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The Advanced Reader´s Collocation Searcher (ARCS)

by Horst Bogatz

"Speakers and writers want few words, listeners and readers want many.Collocations help bridge the gap." (Horst Bogatz)

" You shall know a word by the company it keeps."(Firth)

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Exercise Formats

Format I

  a laugh a smoke a trip an experience
take _____ ______ _____ __________
make _____ ______ _____ __________
have _____ ______ _____ __________
do _____ ______ _____ __________

Task: Fill in the matrix. Indicate normal collocations with a tick; doubtful or unusual ones with a question mark; unacceptable ones with a cross.

Format II

Task: Here are some examples of sentences written by learners of English. Identify any odd or unacceptable collocations and suggest alternatives:

  1. His books commanded criticism from many people.
  2. There was a high difference between the two teams.
  3. I am doing this exam because I want to achieve a step in my career.
  4. He had been found guilty of some slight crimes.
  5. She won many competitions, forming fame in the process.
  6. I was very grateful, because he had rescued my life.

Format III

Task: In the short text below, pick out typical collocations of the noun *phone* which might form part of its entry in a dictionary, and also any unusual or marked collocations that the writer is using creatively.

"He went into a cafe and asked if he could use the phone. He dialled Sandra´s number and waited. Any second now, two hundred miles away, in Sandra´s flat, her phone, perched on its little mahogany table, would ring with, he hoped, a tone of urgency reflecting his panic. But would she answer it? Or, worse still, had she disconnected it, as she sometimes did when she was working? After what seemed like an eternity it purred into life and began its regulated chirping."
Note: Formats I - III from: Vocabulary by Michael McCarthy. OUP.

Format IV

Task: From the list of words given, choose the one which is most suitable for each blank. Write only the letter of the correct word after each number on your answer sheet.

1. I saw a nasty ........between two cars this morning.
A. happening B. danger C. damage D. accident

2. I was speaking to Ann on the phone when suddenly we were .........
A. hung up B. run out C. broken down D. cut off

3. I should have returned this book last Tuesday: it is now five days ............
A. postponed B. excessive C. overdue D. delayed

4. Nothing had been organised and confusion seemed ..............
A. inevident B. inefficient C. ineligible D. inevitable

5. Tom always tries to help people, but recently he has been ................kind and generous.
A. chiefly B. especially C. principally D. fundamentally

From: Writing English Language Tests by J.B. Heaton. Longman.

Format V

Task: Which words do you associate with the follwing words:

  • table
  • dark
  • send
  • deep

    Note: Childlike answers are: eat -- night -- letter -- hole
    Adult-like responses: chair -- light -- receive -- shallow
    (From: Entwisle, 1966; Brown and Berko, 1960)

    Format VI

    Task: Read the following sentences and put in the adverb "therefore".

    • So I was wrong.
    • We can deduce that ....
    • He is a despot.
    • It is abolished.
    • To be also possible.
    • It is appropriate to consider ...
    • It will be seen that ...
    • Thisa case is best considered as ....
    • Interpreters must beware in doing what ...
    • We are brought back to the problem ...
    • One can conclude that ...
    • A vicious circle develops of doing less and less exercise.
    • I may feel tempted to ....
    • It follows that ...
    • There was good reason for doing something.
    • He explored other facets of colour.
    • Fundamentally he implies that ...
    • It is important to ...
    • Geometry is demonstrable.

    Examples from ARCS under the headword "therefore adv."

    Format VII

    Task: The adverbials have been removed from the text below. Reconstruct the authentic text

    Slobodan arrived, followed by Monika, Komelia, Drava and little Milomre. EastEx flourished and Bogdan diversified, adding a small hauling division, a smaller van and truck hire company and a mini-cab firm to the EatEx´s roster. A larger apartment was required for the growing family and the kids were encouraged to become English men and women. Bogdan decreed that no Hungarian or Romanian was to be spoken - although Pirvana and Rebeka would chat to each other which even Bogdan could not understand.

    The removed adverbials are: after a longish gap - covertly - duly - eventually - fervently - gamely - in an unexceptional way - in 1960 - in their special dialect - over the years - speedily - still

    From: William Boyd. armadillo. London: Hamish Hamilton, 1998, p. 33.

Format VIII

Collocational Opposites

TASK: Fill in the middle column with an adjective that is opposite in meaning to the word in the first column, but makes a correct word association with the word in column three. (Note: The idea of ´opposites` is invalid unless confined to contextual or collocational opposites. Too often teaching oversimplifies this idea unhelpfully.)

helpful   suggestion
efficient   system
careful   piece of work
safe   choice
light   green
light   suitcase
light   rain
light   work

(Note: This exercise is taken from Michael Lewis, Pedagogical Implications of the Lexical Approach, pp. 262-263)

