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8 February 2016 /

Love is in the air this Valentine's Day - or is it?

A new linguistics study by Cambridge University Press investigates the language we use to describe our partners

Valentines Day is the day we celebrate all those feelings of love and affection we have for our boyfriends, girlfriends, husbands and wives. But how do we really talk about them when they’re not around?

A linguistics study from Cambridge University Press has examined more than 2 billion words from their English Language Corpus to examine how the words we use to describe our partners – and sadly, it’s not all smelling of roses.

Amongst the most common collocations for the word wife were unfaithful, jealous and complain - whilst the word husband brought up common collocations with absent, abusive and jealous

But it’s not all doom and gloom - supportive and devoted also cropped up as a frequent association for both husbands and wives; and boyfriends and girlfriends fared a bit better too, with hunky and gorgeous coming up in the top collocations, respectively.

And if you’re looking to craft a Valentines card for your beloved, you may want to focus on their more positive attributes – and the English Language Corpus can help with that.

Adverbs found alongside the word beautiful include stunningly, breathtakingly, hauntingly, achingly, extraordinarily, exquisitely, ravishingly, astonishingly, heartbreakingly and truly - whilst handsome bought up strikingly, dashingly, devilishly, dazzlingly and stunningly

Olivia Goodman, a Language Researcher at Cambridge University Press, said of the findings: “It was a surprise - and a bit of a shame - to discover how much negative language is associated with married partners, but hopeless romantics may be pleased to know our research also showed we talk about love almost six times as much as we do hate. We're going to keep monitoring language to see whether 2016 will be a good year for happy couples."

Cambridge University Press is currently looking for more conversational data to add to their Corpus. 

If you would like to participate by recording your conversations, and earn £18 per hour of high quality audio, please visit for more information.


Notes to editors

For more information, please contact Louisa Ackermann via 

About the Cambridge English Corpus

The Cambridge English Corpus helps to understand more about the English language, and how people use it when they speak and when they write. It is a multi-billion word collection of written and spoken English. It includes the Cambridge Learner Corpus, a unique bank of exam candidate papers. Press authors study the Corpus to see how English is really used, and to identify typical learner mistakes. This means that Cambridge materials help students to avoid mistakes, and they can be confident the language taught is useful, natural and fully up-to-date.

About Cambridge University Press

Cambridge University Press is part of the University of Cambridge. It furthers the University's mission by disseminating knowledge in the pursuit of education, learning and research at the highest international levels of excellence.

Its extensive peer-reviewed publishing lists comprise 50,000 titles covering academic research and professional development, as well as school-level education and English language teaching.

Playing a leading role in today's international marketplace, Cambridge University Press has more than 50 offices around the globe, and it distributes its products to nearly every country in the world. For further information, go to



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