Introduction and presentation of the Module

Collocations are arbitrary word combinations which are frequently used by speakers whereas other combinations which express the same idea and are equally correct from the grammatical point of view are never used. For example, in Spanish we say "contar un chiste" but we never say "decir un chiste" and, likewise, in English "to tell a joke" but never "to say a joke". Thus, it is very important for non-native speakers to know which words are usually used in combination with others in order to be able to use them in our oral and written production and express our ideas more fluently and accurately. This type of lexical combinations pose a problem for second language learners given that there are no general rules which can help us explain these combinations and very often Spanish and English collocations are not equivalent and cannot be translated word-by-word.

Taking all this on board, this module aims, first of all, to help the student understand what a collocation is and to be able to identify collocations and distinguish them from other kinds of lexical combinations such as "idioms". Secondly, this module is intended to teach learners a number of lexical collocations consisting of the most frequent English nouns and the adjectives and/or verbs which usually accompany them. Finally, we offer a number of tools and Internet resources based on Corpus Linguistics so that learners acquire the necessary skills to search for collocations autonomously. The aim is to help students to develop corpus-consultation techniques and strategies which may help them to improve their collocational competence in order to meet their present and future needs.


To make students aware of the notion and importance of collocations.
To teach a number of frequent lexical collocations by means of data-driven learning techniques.
To consolidate collocational knowledge through corpus-based activities.
To promote autonomous learning by teaching how to use corpus-based techniques in productive tasks.


In order to achieve the 4 aims mentioned above, this module is divided into 4 different sections (Nation, 2001):

1. Introduction:

Introduction I: The notion of collocations

Reading about collocations

Introduction II: Collocations and concordancers

2. Noticing collocations:

Noticing collocations I

Noticing collocations II

3. Recycling collocations.

4. Producing collocations:

Producing collocations I

Producing collocations II


To accomplish module 3, read the different sections carefully and try to complete the different tasks according to the information provided. There are 13 tasks:

8 Assignments (Tasks C, E, F, G, H, I, L, M)

4 Tests (Tasks B, J, K, N)

1 Forum activity (Task D)


Bahns, J. 1993. "Lexical collocations: a contrastive view".English Language Teaching Journal, 47, 56-63.

Fontenelle, T. 1994. “What on earth are collocations?”. English Today, 40, 10 (4): 42-48.

Lewis, M. (ed). 2000. Teaching Collocation. Further Developments in the Lexical Approach. Hove: Language Teaching Publications.

McCarthy, M. and O'Dell, F. 2005. English Collocations in Use. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Nation, P. 2001. Learning Vocabulary in Another Language. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Nesselhauf, N. 2005. Collocations in a Learner Corpus. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

Sinclair, J. 1991. Corpus, Concordance, Collocation. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Woolard, G. 2005. Key Words for Fluency. Learning and Practising the Most Useful Words of English. London: Thomson.


ADELEX Research Group