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Language tip of the week: risk

Learn English with Macmillan DictionaryIn this weekly post, we bring more useful content from the Macmillan Dictionary to English language learners. These tips are usually based on areas of English which learners find difficult, e.g. spelling, grammar, collocation, synonyms, etc.

This week’s language tip helps with using the patterns that follow the noun risk. The noun risk is not normally followed by an infinitive. Use the pattern the/a risk of doing something:

✗ Smokers themselves have a high risk to get cancer.
✓ Smokers themselves have a high risk of getting cancer.
✗ If you eat too much you run the risk to have serious health problems.
✓ If you eat too much you run the risk of having serious health problems.

Risk can also be followed by a simple prepositional phrase:

The risk of a major nuclear accident must be taken seriously.
The President runs the risk of assassination with every public appearance.

In certain circumstances, risk can be followed by an infinitive:

You may have to be self supporting for quite a while, which is a big risk to take.
Hoping that everything will go right is quite a risk to take with your oral health.

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Liz Potter

Liz Potter


  • Thank you for these tips. I’ve always gotten my IELTS students to use macmillandictionary as word patterns are very important for English. I just found out that this section on language tip of the week is really good. I’ll definitely get my students to read through all this. Keep writing. Cheers!

  • Please help me to get the meaning of following line from your article:

    “Hoping that everything will go right is quite a risk to take with your oral health”

  • Hi Amir. I agree it’s quite a tricky sentence to untangle. It helps if you turn it round: “You are taking quite a risk with your oral health if you [just] hope that everything will go right [rather than visiting your dentist].” The meaning is that you should not take risks with the health of your teeth, but instead should get any problems checked out quickly.

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