Collocations. Do you give them any importance?

To be honest, it’s not something that I every really considered for a very long in my studies until recently. There is plenty of media available for learning vocabulary, plenty for learning grammar and plenty for even learning particles. But collocations, not a whole lot.

It only became apparent when I started seen some real gaps in my learning. I was learning thousands of vocabulary words, but not always knowing how to connect them. For instance, one time I though about how I would say “to remove hair dye” in Japanese. My first inclination was to say 染めを消す、when the most common way to say it seems to be 染めを落とす which carrys the imagery of the dye falling off rather than erasing it. If I would have said 染めを消す to a native speaker, they probably would have understood what I was trying to say, but it would not sound as natural. And they may or may not have done me the favor of correcting me. (And trust me, if you have a native speaker in your life who consistently corrects you, that is pure gold)

So this repeated in many things. I can say frying pan, or air conditioner, or car. But can I say put the frying pan on the burner, lower the thermostat on the AC, change the filter on my car. I searched Anki for a common collocations flashcard deck and nothing came up. A friend has referred me to a Japanese website that has a plethora of collocations, but it’s more dictionary based.

I can most certainly see why there isn’t much focus based on this. I think the general consensus is that you should be able to pick up on collocations once you know enough grammar and vocabulary. It exists in the strange space somewhere in the middle of it all. But that can be said for a lot of aspects of the language. And trust me, I’ve probably listened to thousands of hours of Japanese content over the years, some things for me just don’t stick until I lay it out and study it.

So sometimes you just gotta do like Thanos and do it yourself. I’ve own two common collocation books and am slowly converting one into flashcards. The book is Common Japanese Collocations which I highly recommend if you already have a few thousand vocabulary words under your belt and have gone through most of N4 grammar. The book say on my shelf for years and I paid it no mind until I racked up a good amount of vocab. I do have every intention of uploading it once I’ve completed it. Unless anyone knows of a really good flashcard deck or program for learning collocations. Otherwise, I’ll press on and at least contribute something to the community.


What a coincidence for you to make this topic, I was just talking to someone yesterday about Common Japanese Collocations. I have not studied them myself yet but agree that making an Anki deck would be tremendously helpful. This Tofugu post talks about them a bit, perhaps the website they mention is the one your friend referred you to?

Collocations really are a great idea though, as you mentioned simply “translating” from English doesn’t usually get you to natural sounding Japanese. Hopefully someone with more experience can weigh in here.


I think they’re pretty important! But I’m not skilled enough in Japanese or talking to enough Japanese people to care that much about learning them.


Well, if even one person benefits from uploading the flashcard deck I’m making, I feel that the trouble is worth it. And that website mentioned on Tofugu’s post may be the website itself. I’ll probably use it more down the line. But for now I really want to focus on CJC since there are so many everyday things you could use in daily conversation.

Don’t hold your breath on when it will be done though. I’m currently on page 63 of about 200 or so. But I’m aiming to finish before the end of the year.


Looking forward to it! A common collocations Anki deck would be fantastic.

“Common Japanese Collocations” seems like a very useful book, that i might go through at some point anyways.

Though for now personally i think i’d prioritize resources more efficient for passive understanding, like common idioms, common Yojijukugo, common colloquial language and colloquial contractions (recently i learned ~りゃ = ~れば or ~れは), grammar, etc.

(also, is there a name for things like ~ない often pronounced ~ねえ in slang, especially anime?)


Good topic, I also think that collocations are quite difficult to study! I think that they are some of the last things to come in your learning, and are usually just from exposure. Specifically focusing your study on them could definitely pay off, but it might be a bit hard to search for them unless you naturally run into them. Like we generally don’t know we use/need collocations until we actually hear/see them.

As for myself, I just add them to anki as if they were normal vocbulary in my decks. I don’t treat them specifically as a collocation, but rather just some other thing I need to memorize :rofl:. For example somewhere in my decks there is a 夢 card, somewhere else there is a 見る card, and in a later deck there is 夢を見る card. I usually do this for any collocation that is not the same as English.

The book that you have sounds like it could be a great resource!


The real questions are; what are collocations, and who is Thanos? :thinking:

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Not sure if you’re being serious or not, but collocations are word pairings. In this case, common word pairings. Such as driving a car, boiling water, applying makeup and so forth.

As for Thanos, he’s the baddest and thickest Avengers villain. Not the Doja Cat kind of thicc though.


