English Learners: Improve Your English with MICASE
Have you ever learned a new word or expression, but you didn’t know how to use it correctly? Sometimes looking in a dictionary isn’t enough. You can use MICASE to get real-life examples from real English speakers.
In this example, we will show you how to use our program MICASE Online, to help you learn how to use the phrase MADE UP.
MICASE helps you learn what words commonly appear before and after the phrase, and how you would use this phrase in a sentence.
If you wanted to know how to use the phrase made up, you would probably look in a dictionary first. You might find a definition like:
made up (adjective)
1. falsly invented, in order to deceive: a made-up story.
2. being in makeup; wearing facial cosmetics.
3. finished; put together.
((made up also past tense of verb MAKE UP))- you will see this in the examples.
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But if you only used the dictionary, you would miss important information about this phrase. We will show you how to use MICASE to get more information about made up.
Open up the Online Search Program
Type the word or words you need help with in the “Find” box.
For this example, type in made up.
Click the “Submit Search” button.
A new window will pop up. You will see a table with 5 columns. Look at the table. You will see white rows and yellow rows. The colors do not mean anything, it just makes the examples easier to read. This table shows you examples of all the times an English speaker said made up during our 200 hours of recordings!
Above the table in the top left corner, you will see “22 matches in 21 transcripts”. That means you now have 22 examples of how this phrase is used!
(Don’t worry about the number of transcripts. That is not important for figuring out the meaning of the word).
In the “Match” column, you will see the word or phrase you searched for. On the left side in the “Left Context” row, you will see the words that were said before made up, and in the “Right Context” are the words that were said after made up.
To read the example, first read the words in the “Left Context” box. If there are two rows, read the top row first, and then the bottom row. Then read the words in the “Match” box. Then read the words in the “Right Context”.
IMPORTANT: Every row is a different example! The rows are not connected. Read from left to right, and stop after you read the last word in the “Right Context” box. Do not keep reading to the next row in a different color.
Try reading the first example in the first white row. If you read it correctly it will say:
“ith sp- sp- specific political, uh intentions and goals, so for example with New York art strike, uh made up of a large group of New York artists and writers and also art dealers, um, some of their actions inc”
You might have trouble understanding this example, because it starts in the middle of a sentence. You can’t see the beginning of the sentence. If this happens, try finding a period, and start reading after the period. If there is no period, try starting after a comma.
If it is still confusing, look for transition words like SO, THEREFORE, ANYWAY, BUT. These usually mean the beginning of a new thought. For this example, start at the first transition word, SO, and it will read:
“so for example with New York art strike, uh made up of a large group of New York artists and writers and also art dealers, um, some of their actions inc”
NOTE: The examples are not written in normal English like you would see in a book. There are no capital letters to mark a new sentence. Also the punctuation (periods and commas) show that someone paused. Because of this, sometimes it is hard to tell where one sentence ends or where a new sentence starts.
If you are still having trouble understanding the example, you can see more of the conversation by clicking on “View Context” in the column to the left of the example you are looking at.
The phrase you searched for will appear in red.
Now try re-reading the first row. If this example was written in proper English, it would look like this:
So for example, with the New York art strike (uh) made up of a large group of New York artists and writers, and also art dealers, (um), some of their actions inc…
The words uh and um are not usually found in written English. But we write down everything the speaker says, including ‘mess ups’ and pause words like these. You will see these in many examples.
Now that you know how to read the examples, try understanding them. The example in row one does not fit any of the definitions of made up in the dictionary entry above. That is because in this example, made up is not an adjective. It is the past tense form of make up. So made up in this case means:
MADE UP + OF: to consist of, to be composed of
Example: One meter is made up of 1,000 millimeters.
Example: My computer is made up of many metal parts.
MICASE Example: The New York art strike (was) made up of a large group of New York artists and writers and also art dealers.
Now look at the second yellow row for the second example. Here there is a period in the “Left Context” column. So start with the first period, and read from there:
“this is his head. and his head is actually made up of the stars in another cluster called the, Hyades”
Again, this is the same pattern as the examples in line 1: MADE UP + OF.
Instead of reading line by line and trying to find the patterns yourself, you can SORT your examples. This will help you find common word combinations that occur with your search word.
Above the table, there are boxes labelled “Sort results by”.
If you want to search for patterns or word combinations that occur after made up, you want to sort to the RIGHT (R). If you want to search for patterns that occur before made up, you will do a sort to the LEFT (L).
Because we are looking for a pattern that comes after made up, click on the first box, and select “1R”. The “1” means you want to see the word that appears one word to the right.
Select “1R” and click the “Sort” button.
A table will appear with the examples now in a different order. The examples will now be arranged in alphabetical order by the word to the right of made up.
Look at the first word of each row in the “Right Context” column. If you want to look at the pattern MADE UP + OF, find the first time OF appears as the first word on the right. This is the fourth row.
If you count, you will find 13 examples of this structure, made up + OF. Now that you understand that pattern, there are only a few examples left.
There is no other pattern that is easy to see. But now you can look through the remaining 9 examples and look at the first words in the “Right Context” column to find examples of THINGS or OBJECTS that someone made up.
You may guess that if you have the construction, MADE UP + OBJECT, it is probably an example of the first dictionary definition, “falsly invented”, because in order to falsely invent something, you need a THING to invent.
Look through the list to see what types of things people made up.
All of these things were falsly invented (except for the “my committee” example. In that example, the person is actually talking about the people the committee was made up OF.)
It is useful to look for these types of patterns also, and know which types of objects go with different phrases. This will help you improve your written and spoken English.
As you noticed, most of the examples in your list are following the pattern MADE UP + OF. This means that this is an important and common pattern in the language and you should try to learn it!
Now that you know how to read and understand MICASE examples, try doing your own search for a word or phrase that you want to use correctly. Can you find any interesting patterns?
Please send questions and comments regarding this activity to Miranda Kozman: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thank you to Michael Barlow and Stephanie Burdine for their book American English Phrasal Verbs and Collocations (2006, Houston, TX: Athelstan), which aided in the creation of this tutorial.
Learn how to use MICASE online from the experts
Download the slides seen in the MICASE video demonstration.
Helpful hints for using MICASE Online.
This is developed for teachers of English, but it is a nice short introduction to searching MICASE for anyone who wants to learn the basics.
Learn how to use MICASE Online to supplement dictionary definitions when learning new words and phrases.
A tutorial designed to help newcomers to corpus linguistics and to the MICASE corpus get started on their own research.
This section walks you through the process of using MICASE to search for a concept, instead of just a word.