In this study guide, you will learn the meaning of 30 collocations and find out how to use them in a sentence. You will see examples of how to use these phrases to talk about familiar topics on the IELTS speaking exam. Check out the exercises at the end to test your understanding! You can also download this guide as a free pdf to use offline.
What you will learn:
Collocations are combinations of two or more words that frequently occur together. Some words collocate with many other words, for example: broad could be used to form the collocations a broad smile, a broad range or a broad accent. However, some words only occur in one or two collocations, for example: mindless violence.
Words that collocate with many other words are called weak collocations. Those that only form collocations with one or two other words are known as strong collocations. Using expressions like these can help you to improve your vocabulary range and increase accuracy. Learning common collocations in English can help you to sound more “native” on your IELTS Speaking test.
You may be familiar with adjective + noun collocations, such as a big mistake or heavy rain. However, collocations are formed from many different word combinations, for example: a verb with a noun (make a speech) or an adverb with an adjective (extremely successful).
The collocations listed here are all commonly used in everyday speech. The table divides the collocations list into four different types: verb + noun, adjective + noun, noun + noun and adverb + adjective.
Each collocation is given with a definition and an example sentence. In section three, you will see how you can use collocations in a real IELTS Speaking exam.
|Verb/noun collocation||Adjective/noun collocation|
|Find a solution|
Go on a diet
Make a living
Overcome a hurdle
Throw a party
Spend a fortune
Watch what you eat
Keep in shape
|A complete disaster|
A heavy workload
A quick learner
A surprise party
A special occasion
A bubbly personality
|Noun/noun collocation||Adverb/adjective collocation|
Value for money
In part one of the IELTS speaking test, the examiner will ask you questions on one or two familiar topics. The following examples show the types of questions you may be asked and give some suggestions on how to use collocations in your answers.
Q. Do you enjoy buying new clothes?
A. Yes, I really like shopping for clothes, but I don’t spend a fortune on them. I like looking for attractive clothes that are also good value for money.
Q. Is it important to buy fashionable clothes?
A. I do like fashionable clothes, but I’m not a fashion victim! I buy things that are in fashion, but they have to look good on me too!
Q. What job would you like to do in the future?
A. I would like to make a living as a lawyer. I think it would be an interesting job, although a lot of lawyers have a heavy workload, so it could be quite stressful and I expect the working hours would be rather long.
Q. Do you like your current job?
A. Yes, I am a newly-qualified teacher. I only started teaching last year. It’s a challenging job, but I really enjoy it.
Q. Tell me about one of your friends.
A. My mate Josie is a childhood friend. She is really chatty and cheerful. She has a bubbly personality, so she is always good fun to be with.
Q. What makes a good friend?
A. Well, a friend doesn’t have to be stunningly attractive! It is much more important that you get on with them and that they have some positive personality traits. In my opinion, it’s important that a good friend is honest, loyal and kind.
In part two of the IELTS Speaking examination, you will give a short talk based on a topic card. You will talk for one or two minutes. The topics are usually on everyday themes, giving you a chance to use some collocations that are relevant to the topic. The examples below show how you can use collocations in your presentation.
Q. Describe a time during your education that you really enjoyed.
A. To be honest, I didn’t enjoy school when I was very young. I think it took me some time to get used to formal education. I think I would have preferred to have stayed at home! I thought it was a bit boring and I wasn’t a good student.
I started to enjoy school when I was a teenager. I think I’m quite a quick learner, so I really liked it when lessons got more difficult at secondary school. I started to listen more in class and got some good grades. I remember I was absolutely delighted when I scored full marks in a science test when I was 14. That encouraged me to choose science subjects at A level. Now I’m a mature student, studying to be a doctor, but I think my love of science started back then!
Q. Describe a time when you helped to organise something.
A. Last year me and my friends decided to throw a party. Our mate Matthew was 18 last summer and we thought that he would enjoy a big celebration! We decided it would be fun to make it a surprise party, so we talked to his parents and they agreed to hold the party at their house.
We invited lots of Matthew’s friends, bought some food and drink and got everything ready at his house. We were careful to keep it a surprise, so we all hid in the kitchen, waiting for Matthew to arrive for the special occasion!
Matthew had a part-time job, so the plan was for another friend to pick him up from work and drive to the house. Unfortunately, on their way to the party the car broke down! It was a complete disaster! Finally, Matthew got home in a taxi. We all jumped out and shouted ‘surprise!’ He looked a bit shocked, but I think he really enjoyed the party.
In part three of IELTS Speaking, you will be asked questions relating to the topic from part two of the exam. You should give your opinion on each question and your reasons for it, as well as some examples from you own experience. You can include collocations that relate to the question topic.
Q. Does eating healthy food improve your health?
A. Yes, I think it is important that we all watch what we eat because eating too much junk food can make us overweight and that causes other health problems. I don’t think people necessarily need to go on a diet to be healthier. They just need to eat fresh, healthy food, such as fruit and vegetables.
Q. Is it important to have an exercise routine?
A. I think the most important thing is to do some exercise regularly so that you keep in shape. It doesn’t really matter whether it is running, swimming or dancing, but it is really important that you enjoy the exercise that you choose. A regular exercise routine can be extremely successful at keeping you motivated. Even if you only exercise now and then, it is still good for your health.
Q. What can you do as an individual to help the environment?
A. There are lots of things we can do in our homes to help the environment. For example, we can recycle our waste and try to reduce the amount of plastic we use. One important thing to consider is how to reduce your carbon footprint. That means you try to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide that you produce by using public transport, eating less meat and buying second-hand clothes. You can also reduce your food miles by buying food that is produced locally.
Q. Some people think it is too late to stop global warming. Do you agree?
A. I am actually cautiously optimistic about the environment. I do think we can work together to slow down the impact of global warming. However, it is absolutely vital that we all work together now to make big changes in how we live, including switching to clean energy and developing green technologies.
Q. How can technology be helpful in everyday life?
A. Sometimes technology can be really useful for finding a solution to a problem. For example, with modern technology you can find an app to help you in almost any situation. You can buy food online, navigate to a destination in your car and even find a new partner online!
Q. How do younger people and older people use technology differently?
A. I think young people use technology in almost every part of their lives. For example, they watch videos on their laptop, take photos on their phone and use social media all the time. For older people, I think it is slightly different. Some see new technology as overly complicated, but, with help, they can overcome this hurdle. I think older people often use technology in a limited way because they don’t fully understand it.