Online tools for English language teaching: teaching vocabulary with collocations

 What do you think most likely goes with these words?

  1. noodles (n, plural form)
  2. agonizing (adj.)

Turns out, the words that most often go with them are:

  1. pot noodle
  2. agonize over (32), agonizing death (14)

So it’d make more sense to teach “pot noodle” and “agonize over something” than “boiled noodle” and “agonizing itch”, because students are more likely to encounter those expressions.

Just-the-word finds these so-called collocations.We learn language through fixed expressions more often than through individual words. Use this tool to decide which collocations to teach.


How to use collocations to teach higher-level vocabulary

I used JTW to pre-teach vocabulary to my highest-level students, who were preparing for a Korean University entrance exam’s English section. Collocation was only one strategy I used, and it’s very effective.

Try it; your students will sound extra further more natural.


The numbers in brackets show how often words appear together.


Google’s autocomplete often does the job, too!


The collocation finder also shows in-context examples.


Clearly, you should teach “perch on”, rather than “perch above”, when teaching phrasal verbs.


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