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Tag: collocation

Later or latter?

The two words later and latter look similar but there is an important difference that you should know.

LATER

Later modifies a verb, which is why we language nerds call it an adverb. It refers to something happening after a certain time.
Let’s go to the cinema and then we can go to the pub later.
Their best known product was introduced much later.

Later is also an adjective; it modifies a noun:
I prefer his later work, especially the large paintings.
Can we discuss this at a later date?

There are a few collocations with later:
Sooner or later they will succeed.
See you later!
Later on in the film, they get married.

LATTER

Latter usually refers to the second of two persons or things. We can talk about the former and the latter.
I have listened a lot to I’m Your Man and Tower of Song and I must say I prefer the latter.
Would you like red or white wine? – The latter, please.

Latter can also refer to something being nearer the end.
The company went global in the latter part of the 1990s.
The full name of the Mormon Church is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.

A woman in a car is waving goodbye through the side window
See you later!

Dictionaries of words, synonyms and collocations – a comparison

We will examine how different types of dictionaries treat the same word.

A monolingual dictionary gives explanations in simple English:

An entry from Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English explaining the word management
Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English

You can read more about dictionaries here.

A dictionary of synonyms suggests alternative words:

An entry from Collins English Thesaurus explaining the word management
Collins English Thesaurus

More about dictionaries of synonyms can be found here.

A dictionary of collocations shows how a word can be combined with other words and parts of speech:

An entry from Oxford Collocations Dictionary explaining the word management
Oxford Collocations Dictionary

Read more about dictionaries of collocations here.

Finally, a thesaurus is built on concepts and ideas and will give you lots and lots of closely and more remotely related words and expressions:

A page from Rogets Thesaurus showing the entry for management
Roget’s Thesaurus

A thesaurus gives you ample opportunity to vary your text, but you need to understand nuances in meaning. Under Vb. (Verb) we find neutral phrases such as be in charge and have overall responsibility but also expressions from working life such as take the helm (of a ship), take the chair (lead a meeting) and hold the reins (of a horse). We also find more informal phrases such as wear the trousers, which implies someone who is in control and makes decisions. You would not use that expression in a serious text about the CEO of a company!

Read more about thesauri here.

Dictionaries of collocations

A collocation is a combination of words that is natural to native speakers. In English the combination fast food is natural; *quick food does not sound right. In the same way, we say a quick meal and not *a fast meal.

There are many possible types of collocations, such as noun + verb, verb + noun, verb + adverb, adjective + noun etc.

Some examples:
A broad overview (adjective + noun)
Carefully examine (adverb + verb)
A wedding reception (noun + noun)
The companies merged (noun + verb)
Fully aware (adverb + adjective)
Whisper softly (verb + adverb)

Many collocations are combined with verbs:
We say make a mistake and do business, not *do a mistake and *make business.

Here are some examples of other collocations with verbs:

Take a look, take notes, take a seat
Keep calm, keep in touch, keep a promise
Get ready, get lost, get the message
Come back, come into view, come to a decision
Go swimming, go abroad, go bankrupt
Catch a bus, catch a cold, catch fire
Run a factory, run wild, run up a debt
Set up an agency, set an example, set the table
Launch a product, launch an offensive, launch into an attack
Pay attention, pay tribute, pay a visit
Break the ice, break into tears, break even
Have lunch, have a rest, have a surprise

Some printed dictionaries of collocations:

Cambridge English Collocations in Use
Longman Collocations Dictionary and Thesaurus
LTP Dictionary of Selected Collocations
Macmillan Collocations Dictionary
Oxford Collocations Dictionary
The BBI Combinatory Dictionary of English

You can get these from your bookshop or, e.g., Amazon, Bokus or Adlibris.

Online you can find these:

freecollocation.com
prowritingaid.com
ozdic.com
wordreference.com
just-the-word.com
sketchengine.eu

The following is an entry in Oxford Collocations Dictionary. It shows you what adjectives, verbs and nouns go with the word production and gives examples of phrases.

The entry for the word production in Oxford Collocations Dictionary

When you are not sure of which words go well together, check a collocations dictionary. It will help you write more accurate English and it will help you vary your language.

You can find a comparison between different types of dictionaries here.

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