February 18


How to Describe Physical Pain? Build your Vocabulary with 20+ Collocations – Podcast


Hello dear, dear listeners, you’re listening to Cambridge Exam Coach, a podcast for learners of English. I’m Kristian, your host, today it’s Friday 19 February, and in this episode we’re going to be talking about collocations with the word ‘pain’.

Why talk about pain?

Well, three weeks ago I fell and bruised my back. It was very painful. I felt acute, sharp and severe pain. Maybe you remember the ending of the episode I published on 27th January, where I told you I needed to lie down on my bed, because I was in pain. I felt terrible then.

The good news is that the pain’s almost gone now. So you can imagine that I’m delighted. Finally I can start my days again with an early morning run!

However, in the past three weeks I’ve felt different kinds of pain. When I tried to describe these feelings, I couldn’t always come up with the right words and collocations. This inspired me to create a podcast episode about collocations with the word ‘pain’. And that’s what you’re listening to, right now, at this very moment.

What to expect?

I’m gonna go through numerous collocations with the word ‘pain’, and after each one I’ll give a quick definition if it’s necessary. I’ll do it fairly quickly. If you want to take this more slowly, you can check the transcript on my website and look up words individually if needed.

Alright, here we go!

First things first. The word ‘pain’ is a noun. You can say ‘to have pain’, ‘to feel pain’, ‘to be in pain’, or a ‘something’ pain.

Let’s start with ‘acute pain’. This means strong, serious, and specific pain. Acute pain feels bad. Imagine falling on your back, like I did 3 weeks ago. I felt acute pain. According to the Cambridge Dictionary online, it’s sharp in quality.

Which brings us to the next collocation: sharp pain. This is a specific pain in a specific point, not a dull pain or a general pain. For example, ‘A knife could create a sharp pain.’

Got it?

Then we’ve got adjectives that you can use when something is very, very painful:

Agonizing pain, intense pain, severe pain, excruciating pain, terrible pain, and extreme pain. We also have awful pain and great pain. Careful though: great pain is not wonderful pain.

Then we have unbearable pain. Pain that you can’t bear, you can’t handle it. It’s too painful or unpleasant for you to continue to experience.

So now you’ve heard numerous collocations with the word pain, next I’ll give you some other specific descriptions of pain:

A shooting pain is a pain that comes in quick. You experience this when you try to move a body part.

A stabbing pain. A sudden pain. For example, ‘He was awoken by a sharp stabbing pain in his chest.’

A burning pain. For example, a sunburn. You know what sunburn is, right? A condition in which your skin is sore and red because you have spent too long in the strong heat of the sun.

We can also say searing pain, it’s a very extreme pain. For example ‘A searing pain shot up her arm’.

Then we have a throbbing pain, for example a throbbing headache. A pain felt in a series of regular beats.

We can also talk about low-level pain. For example, a dull pain, a mild pain, a little pain, a slight pain. Thankfully, I’ve only got a slight pain in my back right now, nothing to worry about.

We also got pain that goes on and on: chronic pain (pain that you have to live with), constant pain, nagging pain, and persistent pain. These expressions are used to describe an unpleasant feeling that continues for a long period of time

Then we have pain that comes and goes: intermittent pain.

Wow, that’s a lot of collocations with pain, right?

But there’s more. We also got other types of pain, like growing pains. Maybe you remember got these terrible growing pains in your legs when you were a child?

We have labour pains, what a woman experiences when she’s giving birth, and then period pains, these are pains that women experience once a month.

OK, that was an overview of collocations with the word ‘pain’. Again, if I went too fast, you can always listen again and pause the podcast, and you can also read the transcript on my website while listening. Repetition is necessary is you want to improve your English.

Let’s continue this episode for a bit and let’s look at the word ‘hurt’. This word can be either a verb or an adjective. For example, I hurt my arm; My arm hurt; I had a hurt arm.

Hurt can mean ‘painful’, but it can also mean ‘injured’. Now what’s the difference? Notice the subject of the sentence. If the subject of ‘hurt’ is the injury, then it means it’s painful. For example, ‘My leg hurts’ means ‘My leg is painful’.

If the subject is a person, hurt means ‘an injury’. For example, ‘I hurt my leg’ means ‘My leg is injured’.

So you could say, ‘I’ve hurt my leg and now my leg hurts’. Or, ‘I’ve hurt my arm and now my arm hurts’.

And finally, here’s a bonus for you:

We also have the word ‘hurtful’, which means ‘Causing distress to someone’s feelings’. For example, “These days you can find many hurtful comments on social media”.

Alright, that’s it. Making this episode was useful for me, because now I can express much better what different pains I’ve had in the past three weeks. I hope this was relevant and useful for you, too.

OK, we’re getting to the end of this episode. One more thing though…

I just want to tell you a bit about the activities we’re organizing on Clubhouse, the audio-only social network app that is rapidly growing all around the world.

Well, so far we’re working on 3 things:

  • Exam preparation classes. Small groups. Fixed number of speakers. Max 8. Public allowed but no speaking time. It’s like a small classroom and listeners can be a fly on the wall.
  • Vocabulary building sessions. Here everyone can be a speaker. We’re going to try and replicate vocabulary building activities we usually do with students in our online classes.
  • Speaking sessions. These rooms will have a topic and it’s probably going to be free style. But I’ll probably share a PDF that people can use to find proper C1/C2 vocab they can use to participate in the discussion.

We have plenty of ideas for these three different rooms and we will figure it out as we go along.

If you want to be the first to know about all the different sessions we’re going to start up, then do subscribe to the newsletter on the website. Especially if you’re interested in joining our small classroom sessions focused on C2 exam preparation, which are starting in the 2nd week of March.

Just go to cambridgeexamcoach.com and sign up, so you don’t miss a free opportunity to improve your English to C2 level.

Alright, that’s a wrap! I hope this was relevant and useful for you, and I hope you enjoyed listening to this episode.

Let me know your thoughts on this episode. It helps me to create better and better content for you in the future, so it’s really useful if you send me an email or leave a comment on the blog.

For now I want to wish you a pleasant day (or goodnight).

And please, take care of yourself, and each other, alright?

Speak soon, bye bye!

About the author 


Kristian is from The Netherlands and until the end of 2021 he's living in the beautiful city of Rotterdam. He is a CELTA qualified teacher who passed the Cambridge C2 Proficiency exam at grade A. When he's not working, he likes to chill out with music, a book, podcasts or an audiobook.


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