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Strong, Fixed and Weak Collocations

Updated: Jul 18, 2018

A strong collocation is one in which the words are very closely associated with each other. For example, the adjective mitigating almost always collocates with circumstances or factors; it rarely collocates with any other word. Although she was found guilty, the jury felt there were mitigating circumstances. [factors or circumstances that lessen the blame] Here are some other examples of strong collocations.

-from English Collocations in Use Fixed collocations Fixed collocations are collocations so strong that they cannot be changed in any way. For example, you can say I was walking to and fro (meaning I was walking in one direction and then in the opposite direction, a repeated number of times). No other words can replace to or fro or and in this collocation. It is completely fixed. The meaning of some fixed collocations cannot be guessed from the individual words. These collocations are called idioms and are focused on in the book English Idioms in Use. Weak collocations Weak collocations are made up of words that collocate with a wide range of other words. For example, you can say you are in broad agreement with someone [generally in agreement with them]. However, broad can also be used with a number of other words – a broad avenue, a broad smile, broad shoulders, a broad accent [a strong accent], a broad hint [a strong hint] and so on. These are weak collocations, in the sense that broad collocates with a broad range of diff erent nouns. Strong collocations and weak collocations form a continuum, with stronger ones at one end and weaker ones at the other. Most collocations lie somewhere between the two. For example, the (formal) adjective picturesque collocates with village, location and town, and so appears near the middle of the continuum.

-from English Collocations in Use

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