The importance of understanding the different types of vocabulary we have in english

As part of the learning process of becoming familiar with a language understanding the vocabulary is one of the most important points. When I usually ask my students if they know the different types of vocabulary we have in English, they just think I'm talking about the specific vocab for a particular topic, but when I explain them that this is not enough....they look a little lost.

The variety of vocabulary we can find in English are:

  • Collocations
  • Phrasal Verbs
  • Prepositional Verbs
  • Idioms
  • Fixed phrases
  • Chunks
  • Sayings


Collocations are partly or fully fixed expressions that become established through repeated context-dependent use. Such terms as 'crystal clear', 'middle management', 'nuclear family', and 'cosmetic surgery' are examples of collocated pairs of words.

Collocations can be in a syntactic relation (such as verb-object: 'make' and 'decision'),lexical relation (such as antonymy), or they can be in no linguistically defined relation. Knowledge of collocations is vital for the competent use of a language: a grammatically correct sentence will stand out as awkward if collocational preferences are violated. This makes collocation an interesting area for language teaching. Recently, a mobile version of Collocation Dictionary was published on Google Play.

Corpus linguists specify a key word in context and identify the words immediately surrounding them. This gives an idea of the way words are used.

The processing of collocations involves a number of parameters, the most important of which is the measure of association, which evaluates whether the co-ocurrence is purely by chance or statistically significant. Due to the non-random nature of language, most collocations are classed as significant, and the association scores are simply used to rank the results. Commonly used measures of association include mutual formation, t scores, and log-likelihood

Rather than select a single definition, Gledhill proposes that collocation involves at least three different perspectives: (i) co-occurrence, a statistical view, which sees collocation as the recurrent appearance in a text of a node and its collocates, (ii) construction, which sees collocation either as a correlation between a lexeme and a lexical-grammatical pattern, or as a relation between a base and its collocative partners and (iii) expression, a pragmatic view of collocation as a conventional unit of expression, regardless of form. It should be pointed out here that these different perspectives contrast with the usual way of presenting collocation in phraseological studies. Traditionally speaking, collocation is explained in terms of all three perspectives at once, in a continuum:

'Free Combination' ↔ 'Bound Collocation' ↔ 'Frozen Idiom'

What is the difference between a preposition and an adverb and why this distinction is important.

An object can go before or after an adverb – but it can only go after a preposition. So:

  • Phrasal Verbs can be separated
  • Prepositional Verbs must not be separated.

1.1. Phrasal Verbs

  • correct: verb + object + adverb → I switch the computer on.
  • correct: verb adverb + object → I switched on the computer.

1.2. Prepositional Verbs

  • correct: verb + preposition + object → The cat jumped on the computer.
  • incorrect: verb + object + preposition → The cat jumped the computer on.

Note: Some adverbs can be also used as a preposition. You should use a good dictionary to find out whether the word is an adverb or a preposition.

Fixed Phrases

Think about the last conversation you had. Did you or your friend use phrases like 'agree to disagree,' if you could not agree on something, or 'it cost an arm and a leg,' to describe something expensive? These may seem very different topics, but both are examples of fixed phrases. Fixed phrases are phrases in which the wording cannot be changed without sounding odd to native speakers, even if the literal meaning is the same.

Fixed phrases, as a category, also includes idioms, which are fixed phrases that mean something different from their literal definition. Just as with other fixed phrases, you cannot change the wording of idioms, even if the literal meaning would stay the same. Both idioms and other fixed phrases may be tested on standardized tests.

Idiom Examples

One common English idiom is: 'It's raining cats and dogs.' Of course, the actual meaning of the phrase is not related to its literal definition. It simply means that it's raining very hard. Since idioms are fixed phrases, you cannot substitute in other words, even if it seems the literal meaning would stay the same. You can't, for example, say 'It's raining kittens and puppies.' The idiom is set the way it is.

Another English idiom is when something happens 'once in a blue moon.' A blue moon is the second full moon in a month, so they are fairly rare. If something happens 'once in a blue moon,' it happens very rarely. Even though the literal definition makes more sense for this idiom, you still cannot make substitutions. For example, you cannot change 'blue moon' to another rare event. So, 'once in an eclipse' would not be acceptable.

A Chunk is the smallest significant piece of text that can be added to a Document. The Chunk object contains a StringBuffer that represents a chunk of text whose characters all have the same font, font size, font style, and font color. These properties are defined in the Font object. Other properties of the Chunk, such as the background color, the text rise—used to simulate subscript and superscript—and the underline values—used to underline text or strike a line through it—are defined as attributes. These attributes can be changed with a series of setter methods.


A short well-known expression — a pithy remark of wisdom and truth or a general advice.
Example: The road to hell is paved with good intentions.

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