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Bring your partner

Ian McMaster ist Chefredakteur von Business Spotlight
Viele Englische Wörter können nicht alleine stehen, sie brauchen immer einen Partner an ihrer Seite. Manche Business-Vokabeln halten sich sogar einen ganzen Harem an Wort-Gefährten.
Look at the following excerpt from an (imaginary) speech by a managing director to his heads of department at the beginning of a new year: "The year ahead will provide us with a golden opportunity to boost profits if we launch our new products on time. We have driven a hard bargain with our major supplier and have reduced our costs dramatically. We have also invested heavily in new plant and machinery, and I am sure that our new product range will be a roaring success. But we will achieve our goal only if we keep a tight grip on costs. I hope you are all ready to meet the challenges ahead.

This text is full of typical word partnerships, or what language experts call "collocations":
> a golden opportunity (a great chance)
> to boost profits (to increase profits)
> to launch a product (to put a new product on the market)
> to drive a hard bargain (to negotiate a good deal)
> our major supplier (our most important supplier)
> to reduce dramatically (to reduce a lot)
> to invest heavily (to invest a lot)
> plant and machinery (factory buildings and equipment)
> product range (product selection)
> a roaring success (a great success) > to achieve a goal (to succeed)
> to keep a tight grip (to control strictly)
> to meet a challenge (to deal with problems successfully)

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Thinking about English in terms of word partnerships, rather than individual words, has two important advantages:
1. It helps you to understand written and spoken English better, by allowing you to identify the words that belong together.
2. It helps you to speak and write more fluently. Clearly, in many of the cases above, there is an easier alternative. You could say "we have invested a lot" rather than "we have invested heavily", or "a big success" rather than "a roaring success", but these alternatives don't have the same feel

Learning word partnerships is a very effective way of increasing your vocabulary. To do this, you need a good dictionary: either a bilingual one (e.g. Pons Großwörterbuch für Experten und Universität) or a specific collocations dictionary (e.g. Oxford Collocations Dictionary for Students of English).
One way to start learning word partnerships is to make lists of all the combinations that can be made from a particular word. For example, take the word "meeting". Here are some "verb+meeting" partnerships:
to adjourn a meeting... eine Besprechung vertagen
to attend a meeting... besuchen
to call a meeting... einberufen
to cancel a meeting... absagen
to chair a meeting... leiten
to close a meeting... abschließen
to hold a meeting... abhalten
to postpone a meeting... verschieben

When you are at a meeting, there are many things you can do using the verb "to reach": you can reach a conclusion, reach a consensus, reach a decision, or reach an agreement. Likewise, there are many combinations that are made up of the verb "to boost" (ankurbeln, in die Höhe treiben) plus a noun. For example, you can boost prices, production, trade, tourism, turnover, someone's confidence and your vocabulary.
Next, think about some of the nouns that can be combined with the verb "to manage". What can you manage? Well, you can manage the economy, manage your finances, manage a business, manage a company and so on. Using the verb "to launch" (starten, auf den Markt bringen), you can launch a product, launch an advertising campaign, launch a project or launch a takeover bid (Übernahmeangebot). Other typical word partnerships are made up of adjectives and nouns. For example: a significant breakthrough, a burning ambition, a high-powered job, a brilliant idea.
Other partnerships are pairs of words joined by "and": If a method is "hit and miss", it is just as likely to fail as it is to succeed; the "ins and outs" of something are the details, as are the "nuts and bolts" (Muttern und Schrauben). If something is "short and sweet" it is positive but doesn't take long ("Well, that meeting was short and sweet, wasn't it?"). If an idea is "dead and buried", it has been rejected.
Next time you are reading or listening to English, make a note of as many word partnerships as possible. Then use them yourself as soon as possible. You have a golden opportunity to improve. Are you ready to meet the challenge?
Dieser Artikel ist erschienen am 26.03.2004