Phrase of the day: come in for criticism

President Obama has come in for criticism from BREXIT campaigners after commenting on the upcoming referendum
The government has come in for criticism for failing to spend enough on flood defences.
The plan has come in for heavy criticism because of the huge costs of the project.

When does a collocation become a chunk? The Macmillan Dictionary lists “come in for” as a phrasal verb. We could say that “come in for” has basically the same meaning as “receive”, and yet it is almost only ever used with ‘criticism’, so perhaps it’s better seen as a relatively fixed chunk.

Does it matter whether we call it a collocation or a chunk? In some ways not at all, but if we only think of it as a collocation, we may sometimes fall into the trap of only looking at pairings come in for + criticism and stopping there. By thinking of it more as a chunk, maybe we can start to look beyond the basic collocation.

So for example we might note that:
– people, organisations or plans can come in for criticism
– it’s more common in journalism and academic writing
– it’s more commonly used with the present perfect.
– If you want to know who is criticising we use from.
– we usually begin explanations of what is being criticised using the prepositions for, after or because of
– we can modify the word criticism with a bit of, some, heavy, fierce
– people / organisations often come in for criticism for failing to do things

Should we explain all these points to our students? No, I don’t think so, but we might point out some of these things in the examples we give and also in drawing out examples from students. So for example we might ask students to discuss this question:
– Have you heard of a person, organisation or plan that has come in for criticism recently?

We might follow it up with questions such as:
– Who from?
– What for? / Why?

Or you could take your example sentence and build a new one with students:

Obama has come in for criticism

You could change the name of the person being criticsed

from BREXIT campaigners

You could change the people criticising

after commenting on the upcoming referendum   

You could change the reason

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3 Responses

  1. Nataliya Vinogradova says:

    Thank you! Very useful! I’ve been getting my head around the difference between a chunk and a collocation for a couple of weeks so far. And finally, I’ve found the key sentence that makes it clear. Thank you once again!)

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