The term collocation was coined by J.R. Firth in the 1950s to mean the common co-occurrence of particular words. The British linguist famously said You shall know a word by the company it keeps (Firth, 1957). Firth considered that part of the meaning of a word derives from the words with which is co-occurs:
Meaning by collocation is an abstraction at the syntagmatic level and is not directly concerned with the conceptual or idea approach to the meaning of words. One of the meanings of night is its collocability with dark, and of dark, of course, collocation with night.
Read more about collocations for second language teaching and learning
Print out these exercises to test your understanding of collocations. Then check the answer sheet.
1. Food Action-Noun Matching
2. Drag and drop
3. Strong collocations