Hurling insults and hazarding a guess: ways to talk about communication

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by Liz Walter

Last month I wrote about the importance of collocations (word partners) for making your English fluent and natural. In this post I am going to concentrate on collocations connected with a very basic topic – communicating.

A major reason to learn good collocations is to avoid using common words too much. So while it’s fine to say that someone ‘starts’ or ‘has’ a conversation, it would be much more impressive to use the collocations strike up a conversation or hold a conversation:

She struck up a conversation with one of the other passengers.

I know enough French to be able to hold a conversation.

Similarly, although we can ‘make a guess’, we could use the collocation hazard a guess:

I’d hazard a guess that this house was built in the 1950s.

During a conversation, we might bring up or broach a subject (start to talk about it). We often use ‘broach’ for a subject that might be unpleasant or controversial:

It was Suzie who brought up the subject of skiing.

I didn’t really want to broach the subject of money.

There are several good collocations we use to describe unpleasant ways of communicating. One person might hurl insults (shout insults angrily) at another person, or two or more people might trade insults (insult one another):

He started hurling insults at the airline staff.

They spent most of the meeting trading insults.

If someone says lots of nasty things to another person all at once, this can be called a stream of abuse or a torrent of abuse. If someone says forcefully that they think something is stupid or worthless, they pour scorn on it:

We faced a torrent of abuse from fans of the other team.

My boss poured scorn on all my ideas.

A heated argument/debate is one in which people become angry:

There was a heated debate about who should pay the bill.

To turn to more positive forms of communication, if we say something nice about someone, we pay them a compliment. If someone is trying to make us praise them, they are fishing for compliments:

It’s nice when someone pays you a compliment.

I’m not fishing for compliments, but do you like this cake?

Finally, there are several nice adverbs that form emphatic phrases with verbs about communication. For instance, we might categorically deny or freely admit something. We could promise faithfully to do something, or apologize profusely if we do something wrong:

He categorically denied taking the money.

I freely admit that my cooking is terrible.

She promised faithfully that she would keep in touch.

The receptionist apologized profusely for the hotel’s error.

Remember to look out for collocations all the time – you will probably find several more for this topic!

29 thoughts on “Hurling insults and hazarding a guess: ways to talk about communication

  1. Rajesh V R

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    1. Rahul Patil.

      Indeed,I felt something innovative and fresh to have read your blog.ot goes without saying that u r best tutor ever. I promise faithfully to be always looking out for more
      and more scintillating stuffs as always.i do wanna apologize profusely for not being aware of your blog contents despite it came on going over my eyes all the time whenever I’m surfing net. here,I’m paying u a biggest compliment ever to u.

  2. Ali

    That is really helpful, thank you so much for your useful article. I start learning about the collections which really allow me to be more confident to hold a conversation with a native English speaker.

    Thank you

  3. Eva

    Dear Liz!
    Although I know for sure that you are not fishing for compliments, I must pay a compliment for bringing up such a topic and I apologise profusely for not being aware of this blog. I freely admit this mistake and promise faithfully to be in the loop with your subscribers.


    1. Alka Srivastava

      Thank you for sharing useful article . I don’t know about it . From today I decided to read your blog daily Thanks a lot.

    1. Liz Walter

      None of the collocations in this article are particularly informal. They would be appropriate in speech and writing.

  4. Annabeth

    By the way, your blog is so amazing that I cannot help paying you lots of compliments and I am really looking forward to your following posts :))))

  5. Biju Damodaran

    Dear Liz,
    Very useful notes. I liked it very much . I think it is collocations which give colour and life to our sentences.

  6. Kiên Hoàng Trọng

    Wow! This blog is eye-opening! You are wonderfully fantastic. Your article enlightened manifold aspects of my English-learning journey. It’s riveting, world-beating. There is no word spot-on to describe how much I love it! I know you are not fishing for compliments, nonetheless, I must pay verbal tribute to you! I apologize profusely for not being one of your subscribers which would be the biggest mistake of me. I freely admit my fault and promise faithfully to keep myself well informed of all your posts.

  7. Rishikesh Gawde

    your posts are fill up with knowledge,it is really helping me to improve my english language skills.I am glad to have found your site. Your post holds lot of variety of words to be use in day to day life expressions. i make effort to use them every moment in a day. Thing that i like in your post is you explain each and every word with practical example ,which is ready to use
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