem I have with ...
9
votes
6answers
1k views

“Finnish Swedes” or “Swedish Finns”?

In Finland, there live 5.6 % Swedes (https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/fi.html). They have lived there for many generations, being standard Finnish citizens, just ...
9
votes
1answer
336 views

Use of “medicine students”

Recently I used the term medicine students to mean students of medicine. This was corrected to medical students. I googled and found that the term I chose is not really used. However I still hear ...
8
votes
5answers
76k views

“Centered on” or “centered around”

I have often heard presenters talking about something centered around another thing, but it seems a bit illogical and hence improper to talk like this. Am I right about this?
8
votes
5answers
19k views

When to use words quite, rather, pretty, fairly etc

Is there any logic to this or just decision? I would use the following combinations: quite amazing rather large pretty good I would not use the following combinations: pretty amazing quite large ...
7
votes
5answers
6k views

“desert island” versus “deserted island”

What is the difference between "a desert island" and "a deserted island"? Are they synonyms?
7
votes
4answers
914 views

How can I learn to get collocations right?

I read an article about collocation which includes an example: We can say highly sophisticated, and we can say extremely happy. highly happy and extremely sophisticated would be wrong. How can I ...
6
votes
12answers
1k views

What vivid verb should I use when someone “turns into” a zombie?

In conversation, when someone says they appreciate my brain, I need an effective comeback. I was going to say: "I hope that you are not turning into a zombie with your love for my brain." But I ...
6
votes
4answers
10k views

“Take a degree” or “do a degree”

In university I learned that we say to do a degree in X but I saw many other sources where it says to take a degree in X. Which is correct? Is there a regional difference?
6
votes
7answers
62k views

Is there a difference between “vice”, “deputy”, “associate”, and “assistant” as descriptive job titles?

When vice, deputy, associate, or assistant is collocated with a job title, such as vice manager, deputy manager, associate manager, assistant manager, I wonder how to rank or differentiate their ...
5
votes
4answers
4k views

Can you say “raise an animal”?

It was said as a way to comfort someone who had just broken up with her boyfriend, and someone said something like "go raise a dog". I know it's okay to say raise an animal; I just feel so weird ...
5
votes
6answers
2k views

Why do you “cut” a check?

It's not the end of the deal, right? It's not just you cut a check and you walk away. In this sentence, why does one say "cut" a check? How and when did this comes to be? Is it a popular idiom ...
5
votes
5answers
2k views

Does a laser “etch” things, or does it “engrave” them?

Which (if any) of these adjectives would you use for describing a surface that has been cut using a laser beam: a laser-etched surface a laser-engraved surface a laser-(something else) surface a ...
5
votes
1answer
15k views

“No point in” vs. “no point of” vs. “no point to”

Point in, point of, point to. (Point in the sense of "purpose".) What are the differences among these — in meaning? in usage (each is used in certain constructions or with certain ...
5
votes
2answers
12k views

“Starting with” vs. “starting from”

I would like to ask about the difference between the two phrases starting with and starting from. Take the following two sentences for example: Please give me all the names starting with A. ...
5
votes
4answers
49k views

“Elder brother” or “older brother”?

I've read both forms in newspapers and online news: elder brother and older brother. What's the difference between them? When should I use which?
5
votes
2answers
1k views

“Please be considerate of…” vs. “please be considerate to…”

We have a sign on a door at work which slams when people aren't careful. It originally read: Please be considerate of those here and close this door quietly. Someone crossed out the of and ...
4
votes
3answers
685 views

Construction of to cheat

I am not a native speaker and I would like to write a sentence using the verb "to cheat on". The situation I want to describe is that someone (Mr X) has lied to someone else (Mr Y) convincing Mr Y to ...
4
votes
4answers
616 views

Verb used with “threshold”

I am wondering what verb collocates with threshold. I can think of verbs such as surpass, cross, pass, but I am not sure if they are correct to use here. The threshold I am referring to is not a ...
4
votes
3answers
238 views

The train commenced its journey - Is it bad word choice?

Commence means -begin,start. The train commenced its journey... Is the usage of commence flawed? What is the most striking difference between the three forms: Commence,start, and begin?
4
votes
3answers
16k views

“In the market” or “on the market”

I am trying to help a friend of mine proofreading an English email and she has a preposition there that I am not completely certain is correct. The original sentence was this: [Name of the ...
4
votes
2answers
2k views

Is “sound approach” an accepted phrase?

English is not my first language, and in my language (Bosnian) we write just as we speak ; so from time to time, I encounter phrases which I know I have heard before, but am not sure if I am writing ...
4
votes
2answers
15k views

Is it “expert in” or “expert on”?

