Have you felt a slight drop in temperature? Or have you noticed a slight increase in the price of milk? Tim Bowen appreciates the subtleties of slight and its collocates.

The adjective slight, meaning ‘small in size, amount or degree’, forms collocations with a number of nouns in a few basic categories.

With the meaning of rise and fall, slight goes with increase and rise, and decline, decrease, drop, fall and reduction respectively, as in ‘Please note that fees for future academic years may be subject to a slight annual increase’ and ‘There was a slight decrease in fuel efficiency during the early 1980s’.

It also goes with certain nouns that indicate a change of some sort, e.g. adjustment, alteration, deviation, difference, improvement, modification and variation, as in ‘Often the effects are minor and can be overcome with a slight adjustment in dosage’ and ‘There was a slight improvement in the patient’s condition overnight’.

Slight can also be used with words that indicate a problem, such as difficulty, error and mistake, as in ‘There has been a slight error in calculating your wages this week’ and ‘The first noticeable symptom is a slight difficulty in walking’.

It can also be used with the noun exaggeration, often as a kind of understatement, as in ‘To say the building was in need of repair was a slight exaggeration; it was in need of demolition’.

The superlative form of slight is used to collocate with the nouns idea, sign and hint, as in ‘I didn’t have the slightest idea what they were talking about’, ‘He learned to walk away if there was the slightest hint of trouble’ and ‘She didn’t give the slightest sign of understanding what I was talking about’.