How to find which adjectives modify which nouns?

I’ve always wanted to to find the answer to such questions as the following:

  1. Which adjectives are commonly used to describe pain?
  2. Which nouns are commonly modified by the adjective acute?

You can certainly find the answer if you look into usage examples in the dictionary or if you poke around in a thesaurus, but the answer is not always found directly. I couldn’t even find a list of bi-grams that addressed this specific construct.

Similarly, I would like to know which verbs commonly associate with which subjects and which objects and vice versa.

Where do I find such information? And should this not be in a thesaurus?


You could try searching for collocations + the word you want the adjectives, nouns, or even verbs paired to.

According to ODO collocations are

  • The habitual juxtaposition of a particular word with another word or words with a frequency greater than chance.

‘the words have a similar range of collocation’

  • A pair or group of words that are habitually juxtaposed.

‘‘strong tea’ and ‘heavy drinker’ are typical English collocations’

For example, a search for collocations+pain returned the following (amongst others) from the Online OXFORD Collocation Dictionary:

acute, agonizing, awful, excruciating, extreme, great, intense, severe, sharp, terrible, unbearable | burning, searing, shooting, stabbing, throbbing, etc.

A search for collocations+acute rendered the following results amongst others:

↑agitation, ↑angle, ↑anxiety, ↑appendicitis, ↑asthma, ↑attack, ↑awareness, ↑case, ↑complication, ↑crisis, ↑danger, ↑depression, ↑diarrhoea, ↑dilemma, ↑discomfort, ↑disease, ↑distress, etc.

Edited to add the following

Thanks 3omarz!

I found two more online collocation dictionary sources which in my opinion will be helpful and more accurate than the previously cited references

Flax Interactive Language Learning

This online tool appears to be thorough. According to their about section

"There are many definitions of collocation. We think of collocations in the same way as expressed by Benson et al.: "In any language, certain words combine with certain other words or grammatical constructions. These recurrent, semi-fixed combinations, or collocations, can be divided into two groups: grammatical collocations and lexical collocations."

Enter this collection to search for the company words keep.

How words form into collocational patterns will be revealed by looking across

  • the 100 million-word British National Corpus (BNC) reference corpus,

  • the British Academic Written English (BAWE) corpus of 2500 university student writing texts

  • the Wikipedia crowd-sourced corpus of three million articles.**

Just The Word describe themselves as

a completely new kind of aid to help you with writing English and choosing just the word.

I suggest you click the "getting started" and "more help" links to get more out of the resource.

Source : Link , Question Author : 3omarz , Answer Author : bookmanu

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