Notes on Collocations & Idioms



A collocation is a combination of words that are commonly used together. The simplest way of describing collocations is to say that they ‘just sound right’ to native English speakers. It is important to learn collocations because they naturalise one’s speech. Besides, they broaden one’s scope for expression.


Collocations starting with the verb ‘Do’

a)      Do me a favour: The boss asked Varun to do him a favour.

b)     Do the cooking: As the guests came home unannounced, mother asked her daughter to

do the cooking.

c)      Do the housework: The maid was directed to do the housework.

d)     Do the shopping: On the last day of our exams, we decided to do the shopping.

e)      Do your best: Father told his children to do the best in Athletics.


Collocations with the verb ‘Have’

a)      Have a bath: During summer, one should have a bath twice in a day.

b)      Have a haircut: Students should regularly have a haircut for a disciplined look.

c)      Have a holiday: Do you have a holiday on Monday?

d)      Have a problem: Some people have a problem in every situation.

e)      Have lunch: Why don’t you have a lunch at this restaurant?

f)       Have sympathy: People should have sympathy for the underprivileged.


Collocations with the verb ‘Break’

a)      Break the law: Few people feel proud when they break the law.

b)     Break the leg: The police threatened the thief to break his leg if he doesn’t tell the truth.

c)      Break a promise: Gentlemen never break a promise.

d)     Break a record: Students these days break a record in scoring above 90 percent marks.

e)      Break the news to someone: It’s difficult to break the news of somebody’s death.

f)      Break the rules: The principal warned the students not to break the rules of the college.


Collocations with the verb ‘Take’

a)      Take an exam: To judge the IQ level, it is important to take an exam.

b)     Take a break: Arvind’s mother told him to take a break from his studies.

c)      Take a look: Take a look at the breathtaking sight.

d)     Take a rest: The traveller decided to take a rest.

e)      Take a seat: The interviewer told the candidate to take a seat.

f)      Take a taxi: It’s better to take a taxi in rainy season.

g)     Take notes: The teacher told the students to take notes during her lecture.



Collocations with the verb ‘Make’

a)      Make a difference: Ajay asked his friend how he could make a difference in someone’s life?

b)      Make a mess: The boys in the hostel make a mess of their room.

c)      Make a mistake: One should not make a mistake repeatedly.

d)      Make a noise: The Head of the Department requested the students not to make a noise

during college gathering.

e)      Make an effort: To excel in life you have to make an effort.

f)       Make money: Father told his son not to make money by doing wrong things.

g)      Make progress: Entrepreneurs make progress by doing hard work.


Collocations with the verb ‘Pay’

a)      Pay respect: It is an honor to pay respect to the martyrs who sacrificed their lives for our country.

b)     Pay a fine: In USA one has to pay a fine for breaking the rules.

c)      Pay attention: The teacher told Kumar to pay attention during the lecture.

d)     Pay by credit card: These days it is easy to pay by credit card.

e)      Pay someone a visit: Avoid paying someone a visit on Sundays.


Collocations with the verb ‘Keep’

a)      Keep a secret: It is not easy to keep a secret.

b)     Keep calm: Keep calm even if someone upsets you.

c)      Keep in touch: Tarun asked Tanay to keep in touch through e-mails.

d)     Keep quite: Students were asked to keep quite during the seminar.


Collocations with the verb ‘Save’

a)      Save yourself the trouble: By regular exercises, you save yourself the trouble of getting obese.

b)     Save electricity: It is our moral responsibility to save electricity.

c)      Save money: Intelligent people save money for future.

d)     Save someone’s life: Have you ever saved someone’s life?

Collocations with the verb ‘Go’

a)      Go bald: It’s a fashion to go bald these days.

b)     Go abroad: Many students go abroad for higher studies.

c)      Go bankrupt: Spendthrifts usually go bankrupt.

d)     Go sailing: It’s fun to go sailing on the seas.

e)      Go to war: Soldiers are always ready to go to war.

Collocations with the verb ‘Come’

a)     Come into view: In jungle safaris, tourists have to wait for the wild animals to come into view.

b)     Come on time: Anu requested her friends to come on time for her birthday party.

c)      Come prepared: The candidates were asked to come prepared for the Aptitude Test.

d)     Come to an agreement: To maintain peace and order, the two countries should come to an agreement.

e)      Come to an end: Finally, the session has come to an end.


Collocations with the verb ‘Get’

a)      Get a job: To get a job, candidate should be confident and fluent.

Get angry: People should not get angry on petty issues.

c)      Get frightened: Children get frightened during night.

d)     Get permission: The students approached the Principal to get permission for an industrial visit.

e)      Get ready: Mother told her daughter to get ready for the party.


Collocations related to ‘Time’

a)      Free time: I like to listen to music in my free time.

b)     From dawn till dusk: Farmers work from dawn till dusk to earn a living.

c)      Make time for: We should make time for our hobbies.

d)     Right on time: Bina reached the examination hall right on time.

e)      Waste time: Do not waste time, because time once gone never comes back.


Collocations related to ‘Business English’

a)      Annual turnover: The annual turnover of the companies depends on the effective team work, marketing and other strategies.

b)     Break off negotiations: It’s important to break off the negotiations during business meetings.

c)      Come to the point: The teacher told Arjun to directly come to the point.

d)     Dismiss an offer: Vinay had to dismiss an offer of job as he met with an accident.

e)      Draw a conclusion: In every experiment, students draw a conclusion at the end.

f)      Launch a new product: Marketing plays an important role in launching a new product.


