Words don’t exist as independent units, to be inserted into grammatical slots by a speaker exercising absolute authority over their placement. Rather, they tend to come in neatly bound packages — in fixed phrases or entire sentences — ready to communicate an idea that cannot be expressed economically in any other way. For example, “I wouldn’t do that if I were you” is basically a set expression, allowing for little change. If a student of English wanted to express the thought behind this phrase, but wasn’t aware that a means of doing it already existed, he or she would be forced to resort to a great deal of circumlocution before the point was made.
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