Oct 28, 2012

Explaining the difference between (near-) synonyms

I have recently received an email from a colleague, an EFL teacher in Israel, about how her students find it difficult differentiating between near-synonyms. I repost here my reply alongside the original email with the author's kind permission.

Hi Leo, I wonder whether you can help me. Do you know any place on the web where I can compare the meanings of near synonyms? I've used the concordance type sites which give me lots of collocations, but that isn't what I want. It doesn't help my pupils to give them 10 collocations for each word (e.g. regular, usual, routine) some of which are identical. I need to be able to put my finger on a general rule(s) like, one is for people and the other is for abstract ideas (I know this example is irrelevant to those particular words) Thanks for any help you can provide. Renee Wahl

Oct 21, 2012

Every Breath You Take

A classic collocation gap-fill activity

I don't why I haven't posted this earlier because this is my favourite song when it comes to introducing for the first time the idea of collocations to students and teachers alike. It is full of verb-noun collocations ranging from very common (take a step, play a game) to less frequent (stake a claim). Note that common collocations often involve delexicalised verbs (take, make etc) with wide collocational fields while less common ones usually involve more semantically charged words (stake) which collocate with a limited number of words (claim).