4.2      IDIOMS

Dictionary defines an idiom ‘as a form of expression peculiar to a language.’ Every language has its own collection of wise sayings. They offer advice about how to live and also transfer some underlying ideas, principles and values of a given culture/society. These sayings are called ‘idioms’. These combinations of words have (rarely complete sentences) a ‘figurative meaning’. In short, idioms are a source of sparkle and polish. This list of commonly used idioms and sayings can help to speak fine English.

a)                Action speaks louder than words: People's intentions can be judged better by what they do than what they say.

 Example: Without any arguments, we completed our project successfully; after all,

action speaks louder than words!


b)                A hot potato: Speak of an issue (mostly current) which many people are talking about and which is usually disputed.

Example: I-Phone is a hot potato.


c)                 Add insult to injury: To further a loss with mockery or indignity; to worsen an unfavorable situation.

Example: Pessimistic people have a habit of adding insult to injury.


d)                At the drop of a hat: without any hesitation; instantly.

Example: On my call, she was ready to help me at the drop of a hat.


e)                 Back to the drawing board: When an attempt fails and it's time to start all over. Example: Twice Veena had to go back to the drawing board for her new project again.


f)                 Ball is in your court: It is up to you to make the next decision or step.

Example: The manager told the employees that now the ball was in their court.


g)                Barking up the wrong tree: Looking in the wrong place. Accusing the wrong person.

Example: Nisha was barking up the wrong tree for her demotion.


h)                Beat around the bush: Avoiding the main topic. Not speaking directly about the issue.

Example: People with less knowledge and low confidence always beat around the bush.


i)                  Best of both worlds: All the advantages.

Example: My decision of joining this institute is best of both worlds.


j)                 Bite off more than you can chew: To take on a task that is way too big. Example: Some people always bite off more than they can chew just to build their impression.


k)                Blessing in disguise: Something good that isn't recognized at first.

Example: My colleagues are blessing in disguise for me.


l)                  Burn the midnight oil: To work late into the night, alluding to the time before electric lighting.

Example: During exams, students burn the midnight oil.

 m)              Can't judge a book by its cover: Cannot judge something primarily on appearance. Example: Interviewers were surprised to realize the knowledge of a student coming from rural background; you really can’t judge a book by its cover!

 n)                Caught between two stools: When someone finds it difficult to choose between two alternatives.

Example: I was caught between two stools when I got the offer letters of two renowned companies at a time.


o)                Cross the bridge when you come across it: Deal with a problem if and when it becomes necessary, not before.

Example: To avoid hassles, cross the bridge when you come across it.

 p)                Cry over spilt milk: When you complain about a loss from the past.

Example: Mr. Sharma from our team always cries over the spilt milk.

 q)                Curiosity kills the cat: Being inquisitive can lead you into an unpleasant situation. Example: Viren gets into trouble as he becomes too curious about the things; he fails to understand the fact that curiosity kills the cat.


r)                 The show has come to an end: It’s all over.

Example: The show has come to an end due to disputes among family members.


s)                 Every dark cloud has a silver lining: Be optimistic, even difficult times will lead to better days.

Example : Mr. Tripathi had a loss in business, but he did not lose hope as he believed that every dark cloud has a silver lining.


t)                 Hear it on the grapevine: to hear rumors about something or someone.

Example :The Team Manager couldn’t believe what he heard on the grapevine about his team members.


u)                Hit the nail on the head: Do or say something exactly right.

Example :Today we hit the nail on the head by putting the matter rationally in front of the Manager.


v)                Keep something at bay:Keep something away.

Example :A good leader always keeps prejudice at bay.


w)              Kill two birds with one stone: to accomplish two different things at the same time. Example :My trip to Germany will kill two birds with one stone. I will do my work as well as have a great time with my family.


x)                Last straw: The final problem in a series of problems.

Example :We are now stress free as this is the last straw.


y)                A man of letters: A well-read man

Example :Dr. Mehta is a man of letters and his views are scholarly.


z)                 Let the cat out of the bag:To share information that was previously concealed; Make a long story short.

Example :The ministry has now let the cat out of the bag.


aa)      Crocodile tears: Pretended sorrow

Example :Cheaters shed crocodile tears.


 bb)      Up to the mark: Satisfactory

Example :Mr. Kulkarni got selected as his performance in the interview was up to the mark.

 cc)      Once in a blue moon: Happens very rarely.

Example :Decisions regarding the development of our country happen once in a blue moon.dd)      Picture paints a thousand words: A visual presentation is far more descriptive than words.

Example :In the kindergarten, pictorial experiences help to learn the things faster as a

picture paints thousand words.

 ee)      Piece of cake: A job, task or other activity that is easy or simple.

Example :Daily exercise is a piece of cake for my brother.

 ff)       With one voice: unanimously

Example :Shreyas was selected as the class representative with one voice.

 gg)      Sit on the fence: This is used when someone does not want to choose or make a decision.

Example :A few employees often sit on the fence in a critical situation.

 hh)      Steal someone's thunder: To take the credit for something someone else did.

Example :Mrs. Neha steals someone’s thunder and boasts of herself.

 ii)        To hear something straight from the horse's mouth:To hear something from the authoritative source.

Example :The workers agreed to the new policy only when they listened to it from the

horse’s mouth.

 jj)       An iron will:An inflexible determination

Example :Sardar Patel was a man of iron will.

 kk)      Castles in the air: Imaginary schemes

Example :My friend builds castles in the air and actually does nothing to accomplish it.

ll)        By hook or by crook: By fair or foul means

Example :He was so desperate for the post that he decided to achieve it by hook or by crook.

mm)    Once for all: Finally

Example : Once for all, my daughter finished with all her school projects.

 nn)      At a stretch: Continuously

Example :We have been working on the task at a stretch.



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