When would you use "expert in" and when would you use "expert on"? A quick google search yields about the same for both, but I have a feeling "expert in" can occur in sentences somehow with a ...
4
votes
4answers
14k views

“Excel at something” vs. “excel in something”

I've come across a question while writing an exam Roger really excelled ___ sports A) at B) on C) in D) for My first thought was 'in', later I remembered using 'at' also. I've ...
4
votes
3answers
1k views

“Prices of” vs “prices for”

I came across two different sentences, from The Wall Street Journal, both containing the word "prices" but with different prepositions, "of" and "for". Here are the two sentences. Audi Cuts ...
4
votes
2answers
244 views

Does “trial” collocate with the verbs “win” and “lose”: can you “win/lose a trial”?

I know that "case" collocates with the verbs "win" and "lose". But do these verbs also collocate with the noun "trial"? Are the phrases "win/lose a trial" and "win/lose a case" synonyms?
4
votes
2answers
1k views

“Explain the reason why”

Is it natural to say "he explained the reason why he was late"? I suspect that it doesn't make sense. But I reckon "That is the reason why he's sick" is acceptable with "the reason". Could it be ...
4
votes
3answers
5k views

Is “with respect to” wrong?

My English professor suggested yesterday that the expression "with respect to", despite being frequently used is simply wrong. He said that one should rather use "in respect of", which in turn is not ...
4
votes
1answer
118 views

“Check that mate” : OED on usage of 'checkmate'

In a recent post How exactly is “to checkmate” used as a verb?, the answer given by @WS2 listed some OED examples of metaphorical usage of 'to checkmate'. Among them: [1649 A. Ascham Bounds ...
3
votes
5answers
22k views

”Demand in/on/for something”

I am not sure whether to use in, on, or for after the word demand in the following sentence: The continuing demand on high-quality software that is reusable and easy to maintain and modify after ...
3
votes
2answers
3k views

“High aspirations” vs. “large aspirations”

When you intend to say someone has a strong desire to achieve something high or great, is it proper to say they have "high aspirations"? Or would it be "large aspirations", or something else?
3
votes
2answers
477 views

What does this sentence mean by “my cold came out of remission”?

What does the part "my cold came out of remission" mean in the following sentence? It seems that my cold came out of remission… I'll work from home today and hopefully kick it before Monday.
3
votes
3answers
252 views

Meaning of “rendition” in the phrase “rendition camp”

In the movie series XIII the main character was imprisoned in something they called "a rendition camp in Romania". In the movie it looked just like a prison. He was put there on the order of NSA or ...
3
votes
4answers
920 views

Do you “hit” or “press” a button?

I am currently writing an user manual for a software tool, providing step-by-step usage instructions. I am aware that pressing a button is a perfectly fine expression. However, I'm trying to find ...
3
votes
4answers
1k views

If I can “fall in” love, can I “fall in” depression?

In Italian we say essere innamorato (to be in love) whereas the English idiom, to fall in love, expresses the idea of abandonment, of letting oneself go. mi sono innamorato = I am in love, and ...
3
votes
1answer
160 views

switch genders or gender?

Recently I read an article on Wired.com "Apple Hires Hacker Who Helped Save Windows From Security Hell", http://www.wired.com/wiredenterprise/2012/12/apple-hires-hacker/ Here is a sentence I'm kind ...
3
votes
4answers
4k views

“To be assigned to” usage question

Many years ago I translated a document and wrote "he was assigned to an operation" (context: hospital operation, the assignee is undergoing one). An English professor who volunteered to copyedit my ...
3
votes
3answers
234 views

What preposition do we use with the adjective 'telling' when it means 'revealing'?

Example I: "How telling this is [of/about] the way international students continue to be perceived by their American peers on U.S. campuses?" Example II: "Public opinion is telling ...
3
votes
3answers
154 views

“Build a PC”, “assemble a PC”, or something else?

When you have all the parts of a PC and you need to connect them into a working PC, which is the appropriate verb to describe this action: build, assemble or something else?
3
votes
2answers
1k views

Where did the expression “achievement unlocked” come from?

Why achievement is unlocked? Achievement is not a lock, door or safe. You don't get anything after unlocking. I have an assumption that it came from gaming history, word "unlocked" just transferred ...
3
votes
1answer
223 views

Are prior, previous, and preceding interchangeable?

If I have four moments in time (A, B, C, D), where moment D is the present, would previous, preceding, and prior be interchangeable as adjectives to refer to moments A-C? Is one of them more likely to ...
3
votes
1answer
120 views

Collocations for “compromise”

Fairly simple one this time: What’s the best collocation with compromise if I want to say that it has been reached and, hopefully, is going to last long? I’m looking for the most natural, the “first ...
3
votes
4answers
2k views

“Enter a market” vs. “break into a market”

Could you please shed light on the difference, if any, between "enter" vs. "break into" a market? Are they synonyms and interchangeable, or does the latter of the two imply more force?