Learn French: Hack French Using Collocations

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What are collocations?

In French, collocations are called « cooccurrences ». I always thought that some words are really good friends but I discovered this concept not a long time ago. Collocations are not idioms, but just words that we tend to put together. It’s particularly true when someone begins a sentence then you know what’s going to come next, and even more when it’s written French. Written French is full of implied codes that all French understand but don’t know how to explain (eg. passive vocabulary). We just don’t know why, we just say it sounds better….

French from medias is a very specific kind of French and it’s where you can find the most collocations. Medias all speak the same « dialect ». I’m pretty sure every language use collocations. Of course, because it will be too hard to think of every word every time you say something. So there are patterns almost everywhere although we don’t see them at first. Usage of collocation is very useful to understand or produce written French (articles, newspapers, novels…).

There are different ways to use French collocations. At first, there are verbs that are systematically used with certain nouns:

  • faire une annonce, passer une annonce
  • faire un appel,  lancer un appel
  • faire ses bagages,  boucler/plier ses bagages
  • faire un métier, exercer/pratiquer un métier

The combination « noun + adjective » is one of the most common. For example, the noun “précision” is often followed by one of the following adjectives:

  • (précision): chirurgicale, diabolique, maniaque, mathématique, etc.
    or the opposite, starting with the adjective “budgétaire”, we can get:
  • budgétaire: arbitrage, assainissement, austérité, choix, contrainte, coupe, dérapage, discipline, rallonge, restriction, rigueur, trou, etc.

How to find a list of collocations?

Fortunately, there is a wonderful tool that is extremely helpful for that. This tool can find any collocation whereas you enter a verb, a noun, and adjective. You will be able to find any word before or after that fits your sentence.

This is particularly handy if you work on your French writing skills or for DELF B2. This way you have the correct word and the correct phrase. Another way to improve your French!

This software is not expensive compared to what it has to offer. It also includes a proofreader tool and a bunch of different dictionaries. You can find it on amazon by clicking here.

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