Number one for English language teachers

Your English: Collocations: guilt/guilty

Type: Article

Are collocations a guilty pleasure? Read on …

The noun guilt is defined both as ‘the ashamed, unhappy feeling you get after doing something bad’ and as ‘the fact that someone has committed a crime or done something wrong’.

In the first sense, guilt can be terrible or overwhelming, as in ‘She was unable to cope with the overwhelming guilt she felt following Henry’s death’. A person suffering from strong feelings of guilt can be consumed by guilt or even racked by guilt or tormented by guilt. In a more serious situation, they may suffer from a burden of guilt or simply feel a pang of guilt or a twinge of guilt if the action is less serious, as in ‘I couldn’t help feeling a slight twinge of guilt when I remembered that I had lied about the broken window’.

In the second sense, one can admit, acknowledge or confess one’s guilt, as in ‘The defendants all confessed their guilt on the opening day of the trial’. Similarly, you can deny your guilt, leaving it up to the authorities to prove or establish your guilt.

The adjective guilty collocates with nouns such as conscience, feeling, pleasure and secret. If you suffer from a guilty conscience, you feel ashamed because you know you have done something wrong, as in ‘Fitness centres often play on our guilty consciences by offering cheap subscription rates just after the over-indulgence of the festive season’. A guilty pleasure or secret is something that you enjoy that other people may disapprove of that you may keep to yourself, as in ‘My one guilty pleasure is lying on the sofa with a box of chocolates watching trashy soap operas on TV!’

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