Mini-teste de Collocations

Have you ever noticed how native English speakers use a host of other words where Brazilians use “very”? The word “very” is a general-purpose intensifier, but it shouldn’t be used in every case. Often there are other words that are more appropriate as intensifiers. These strong word associations are called “collocations”. For example, we can say that someone is “very” rich, or we can say that someone is “filthy” rich. In both cases the idea is the same (very rich). However, we can’t use “filthy” and “very” interchangeably; you can’t be “filthy” poor or “filthy” hungry. ‘Filthy’ and ‘rich’ naturally go together and form a strong collocation. Knowing and using these frequent and strong collocations is an important step forward in really using the language like a native English speaker.

Let’s see how well you know these common collocations. Match the intensifiers in column A with the words in column B.

(1) The hotels were outrageously (a) mad last night.
(2) Shoes are dirt (b) hot in July.
(3) He was dirt (c) wet.
(4) Mary was fuming (d) successful at the moment.
(5) I ordered a freezing (e) sorry.
(6) Arizona is burning (f) poor as a child.
(7) I’m late. I’m terribly (g) beautiful.
(8) His talk show is enormously (h) cold beer to cool off.
(9) The view from the top was breathtakingly (i) expensive in London.
(10) After the tennis game I was dripping (j) cheap in Mexico.
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Some other common substitutes for “very” in English are:


I’m terribly sorry to disturb you, but I need to ask you something.
She’s terribly busy right now.


We were horribly late to the wedding.
Jack was horribly drunk when he got in last night.


He seemed awfully interested in the proposal.
Jane is awfully nice to offer her beach house for the weekend.


Are you absolutely certain it was John who took the laptop?
I’m absolutely delighted with the new sound system.


I’m utterly exhausted from the hike this morning.
What an utterly ridiculous thing to say!

Also: entirely, absolutely, astonishingly, frightfully, tremendously, extremely etc.

We are waiting for your participation. The 3 first to answer correctly will win a brand new book.

Update 03/08/2010


1) i
2) j
3) f
4) a
5) h
6) b
7) e
8) d
9) g


Rogerio (comment number 1 – 17:10)
Luis Fernando Jr (comment number 2 – 17:11)
Patrícia (comment number 5 – 17:14)

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Mark Nash

Mark G. Nash, canadense, reside no Brasil há quatorze anos. Formado em Teoria da Comunicação pela McGill University e Antropologia e Semiótica pela Trent University. Autor de 10 livros na área de linguística aplicada pelas editoras Melhoramentos (Michaelis) e Disal.

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