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

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!

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