Welcome to our website! Our homepage provides information on and examples of Italian collocations, compiled as part of a linguistic research project at the University of Innsbruck (Austria). The collection will be published in the form of a learner’s dictionary (Italian-German) in 2017.
What are collocations? Collocations are typical, “semi-fixed” word combinations that are very important in everyday speech, but can be very tricky for foreign language learners if they try to translate them word-for-word from their mother tongue. For instance, a learner of Italian should be aware that in Italian, you don’t pound or hammer a nail into the wall – you “plant” it there (piantare un chiodo nel muro). A lesson or course that is cancelled literally “jumps” (la lezione salta), and a blank CD or DVD is called “virginal” (un CD/DVD vergine).
Why learn collocations? Languages are full of collocations; they are essential for everyday communication. However, since they tend to be very different depending on the language, they are often a stumbling block for language learners. Even very advanced learners of foreign languages are often “unmasked” when they make mistakes because they are unsure in their use of collocations. Native speakers learn and memorize collocations as fixed units from early childhood on; they don’t perceive these word combinations as anything remarkable and intuitively use them correctly. Language learners, on the other hand, see these semi-fixed units as “special” instances of language use that have to be learned and practiced separately. For instance, did you know that when you set the table (American) or lay the table (British) in Italian, you have to say apparecchiare la tavola (literally “equip / prepare the table”), or that when you draw a number in a raffle (tombola) you literally “fish” it out of the barrel (pescare un numero)?