Where to find the right collocations?

What I consider to be the biggest challenge for students is to memorize different collocations. While learning language from scratch, especially if they do it without a teacher, they try to learn as many words as they can. However, these single units of language make no sense if a student doesn’t know how they ‘work’ together. The role of the teacher is not only to present new information to students but also make sure that they study it in the right way. Thus, we need explain what collocations are and how they work. And here, in this article, I would like to share some resources, where one can find the right collocations.

Online and offline dictionaries

Of course, the first idea that comes to mind is to search for the collocations in a dictionary. You can open a collocations dictionary (the links below), enter the keyword and see what words collocate with your target one (for instance, what adjectives, verbs and prepositions collocate with this or that noun). Alternatively, you can do the same with an offline dictionary.

Longman Collocations Dictionary and Thesaurus

One of the best offline dictionaries to buy and use. You can find collocations, synonyms, false friends and all the information you may need in one source!

Oxford Collocations Dictionary

There is a paper dictionary and an online one as well. However, you can access it only after paying. This paper and online collocations dictionary is concentrated solely on collocations.

Free collocation

I do like this resource since it has a clear structure and provides examples of different collocations. It gives various collocations with different parts of speech. However, sometimes I see that it lacks some collocations.
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Cambridge dictionary

This dictionary provides us with definitions and different collocations depending on the meaning of the word. Moreover, here one can find idioms, phrasal verbs and collocations in the context (in sentences). On the other hand, since all the collocations are given in sentences, there are only the most crucial ones.

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Ludwig guru — is my favourite corpus. Here we can see how frequent the collocation is, see the definition, examples, and all what you need to know about how the language works. However, Free account has limited functions and limited queries a day..

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Corpus of Contemporary American English
  is divided into spoken, fiction, popular magazines, newspapers, & academic journals genres. You can use it only online and without opportunity to download the texts.

British National Corpus — this corpus allows different kinds of searches, e.g. word search, part of speech search or phrase search. It requires registration, which is free, after about 20 searches.

Just the word — this website will probably be most useful for English learners in terms of searching collocations.

Phrases in English — it allows searching for separate words and phrases.


One of the ways to learn collocations is to study them from textbooks. I collected a couple of textbooks that can help you and your students master collocations.

  • Of course, when we talk about learning collocations, the first textbook that comes to my mind is Collocations in Use, Cambridge. This book is available in two levels, Intermediate and Advanced, providing hundreds of collocations in context with exercises to practice them. The book contains some tips and learning strategies in order to make study as effective as possible. 
  • Boost your vocabulary, Penguin English Guides — this textbook series consists of 4 parts and covers the most important words and phrases (from Elementary to Upper-Intermediate level). The book is appropriate for self-study. It is good for the learners, who want to extend their vocabulary in a short time.
  • Outcomes, Pearson. Indeed, a lexically-rich course based on the lexical approach. Apart from the focus on extending students’ vocabulary while working with Student’s book and Workbook, this series has a separate textbook Vocabulary Builder, which provides additional information on collocations, fixed phrases and exercises for practice.

What should I do with my students?

  • Explain to them what collocations are;
  • Demonstrate them how to use the dictionaries above (search for collocations or find the collocations in the context;
  • Provide them with ‘searching practice’ at the lesson;
  • Give students additional practice on collocations. 

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