If you’re a keen English student, there’s a good chance you dedicate a considerable amount of your time to learning new English vocabulary.
If you’re a SMART English student, you’re learning new English vocabulary in context (basically I’m talking about phraseology here) because that’s pretty much the only way to ensure you can use that vocabulary as part of live, fluent English speech.
If you’re REALLY SERIOUS about your fluency improvement, however, you’re also being selective about the way you choose which phrase containing this or that particular English word you assign the most importance to!
Let’s take, for example, the word BOG.
I guess you know the word, but in case you didn’t know what it means (nothing wrong with that!) – it’s land covering an area of an overgrown lake where there’s plenty of soggy, moist soil and people have been known to get sucked into bog sinkholes because it’s pretty much impossible to get out of one.
So, let’s say you just learned the word BOG, and you’re going to learn the most commonly used collocations containing that word to make sure proper mental associations are created in your mind:
- I was walking on a bog
- Walking on a bog may be dangerous
- Sucked into a bog sinkhole
- Bog oak woodwork (specific type of hardwood that’s being recovered from a bog having been there for thousands of years)
If you learn these collocations (it’s just a fancy way of referring to word combinations), you’re so much more likely to be able to USE the word BOG as part of a live conversation for the simple reason that the word BOG is going to be connected with other words so they’ll all come out of your mouth without you having to construct a sentence from scratch.
How Often You’re Going to Discuss Bog-related Matters Though?
While there’s nothing wrong with learning all the aforementioned phraseology, here’s a question I’d like to ask you: “How often you think you’re going to talk about bogs and sinkholes?”
Is that something you talk about every day?
Once a month?
I guess I wouldn’t be wrong in saying that unless you’re interested in wildlife and nature or you happen to live in an area where there’s plenty of bog-land (as a matter of fact, I live in such an area but even I don’t talk about it too often!), the chances are – you wouldn’t really use the above phrases ❗
So, am I saying there’s no point in learning new English vocab unless you can see yourself using it frequently?
No, that’s not what I’m saying.
My point is – you have to be selective and learn THOSE collocations containing the word in question that are going to be used more frequently!
To Get BOGGED DOWN Can Be Used a Whole Lot More Often!
The word BOG can also be used as a verb, and as such it’s a whole lot more popular, for example the idiomatic expression TO GET BOGGED DOWN means to become focused on a specific matter during a conversation for way too long.
And I can tell you with 100% confidence that you can use this English phrase 100 times more often than the phrases containing the word BOG in the traditional sense of the word!
- Hold on, I think I’ve something more to say in relation to this…
- Sorry, but let’s not get BOGGED DOWN on this, we have more serious matters to discuss!
Another sample dialogue:
- But Garry told me Mick wasn’t even involved in the altercation, so why would you want to punish him too?
- I really don’t want to get BOGGED DOWN with the details of this incident, the simple fact is Mick is part of the gang and he also has to share some responsibility.
And another one:
- How can Tom be talking about the same thing for hours on end?
- I don’t know, that’s him – he always gets BOGGED DOWN on certain subjects and doesn’t know how to move on!
See – you can use this English collocation in various life situations whenever you have to touch upon the subject of trying to analyze something too deeply – basically it’s figurative use of the word BOG because you can imagine being sucked into a conversation topic just like into a bog sinkhole.
Couple of More Examples of Similar Vocabulary
Horizon – broaden your horizons. If you only learn the word horizon in the common sense of the word which describes the line where the sky and the earth (or sea) meet, I doubt you’d use it too often. TO BROADEN ONE’S HORIZONS, however, can be used whenever you’re talking about people acquiring new knowledge and the ability to understand more of the surrounding world.
Token – by the same token. Token is something you can use as money substitute and then exchange it back for money – for example, tokens in car parks. Would you use this word often though? Guess not! What about BY THE SAME TOKEN which is an English idiom meaning “going with the same analogy”? You can definitely use it more often!
How to Find Such Phrases?
Now, I don’t want you to start analyzing EVERY single new English word you’re encountering.
If you started doing that, you’d go mad!
Just make some effort to find valid collocations containing that word (watch this video to see how to use Google for this purpose!), and learn them.
IF, however, you have a feeling that the word you’re learning is:
- Too specific,
- Not going to be used by YOU too often,
… then definitely see if you can find ways of using this word as part of figurative speech by doing the following:
- Go onto an online dictionary website such as TheFreeDictionary.com and go through all possible ways of using the word in question – normally idiomatic expressions and figurative speech is listed at the bottom of the list – to see if anything catches your eye;
- Use Google to see if you can find some collocations containing the new English word that could be used in general speech as opposed to the narrow, specific traditional meaning of the word you’re looking up!
Here’s an example.
Let’s say, you just came across a new English word TO FETCH which is a verb and can be used in conjunction with nouns to describe the process of going to get something and then bringing it back:
- I’ll fetch milk from the fridge, you wait here!
But think about it now.
How often do YOU have situations when you have to tell someone you’ll go and get something? Well, maybe it happens to you all the time, so then it’s definitely worth memorizing a phrase such as “I’ll fetch (something), you wait here!”
Personally I don’t use the word FETCH in this context because such situations don’t occur too often.
Instead, I use the idiomatic version: FAR-FETCHED ASSUMPTION – which means that the matter you’re discussing is quite unrealistic. Now, I have to tell you I use the word FETCH in this context quite regularly, and you would definitely come across this word combination if you did some research upon encountering this new word FETCH.
I hope so ❗
Any questions – don’t hesitate to post them in the comments section below!
P.S. Would you like to find out why I’m highlighting some of the text in red? Read this article and you’ll learn why it’s so important to learn idiomatic expressions and how it will help you to improve your spoken English!
P.S.S. Are you serious about your spoken English improvement? Check out my English Harmony System HERE!