Dr. Clyde Coreil
New Jersey City University


Asad Syed
Assistant Director for Multimedia Instruction
Academic Computing Department

          Welcome to, a site on which an attempt is made to list and exemplify a tiny fraction of the more commonly occurring instances of formulaic language in English. These linguistic units are most elusive and generally present themselves only as needed. After they have surfaced from the depths of the mind to participate in spoken exchanges, they retreat like clever spiders to their hiding places. Probably, this is why they are so seldom dealt with in the language classroom: virtually no one can consciously summon them at will.  This website is mainly an effort to catch the elusive critters so that they can be taught. It is enormously helpful to language teachers to carry around a small notebook and get in the habit of jotting them down before they do their disappearing act.

          The paper entitled Formulaics: The Other Half of Language follows this introduction and sets forth what I consider a useful concept of two or more words that recur verbatim in reference to a highly constricted meaning. In my textbook Term Papers and Academic Writing: Setting New Parameters (available through, I indicate in great detail just how a list of specific formulaic structures can be used in the classroom.

                                                                                      Chunks and Formulaic Sequences

           Others call these units of language by names such as “chunks” and “formulaic sequences,” which they describe in detail. I call them “preformulations” (or “preforms” for short) and am not concerned with their classification and characteristics but only with their existential presence in all verbal languages. Since “Santa Claus” recurs verbatim, it would be listed as would structures such as “first class,” “home run,” “strike out,” “feel compelled,” “come hell or high water,” “let me say this about that,” “birds of a feather flock together,” “it fits you like a T,” “another one bites the dust,” “_X_  is thought to have played a major role in _Y_,” and “all’s well that ends well.” A verb form like “might well be expected” fits our broad category and therefore would be included in the list, as would names and titles such as “John F. Kennedy,” “Barach Obama,” “Gone with the Wind,” and “Civil Disobedience.”

            The second section will consist of sentences that illustrate the preform in context:  For example, “The thief felt compelled to confess his guilt”  and “Jane said to her daughter, ‘That blouse fits you like a T’.”  A third section of this site is intended to be a forum in which links and comments up to 200 words long on topics related to formulaic language are welcome.

                                                                                                       An Invitation

             I heartily invite you to join me in listing preforms that are encountered in reading or speaking, that are from two to approximately nine words in length, and that would be acceptable in Sister Helen’s English class: none of those salacious Anglo-Saxon lexical items. These preforms will be automatically numbered by this website, entered automatically in an alphabetized list, and exemplified in a sentence of no more than 20 words in length, preferably shorter. Register will be roughly indicated by a number in square brackets from [1] low to [10] high, placed after the item. For example, “Santa Claus” would be followed by [1] and “_X_ is thought to have played a major role in _Y_” [9].

            The main purpose of is to serve as a suggested guide for teachers ranging from kindergarten class to post-doctoral research. Ultimately, I expect to list hundreds and even thousands of entries. In no way will this list be comprehensive and complete: hopefully, it will be highly usable in the classroom and provide a model for dealing with other languages in a practical manner.



            To submit a perform, please follow this protocol. First, give the bare structure without any indication of the context: for example, “might well be [7]” and “High Stakes Test [5].” The numbers indicate your opinion of the lexical register of the particular preform: [1] is low, [10] is high.  Second, give a sentence which provides a minimum of ancillary information: for example, Success might well be expected  and That teacher spends a lot of time preparing for the High Stakes Test. Your optional comment concerning this preform could be the following: The accepted use of the past participle should be explained. (Dr. Jane Smith, Univ. of Belford). Again, theoretical issues are to be kept to a minimum. The three categories are BARE PREFORM, USE, and optionally COMMENT, followed by your name and affiliation. The USE is placed beneath the Bare Preform. Comments are placed in a separate list.




 (1) on our (one's) own [4]

      They cannot afford to pay for everyone. Lunch will be on our own.




(1) The presence of "one's" in the Bare Preform indicates that any personal possessive is acceptable.

      (Dr. Clyde Coreil, New Jersey City Univ.)