There are combinations of words that just sound “right” to English speakers. These words don’t always have to be together, but they usually are. If we look at one of the famous examples we can see how this works.
Normally when it comes to food, we ‘cook food’, but depending on how we cook each food, there are often different verbs used.
bake a cake, fry eggs, roast chicken
We can’t say: cook a cake, cook eggs, or cook a chicken.
Often using the wrong verb will result in a different meaning. For example:
Which means that you are in big trouble and something bad will happen soon.
So how can we remember all these random relationships between words? Actually we are doing it unconsciously whenever we are reading or listening. When we are reading a magazine it’s important to read it out and slowly our mouth and mind will start joining words together in chains, rather than the words all being one by one. When we are speaking and somebody corrects us as well.
A: Tomorrow I will cook a cake!
B: Oh….. yeah, bake a cake.
A: Yeah, whatever, its a cake man, comon!
Speaker A thinks that it doesn’t matter if you say ‘cook’ or ‘bake’ because the meaning is still clear. They are right, the meaning is clear, but native speakers of English will think it sounds strange or incorrect. This kind of knowledge is essential if you want to be considered a high level speaker of a language, and is essential for Band 7 in IELTS.
We can also learn through active study. A google search of ‘collocations in English’ will help you find a lot of learning resources, but here is one in particular that I would like to recommend.
Practice with a language partner and make sentences about all of these.
But essentially, the world is full of them, just be aware of them and as you encounter them in your textbooks, TV watching, conversations, just take a mental note. Over time the ones that are really essential will just be common knowledge to you.