Expanding your English vocabulary isn’t just about learning new words. Yes, learning new words will broaden your vocabulary. But, knowing how to use words as they are conventionally understood is the key to attaining a more powerful mastery of vocabulary. By learning words that are frequently used together, speaking and writing become easier and you are able to communicate with more command.
If you are a professional making a presentation, you possess considerable knowledge about your area of expertise and know specific content words related to your field. To communicate your ideas, however, consider what other words could combine with content words to deliver meaning in the context you desire. Knowing established expressions will assist you in producing natural sounding and precise English.
In English, we talk about cloudy skies and heavy rain. Cloudy goes with skies and heavy with rain. If you hear someone say hard rain or the sky has clouds, the expression is understandable, but not fluent. Linguistic rules don’t dictate why these words are used together. It is merely how they are expressed in English .
Words that go together
Linguists call combinations of words that go together “collocations” because words collocate or are placed together to express meaning . Learning collocations or word combinations improves your ability to express ideas in a fluent and understandable way. Knowing how words combine to express meaning also enables you to avoid overusing words such as nice, good, pretty much, a lot.
This is a good product that contains a lot of benefits.
This household product offers considerable benefits.
The first sentence conveys general meaning. Both are grammatically correct. The second sentence more fully describes the product and offers a more precise illustration of its potential.
Learning collocations can be achieved by listening and reading so that you are exposed to how words are used. You can also look words up in a dictionary that shows examples of how they are used and sample sentences. Online sources such as TheEnglishClub.com/collocations, Online Oxford Collocation Dictionary and Google Dictionary all feature frequently used collocations and examples of how words appear in sentences. Also, by reading business publications or listening to business reports, you can pick up combination of words that are used in business or your industry to increase your English vocabulary and master their usage.
In describing relationships, we say that we make friends and build relationships. We talk about close friends, lifelong friends, childhood friends. People develop long-term relationships with a partner or spouse and also have a social circle made up of casual acquaintances. These are examples of how adjectives combine with nouns to describe a specific type of relationship.
Likewise, verbs are used or collocate with the word relationship such as developing a close working relationship, building strong relationships, breaking off a relationship, deepening a relationship. You might describe a novel as examining a relationship between two cultures, or educators might say There is a relationship between music and mathematical ability.
Simply knowing the word relationship (or any other word) isn’t as useful if you don’t know how to use it to express what you want to say. Combining a word with specific adjectives, adverbs, nouns, verbs, and prepositions that routinely describe an idea allows you to communicate more adeptly.
Talking about work
To describe our work life, words combine to form expressions that are part of English vocabulary and usage. We might talk about a job, saying we have a demanding job or are applying for a job. If you are an employer, we offer a job to someone. On the job, you might say that you work to complete or to carry out a project. S/he works closely with or needs to supervise work done by an employee. After a job interview, the interviewer might ask you when you are available to start work? These phrases may seem commonplace to English speakers. However, translating these words from a different language into English will not necessarily yield the same meaning.
When speaking about business, someone goes into business or sets up a business. He can also go into partnership with someone. The business can either make a profit or post a loss. Contracts are won or awarded. Businesses go under or fold. When we talk about competition, we say there is stiff competition or cut-throat competition.
Marketing departments launch products and companies penetrate markets. Customer service departments carry out surveys to find out if they have satisfied customers. They also promise prompt service and will handle all complaints.
These are all combinations of words that add greater detail to what we are talking about whether it be business or any other topic.
Make a commitment
The good news is that you can develop your English vocabulary and achieve a mastery of its usage by following these suggestions: 1) commit to learning words associated with words in a context, 2) train yourself to notice collocations whenever you read or listen to English, 3) develop the habit of writing down collocations you come across that will be useful to you, 4) practice using what you learn in a meaningful and personal way, 5) enjoy the benefits of an improved English vocabulary and expressing yourself in a more accurate and fluent manner along with a satisfying way of connecting with others.