The English language is a chunky language. A chunk could be best translated into German as “ein Brocken”. Collocations are words that naturally go together to form a chunk, and there are a lot of them in English.
One you may have heard of is “fast food”. We would never say “quick food”. Another example of a collocation from the business world would be “sales figures” (Umsätze). We wouldn’t say “sales numbers”. Why learn collocations? They make your English sound more natural, and you can get to the point faster than if you don’t know the words that go together naturally.
Native speakers will also understand you faster and better if you use the right word combinations to say what you mean. The best way to learn them is to look for them when you hear or read English, and make a note of the words that go together. Learn them as one chunk, and not as separate words.
In the following examples, I have tried to include words and phrases that you could use as a purchaser in your daily business. Remember, learn the word combinations as one unit (eine Einheit), and not as two separate words!
Collocations can be in different combinations:
Now that looks really complicated and like the grammar you always hated in school. In order to make it easier to understand and easier to implement in your next English letter, email or conversation, I’ll present here some examples of the above combinations using business language.
Adjective + noun collocations
We would like to remind you that this is a binding agreement.
The head of the department at that company is a tough negotiator.
I’m afraid that will exceed our overall budget for this year.
Noun + noun collocations
The production schedule must be checked by the project manager.
The supplier delayed the shipment and we won’t receive it until next month.
schedule a meeting
I would like to schedule a meeting with your boss for next week.
Verb + adverb collocations
build up slowly
They built up their business slowly, and therefore had fewer problems with their delivery schedule.
We checked our records thoroughly and couldn’t find any mistakes.
The price started out high, but was lowered gradually until the buyer agreed to pay.
A client base
Temperature, volume, levels…
Some of the collocations that are the most difficult to remember are the ones that involve “make” and “do”. The word in German is sometimes the same, either “machen” or “tun”, but when do you use which? There is, unfortunately, no rule about this in English, so you have to just remember the chunks, and write them down as one unit and not as separate words when you are learning your vocabulary. (I am sure all of you are going to take your English vocabulary books and cards on vacation with you and study in your free time…)
It isn’t possible to interchange the “make” and “do” and be correct. Of course, if you use the wrong word, for example you say: “Did you make the copying?” a native speaker would know what you meant, but it wouldn’t sound good to their ears!
If you want to take your English to the next level, start learning collocations. If you become aware of these special combinations of words, it will be easy to start sounding like a native speaker, and also easier to get to the point in your next email or letter that you have to write in English.
Here are some examples of “make” and “do” collocations:
Make a difference
Make a mistake
Do your best
Make an effort
Do a good job
Do a presentation
Make an appointment
Do your homework
Make an offer
Do the shopping
Make a decision
Do the copying
Do the paperwork
Make a profit
Do the preparations
Make a complaint
Don’t forget about the Internet- it’s a great resource to read, listen and watch English in action!