40 English collocations for communication

Advanced Vocabulary & Collocations Course

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Ready for some collocations? Let’s expand your vocabulary by learning interesting combinations with the key words comment, conversation, and speech.

There are a lot of adjectives that can describe comments or remarks. Here are some positive ones:

  • constructive comments/remarks are ones that have a positive effect or help show how to make things better. We often see this in the expression “constructive criticism,” meaning criticism that’s presented in a kind way in order to help improve
  • incisive comments/remarks are ones that are clear and sharp, that directly communicate the reality of the situation
  • perceptive comments/remarks are ones that show good insight and understanding
  • witty comments/remarks are clever and funny

On the negative side, we have:

  • pointed/cutting comments/remarks, ones that are “sharp” and hurt others’ feelings

  • scathing comments/remarks, ones that communicate very harsh and intense criticism
  • derogatory/disparaging comments/remarks, ones that communicate strong disrespect in a nasty way
  • obscene/vulgar comments/remarks, ones that are offensive to common standards of decency, such as talking explicitly about sex

Sometimes comments are clear, and other times they are cryptic, which is the opposite – cryptic comments are mysterious and hard to understand or interpret.

A provocative comment is one that produces a reaction in people – this may be positive, inspiring thought or action, or it may be negative, producing controversy or anger.

Reporters often ask famous people for their opinions on issues, and the celebrity might decline to comment (meaning politely say they will not comment). Other times, they might make an off-the-cuff comment, meaning one that is informal, spontaneous, not planned or prepared.

Let’s turn our attention to conversation. When we’re participating in a conversation, we can say we’re engaged in conversation. If the conversation is intense and we’re really focused on it, then we’re deep in conversation.

We can have an animated conversation, one that is full of energy, emotion, and often gestures. The opposite would be a hushed conversation, one that is done in quiet voices, often because we don’t want other people to overhear our conversation – accidentally listen to it.

A fascinating/stimulating conversation is one that holds our interest and we enjoy paying attention to it. However, if it’s an endless conversation – one that seems to continue on forever – we might eventually get tired of it. It’s also unpleasant if one person or one topic tends to dominate the conversation, meaning control it and take up all the time.

When we’re in a place where we don’t know anyone, we can try to strike up a conversation (start a conversation) with someone new. This will probably be polite conversation – friendly and civilized.

Sometimes it’s hard to keep a conversation going with someone we don’t know, and there might be a lull in the conversation, meaning a natural pause. Some people are very uncomfortable in social situations, and these folks might have halting/stilted conversations, meaning ones that have a lot of unnatural pauses and awkward moments.

How about the word “speech”? Someone might give an acceptance speech when receiving an award, a prize, a promotion or new role, etc. There’s also a farewell speech when someone is saying goodbye or leaving a place or position.

At a conference or event, the main speech is often called the keynote and the person who gives it is the keynote speaker. Those things are planned far in advance.

On the other hand, an impromptu speech is given spontaneously. For example, you might stand up and give an impromptu speech at your friend’s wedding – you hadn’t planned it ahead of time, but you felt inspired in the moment to address the group.

An eloquent speech is one that uses words very effectively. Someone could also give an impassioned speech meaning the speaker has a lot of emotion, or a rousing/stirring speech meaning the speech inspires emotion or action in the listeners.

Unfortunately, sometimes the speaker is long-winded, meaning he or she talks too long, and the speech seems interminable – like it will never end.

Those expressions were referring to more formal speeches, but the word speech is also used to describe someone’s manner of speaking in general. If someone’s speech is slurred, it means they’re not pronouncing things clearly and it’s hard to understand. Drunk people often have slurred speech.

Some people are born with a speech impediment/impairment, meaning they naturally have problems speaking clearly, often the result of some medical issue. Often with therapy, they can learn to speak coherently/intelligibly (clearly/understandably).

The verb “speak” collocates with many adverbs, such as:

  • speak warmly/fondly, meaning to speak with nice, pleasant, positive emotions about something. I speak fondly about the dog my family had when I was a child.

  • speak authoritatively, meaning to speak in a powerful, reliable way, with authority. My friend is an experienced lawyer, so she can speak authoritatively about the law.
  • speak hesitantly, meaning you speak with hesitation, maybe because you are reluctant to share your opinion, or you’re worried about the other person’s reaction.
  • speak earnestly, meaning you’re sincere, honest, and serious about the topic.

And of course “speak fluently,” which is what you’re learning to do more and more inside this course! I hope you’re finding it helpful. Remember, it’s essential to practice as well, so go ahead and try the quiz for today’s lesson.


Review & Practice Pronunciation

constructive comments/remarks have a positive effect or help show how to make things better
incisive comments/remarks are clear and sharp, communicate the reality of the situation
perceptive comments/remarks show good insight/understanding
witty comments/remarks are clever and funny
pointed/cutting comments/remarks are “sharp” and hurt others’ feelings
scathing comments/remarks very harsh and intense criticism
derogatory/disparaging comments/remarks show strong disrespect in a nasty way
obscene/vulgar comments/remarks are offensive to common standards of decency
cryptic comments mysterious and hard to interpret
provocative comment produces a reaction in people (positive, negative, or controversial)
decline to comment politely say you will not comment
an off-the-cuff comment one that’s informal, spontaneous, not prepared
engaged in conversation participating in conversation
deep in conversation VERY focused and involved in conversation
an animated conversation full of energy, emotion, gestures
a hushed conversation in quiet voices
overhear a conversation accidentally listen to it
a fascinating/stimulating conversation holds our interest and we enjoy paying attention
an endless conversation seems to continue forever and we get tired of it
dominate the conversation control it and take up all the time
strike up a conversation start a conversation
polite conversation friendly and civilized conversation
a lull in the conversation a natural pause
halting/stilted conversations have a lot of unnatural pauses and awkward moments
an acceptance speech given when receiving an award, prize, promotion, etc.
a farewell speech given when saying goodbye or leaving a position
keynote main speech at a conference or event
an impromptu speech given spontaneously
an eloquent speech uses words very effectively
an impassioned speech speaker has a lot of emotion
a rousing/stirring speech inspires emotion or action in listeners
a long-winded speaker talks too long
an interminable speech feels like it will never end (negative connotation)
speech is slurred not pronouncing things clearly
a speech impediment/impairment problems speaking clearly due to a medical issue
speak coherently/intelligibly speak clearly/understandably
speak warmly/fondly with nice, pleasant, positive emotions
speak authoritatively in a powerful, reliable way, with authority
speak hesitantly speak with reluctance; wait to speak because you’re nervous
speak earnestly speak sincerely, honestly, seriously

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