Software for Language Learning


The Right Word - Details

The headwords in The Right Word consist of the 5000 most common content words* in English plus almost a thousand more which learners of English need to learn. In total there are 5984 headwords and more than 650,000 word combinations.

This resource was created using mainly the British National Corpus. The results have been extensively edited; words which may be considered offensive have been removed and words which might be considered specialist terms have also been excluded (although what may be considered a specialist term is quite hard to define). Also many words which do co-occur have been removed because they form part of an extended phrase and make sense only in that extended phrase and not as an isolated pair. Examples of these are: “shadow agriculture”; there is no such thing and it’s hard to think of a possible context unless you’re trying to conceal proceeds of your smallholding from the taxman. “Shadow agriculture secretary” makes much more sense. “Pump action shotgun” is another example which makes sense (at least to Quentin Tarantino) as a three word phrase, but neither of the two word combinations does. Another source of three (or four) word combinations are those involving measurement , size, volume etc.; “litre Bentley” doesn’t work. A “three litre Bentley” is much more satisfactory. Most of these more extended word combinations have been edited out; a few may remain.

Collocates are usually defined as words which occur together statistically more often than chance. Collocates in this resource are considered to be any words which might reasonably co-occur and have been found to co-occur in this corpus or elsewhere. This is a learning resource, not a tool for research. If you want to do research then buy a licence from BNC or another corpus and examine the corpus yourself.

The collocates in The Right Word are ordered are ordered according to frequency. Most words have a few other words with which they collocate quite strongly and then a long tail of other words which collocate much less strongly. If the word you need occurs much further down the list, that’s fine. However, if you are a learner of English as a second language, you need to start learning some of the more common collocates of high frequency words. A good command of collocation distinguishes good second language speakers from mediocre ones.

Most of the collocations here are adjacent collocates. That is, the words occur within a word span of 2 words (adjective-noun, noun –noun, etc.). However, the verb-noun and noun-verb collocates are taken from a wider span. This is because verbs may be modified by auxiliary verbs or adverbs, or may have other words between the collocates.







*This figure includes plural nouns.


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