online collocation dictionaries

What do we mean by ‘collocation’? Collocation refers to how words go together in real language use. For example, you can say in English that you take a picture / photo, but you don’t *do* a picture/ photo. Maybe theoretically you could say that, but real speakers don’t. (More information and examples here).

What tends to happen with students of English at an advanced level is that they look words up in the dictionary for their writing tasks, or even look for synonyms in a thesaurus (excellent, that’s what they should do); and yet, sometimes they may end up producing certain combinations of verb + noun, or adjective + noun…that sound unnatural, because they don’t collocate together. Maybe they should, but the resulting expression is not in actual use.

To avoid this, what you can do is to check whether this expression exists or not by using one /some of these resources below. Teachers can also use them, to decide whether this collocation they find unnatural or unheard of in their students’ writing actually exists or not:

Database of online newspapers, magazines…type your collocation into the search box, and if it can find those words, it will show you real examples where this expression appears. Once there, you can also click for more context.

If your collocation exists, you will find a list of examples, like this:

As you can see, there are many examples showcasing “take a photo” together.

However, if the words do not collocate, you will find something like this:

You do find the words, but in different parts of the sentence, not together, which means it’s not a collocation. Some other times the search may yield no results whatsoever, which makes your collocation even more unlikely. is also connected to YouGlish, (click on ‘pronunciations’), so it also provides you with videos featuring the pronunciation of the word / collocation (as well as giving further evidence that the collocation actually exists).

Look up a noun / verb/ adjective… The website will suggest nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, that tend to go either before or after your word.

Works in a very similar way to ProWriting Aid.


You can also read:


punctuation display

This is just intended as a guide to help students understand how to use punctuation marks properly:

Click on the picture to open pdf file in new tab

Inversions after negative or restricting adverbs and for conditional clauses

If you want to know how to use these expressions-typically used for emphasis-you can watch the video below:

  • No sooner had I …than
  • Seldom have I seen…
  • Little did she know…
  • Should you have any further questions do not hesitate to contact me again.
  • Had I known …I wouldn’t have…

You can find examples of these inversions in such TV shows as The Crown, The Big Bang Theory, or Friends:

Not only will I drive you there

Nowhere is it specified that…

Cafés and pubs in Zaragoza where you can practise your English

Some of my students have asked me about pubs / cafés where they can practise their speaking. So, I’ve come up with a list of businesses in Zaragoza who hold such informal gatherings. I’ve checked with them that they’re still organising them, so the information is correct at the time of writing. However, if you should be interested in attending such meetings, it would be advisable to double-check with them.

The pubs and cafés are arranged according to the day of the week when they’re hosting a meeting of a speaking group. You can also have a look at the map below, to see which may be more convenient to you.








Other pubs which may occasionally arrange similar meetings:

This is by no means a comprehensive list. If you know of any other pubs or cafés hosting such meetings, please let me know in the comments.