Tim Bowen has acquired a reputation for writing stellar Your English articles. Read on to see why …

Apart from a wide range of words that it can be used with in the sense of buy, the verb acquire, meaning to get or develop something, collocates with nouns in four main categories.

The first of these is a set of nouns that refer to knowledge or skill, notably competence, expertise, knowledge, skill and understanding, as in ‘Bilingual children often acquire a competence in a foreign language more quickly than monolingual children’ or ‘Teachers mentioned that such visits enabled them to acquire new skills that they could apply in their classrooms’.

The second category is that of a reputation, name or position, with nouns like reputation, status and nickname, as in ‘He quickly acquired a reputation for ruthlessness when dealing with financial matters’ and ‘Unsurprisingly, given his height, he acquired the nickname Lanky’.

The third category is related to things that people do or like, represented by the nouns habit and taste, as in ‘We want people to acquire the habit of using public transport instead of their cars’ and ‘I enjoy red wine but I’ve never really acquired a taste for white wine’. The phrase an acquired taste is used to describe something that you do not like at first but you gradually start to enjoy, as in ‘I know a lot of people drink decaffeinated coffee but I have always found it to be something of an acquired taste’.

The final main category is that of illness, infection or disease, as in ‘Any drug user who shares a needle is at risk of acquiring AIDS’ and ‘Unfortunately, the number of hospital acquired infections is steadily increasing’.