Format IX



1 He tried to .......... her some advice but she wouldn't listen.

2 Have you .......... out the invitations to the party yet?

3 I wonder if you could .......... me a favour and carry this box for me.

4 Could you just stand there quietly without .......... a sound?

5 She's slowly getting .......... after the accident.

6 Your father looks really different in this picture but I can .......... it's him.

7 The recipe for vegetable soup has a number of different .......... .

8 Guess who I .......... into in the supermarket today?

From: The University of British Columbia, English Language Institute

Format X

Collocational exercises

You may be familiar with these kinds of examination questions:
Rewrite this sentence using the word given so that the meaning is similar to the original sentence:
Many local residents said they were against the new scheme.— disapproval
TASK: Choose the best word to complete this sentence:
I decided I had no alternative but to …… my claim in the courts.
a. pursue b. follow c. chase d. develop
These questions are typical of many English examinations. What is being tested is collocation (express disapproval and pursue a claim). The following exercises will help you prepare for these types of questions.
Exercise A. Correcting Common Mistakes
There is a collocation mistake in each of these sentences. Correct them by looking up the word in italics in WordPilot. All the mistakes are similar to those made on English examinations.
I was completely disappointed when I failed my exam.
When I did badly in the exam it was a strong disappointment.
When you decide what to study, you must make a planned choice.
The holiday I went on last year was a full disaster.
What happened next was a really disaster.
I'm afraid I would like to do a serious complaint.
If you want to lose weight, you need to make a diet.
Getting on a diet will help you.
If you are too fat, you need to miss some weight.
To improve your health you need to do some sacrifices.
If you want to be really fit, you need to make more exercise.
If you don't keep to your diet, you won't have the result you want.

Exercise 14. Verb-adverb Collocations
Some verbs collocate (associate) strongly with particular adverbs. Use each adverb once to complete these sentences. If in doubt, check the verb in WordPilot.
I'm sorry, I ……..forgot to pass your message on.
He refused to help.
Oh it's you! I recognised you with your new hair cut.
I recommend we wait until we have more information.
I admit I did not expect things to change so quickly.
I don't think you ………..appreciate how serious the situation is.
She can claim that she had the idea before anyone else.
I deny that it was anything to do with me.
We expect to make as much profit this year as last.
Could I suggest it might be better to wait?

Exercise B. Verb-adverb Phrase Collocations
Look at these examples:

The verb prove suggests the adverb conclusively.
The verb investigate suggests the adverb thoroughly.
Can you add the verb to each of the following sentences? If in doubt, look up the verbs in WordPilot: offend, reject, murder, refuse, occur, live, end, search

The government point-blank to consider introducing new legislation.
The government has out of hand the possibility of changing the law.
Have you seen my briefcase anywhere? I've …….high and low, but I can't find it.
Helen was deeply by the suggestion she had acted selfishly.
She was brutally by her boyfriend.
Hurricanes like this only once in a lifetime.
I hope I will to a ripe old age.
The band's tour of Japan in triumph with a sell-out concert in Tokyo.

Exercise C. Adverb + Adjective Matching 1
Some adverb + adjective collocations are often fairly strong. Match each adverb in List 1 with an adjective in List 2. You will find all the answers in WordPilot by searching for the adjectives.

List 1 List 2

1. delicately a. associated with
2. closely b. balanced
3. enthusiastically c. chosen
4. highly d. mistaken
5. carefully e. overcrowded
6. ideally f. qualified
7. badly g. received
8. dangerously h. situated

Now complete each of these sentences with one of the expressions from the lists above:

The election is very at the moment. Either party could win.
The new production of 'Hamlet' was by the first night audience.
She's too for the job -- we don't want someone with a degree.
The house is , ten minutes from the sea, and ten minutes to the mountains.
If you think I'm going to agree to that, you're .
The disco was already when the fire started.
His words were to ensure they appealed to different sections of the audience.
The President has been with the idea from the start, so he's very anxious that it is a success.

Exercise 17. Adverb + Adjective Matching 2
Match the adverbs in List 1 with the adjectives in List 2. You will find all the answers in WordPilot by looking up the adjectives.

List 1 List 2

1. bitterly a. anticipated
2. strictly b. available
3. lavishly c. damaged
4. eagerly d. disappointed
5. generously c. illustrated
6. widely f. influenced by
7. heavily g. limited
8. extensively h. rewarded

The group's new tour was and tickets were supposed to be ……….. but in fact they were ..................... to two per person. I was …….that I couldn't get any tickets all.
A new biography of Princess Diana has just appeared. It seems to have been …….by interest in America. There are some new, rather personal photos, supplied by so-called friends of hers who have, no doubt, been ............... for supplying personal details. Famous people often don't realise their reputation can be by so-called friends. I'm glad I'm not famous.

Exercise D. Other words for `very´
Try not to use the adverb very too much. There are many other words with a similar meaning which are stronger or more precise. For example: highly qualified and bitterly disappointed. Use WordPilot to add a word that means very to each of these adjectives:


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Format XI

Match the verbs from column A with the phrases from column B

A B 1. throw a a problem 2. take b a question 3. raise c an explanation 4. make d regret 5. give e the opportunity 6. cause f a party 7. express g an excuse

1 pay a somebody good
2. give b somebody´s eye
3. put c somebody´s attention
4. do d something up to date
5. catch e somebody right (about
6. bring f something priority
7. attract g somebody a compliment


Collocations: "Do" verbs meaning perform: 1. Give, Make, Take

Choose from these words four that make strong word associations with each of the verbs below:

help a risk support a chance a decision birth
lunch a drink action protection dinner a bath

(Note:Idea taken from Michael Lewis, Pedagogical Implications of the Lexical Approach, p. 261. Lexical items taken from the Cambridge International Dictionary of English, p.405)

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