Once, an English teacher shared with me a website where you can see how certain words are used with others. For instance, you would see the type of words with which "mandatory" and "compulsory" are commonly used and also the frequency of each pair. This is a great tool to understand how people use words in a language that isn't yours.

However, I can't remember the website.

Do you know one that gives the possibility to do such research?


2 Answers 2


Some of the English-Corpora provide the function you want. The English-Corpora interface, and the concepts involved, may present you with a steep learning curve, but the tools there are powerful.

For example, "words with which" a given word is "commonly used" are called "Collocates". If you go to the English-Corpora page (linked in the first paragraph of this answer) and click on the "News on the Web (NOW)" link, then select "Collocates", you can put "mandatory" (no quotes) into the entry box left of "Word/phrase". Put nothing or an asterisk in the entry box next to "Collocates", then select the number of words of interest left or right of "mandatory" in the scale:

NOW interface set up for collocate search

In the image, I selected 2 both left and right of "mandatory". Next, clicking the "Find collocates" button below the scale produces this graph (cropped at collocate 19), sorted by default by frequency from highest to lowest:

NOW collocates of "mandatory"

(Clicking the image above will display a larger version.)

Many parameters can be tweaked; for example, if I'm only interested in words one word to the left of "mandatory rules", I can set up the interface like so:

NOW collocates, different parameters

That setup produces the following graph (cropped at collocate 9):

NOW collocates, results for "mandatory rules"

All features and the methodology are documented at the English-Corpora site, although it may take you a while to find what you're looking for.

Note that the asterisk in the entry box next to "Collocates" can be replaced with a given collocate of interest.

If you're interested in "the types of words" with which a given word is commonly used, rather than simply the words with which a given word is commonly used, you can select a part-of-speech from the dropdown list produced by clicking the "[POS]" next to "Collocates".

Have fun.

  • 2
    I will second the BYU Corpus as a particularly powerful tool. In addition to being able to see trends in word use, I can also look at specific examples of usage and, using the bibliographic information, backtrack to find the original source. Feb 6, 2019 at 15:44

Google n-grams viewer provides some of that information. It shows the frequency with which 1, 2, 3 and 4 word combinations appear in a corpus of books, and additionally, shows the frequency against the year of publication of the books.

One can also search for wildcards.

mandatory *

enter image description here

Or restricted to just the nouns:

mandatory *_NOUN

mandatory noun

Strangely enough, the first link to NGrams has links to google books search of examples and the second one, limited to nouns, does not.

  • can you please do a working example ? Feb 3, 2019 at 12:05
  • 1
    One can also use wild cards and parts of speech tags to limit, and NGrams will insert the most common collocations (up to 10?). Example coming...
    – Mitch
    Feb 4, 2019 at 15:08
  • Looks like I'm getting kudos for work by @Mitch . The answers a whole lot better than the one I wrote! Feb 6, 2019 at 12:02
  • The obvious answer to the OP is to use both. Something seems lacking in the NGrams chart (even though having the history is so nice). The BYU interface is ... the list that I think of as answering the question the most directly, but NGrams looks nicer (the link is easier to read than the gif I gave).
    – Mitch
    Feb 6, 2019 at 16:30

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