Lexical and Grammatical Collocations

Benson, Benson, and Ilson (1986) divided English collocations into two categories: lexical collocations and grammatical collocations (with seven and eight types, respectively). Lexical collocations are solely made up of verbs, adjectives, nouns, and adverbs in various combinations, whereas grammatical collocations include words such as verbs, adjectives, or nouns combined with a preposition or a a grammatical structure. A table of collocations (alongside 37 patterns) categorized based on their study follows:



V + N/P (or prepositional phrase) compose music; set an alarm
V + Adv walk heavily; argue heatedly
V + N make a decision; take place/part
Adj + N strong/weak tea
N + V bombs explode; alarms go off
N1 + of + N2 a pride of lions; a bunch of keys
Adv + Adj quite safe; deeply absorbed
N + Prep ability in/at; kind of; changes in
N + to + Inf an attempt to do it; years to come
N + that-clause He took an oath that he would do his duty.We reach an agreement that …; fact that
Prep + N on purpose; in fact
Adj + Prep tired of; bored with; angry with/at
Adj + to + Inf ready to go; easy to learn; likely to be
Adj + that-clause She was afraid that she would fail the exam; he was delighted that …
V + Prep I believe in …
V + direct O + to + indirect O =V + indirect O + direct O She sent the book to him. =She sent him the book.
V + direct O + to + indirect O(no movement for dative) They mentioned the book to her.
V + direct O + for + indirect O =V + indirect O + direct O She bought a shirt for her husband. =She bought her husband a shirt.
V + Prep + O They came by train;
V + O + Prep + O We invited them to the meeting.
V + to Inf She continued to write.
V + bare Inf Mary had better go.
V + V-ing They enjoy watching TV.
V + O + to Inf We forced them to leave.
V + O + bare Inf She heard them leave.
V + O + V-ing He felt his heart beating.
V + a possessive and V-ing I cannot imagine their stealing apples.
V + that clause(rather uncommen) The doctor suggests me that I take vitamins.
V + O + to be + C We consider her to be well-trained.
V + O + C She dyed her hair red.
V (+ O1) + O2 The teachers asked (the students) questions.It took/cost (us) ten minutes/cents.
V + O + Adverbial You carry yourself well [/like a soldier].
V (+O) + wh-clause/wh-phrase She asked (us) why we had come.
It + V + O + to Inf It surprised me to learn of her decision.
It + V + O + that-clause It surprised me that our offer was rejected.
V + C (Adj or N) He was a teacher.
V + C (Adj) The food tastes good.

The table illustrates different collocations across patterns. Examples are given for each combination.


Benson, M., Benson, E., & Ilson, R. (1986). The BBI combinatory dictionary of English: A guide to word combinations. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

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