Thats a pretty good technique, and I have integrated some collocations into my vocab flashcards as well. For me, I feel that I’ve made a lot of mistakes when speaking, particularly about new topics. The book I’m utilizing goes through a bunch of categories, things I would likely not think about such as applying makeup or spreading a futon.

My natural inclination when coming up with a sentence in Japanese is to translate directly from English if I don’t know the collocation. More often than not, this doesn’t really work. Lol. And I’ve gotten moments of silence over it, before they figured out what I was trying to convey. So I think I’ll see some benefit from it I hope.

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I think they are pretty important. Try writing a diary and every time you have a situation where you don’t know how to express what you want to say in a natural way, research the natural way to say it. That way, eventually you will learn how to express the majority of the things you want to express about your daily life, thoughts and feelings.

You should ideally never be translating from English to Japanese in your head. It will almost always be wrong. If you want to sound natural you need to listen to what natives say in each specific situation and copy what they say. It would be impossible to put all of that into a dictionary or an anki deck because the way Japanese people express things and what they say in each situation, even aside from simple collocations is just almost always different than what we would say in English.

When you learned your vocabulary words, did you also learn a sentence that uses each vocabulary word? If every time you learn a word, you learn the word with a sentence that contains at least one of the collocations, that definitely helps. Even aside from collocations, the Japanese words often aren’t used in all the same ways or situations as their English counterparts so looking at example sentences when you learn words is very important.

I guess the other thing is just attention. You said that you have listened to thousands of hours of Japanese, but during that time, were you ever really trying to pay attention to collocations or thinking about what collocations were being used? Now that you are more interested in collocations, just try to pay more attention to them during immersion and that should help you pick up more and more of them over time.


Actually something I would suggest doing that I sometimes do is watch youtube videos about daily life stuff. I learn a lot of collocations that way, but I never really thought about it until you pointed it out. For example last year I wanted to be able to get a haircut in Japan without sounding stupid, so I just watched a few haircut videos to see what vocabulary they used for all of the actions etc.

This is just a matter of the thing you metioned about knowing plenty of words, but not which words are right in a specific situation. So looking up daily situations on youtube that you may find yourself in works well too.


I’ve most certainly utilized most of the things you’ve mentioned. Looking into saying things naturally, doing my best not to translate from English, copying verbatim what natives say, learning vocabulary with example sentences, paying attention to the content I watch.

Things however, don’t always click for me until I’ve studied it. There are some accusation and immersion enthusiasts who who say that even something like Bunpro is a waste of time, and you should learn it all naturally without books or programs. I’m sure everyone on this forum would disagree. I think we that we would all also agree that we can’t properly learn grammar without real world practice and media exposure. But at least there is a groundwork there.

The book I’m converting into flashcards is my groundwork to collocations. Of course, I don’t expect to know every situation, that takes time, maybe a lifetime. But having a groundwork will make that easier. Just like having a groundwork for vocabulary and grammar has helped. Those, in a way (especially vocabulary) were groundwork for collocations in my mind. As I look through the collocations book I’m converting, I see a vast amount of things for daily situations. From weather, to the post office, to hair and beauty. And my hope is that when I’m done converting them, they can be the collocation groundwork for other learners as well.


yeah, i think Bunpro is the basis for developing a more nuanced feel for things, without basic grammar it’s hard to understand sentences at all, as some grammar is quite counter intuitive.

I just had a beautiful collocation (?) in my Bunpro sentence, no way you’d say it like that if you were “thinking in english” or not familiar with this kind of formulation:

(i’d translate it with the often heard “i like you just the way you are”)

This also reminds me of the motivational phrase 昨日の自分より強く! (Stronger than (your) yesterday’s self = stronger every day) from Naruto, which is also a very idiomatically japanese phrasing.


When I’m curious about a collocation I look it up here;


I’ve been studying English using collocations, because they are easier to understand and memorize. I wish I could do the same with Japanese :pensive:

It would be great a resource like Bunpro teaching the most common Japanese collocations.


If you have the resources, you may want to seek out this book.


Thats the book I’m currently converting into flashcards.


I ordered the book as well. It should be arriving today. Maybe we can join forces?


That may not be a bad idea. Conversion is going along smoothy, currently at page 120. Doing them by sections, and there are 6. Get with me if you’re willing to help out. Even taking one section would be a great help.