When starting a new language, we can identify certain things that we should prioritise learning.
Probably the most important thing is concrete nouns and simple action verbs – things that we can practice every day just by walking around.
Many language learners might start off with simple vocabulary lists of things to learn. For Cantonese, we might randomly start off with the nouns 枱 (toi2, table), 橙 (caang2, orange) and 鋼琴 (gong3kam4, piano).
But does this tell us how to use them in an actual sentence? Not even slightly. We’re not told from our vocabulary list which verbs go with which nouns. How do you say “eat an orange” or “pick an orange” or “peel an orange” or “there’s an orange on the table”?
Note that we have the reverse problem by learning isolated verbs. We don’t know what kind of things they might refer to.
An additional problem is that many languages use counters (like Chinese languages and Japanese) or genders (most European languages). This means that by simply leaning the basic words 枱, 橙 and 鋼琴, we’re missing out on at least two pieces of vital information required to make use of them.
What’s considerably better then, than simply learning isolated words, is to damn well find out what other words are typically associated with them.
Now, this isn’t always easy to find out by searching the Internet or language learning books (which don’t typically include this kind of information) so the best strategy is to write down everything you might want to say in English and find a native to help you say it in L2.
Here’s one I made earlier:
|一張枱||jat1 zoeng1 toi2||one table|
|張枱上便||zoeng1 toi2 soeng6bin6||on the table|
|張枱下便||zoeng1 toi2 haa6bin6||under the table|
|坐喺張枱上便||co5 hai2 toi2 soeng6bin6||sit on the table|
|擺枱||baai2 toi2||set the table*|
|企喺張枱上便||kei5 hai2 [zoeng1] toi2 soeng6bin6||stand on the table|
|反［轉張］枱||faan2 [zyun2 zoeng1] toi2||overturn the table|
|打落張枱度||daa2 lok6 zoeng1 toi2 dou6||hit (down on) the table|
|打爛張枱||daa2 laan6 zoeng1 toi2||break the table|
|刮張枱||gwaat3 zoeng1 toi2||scratch the table|
|匿埋喺張枱下便||lei1maai2 hai2 [zoeng1] toi2 haa6bin6||hide under the table|
|匿埋喺張枱底||lei1maai2 hai2 [zoeng1] toi2 dai2||hide under the table|
|一個橙||jat1 go3 caang2||one orange|
|食個橙||sik6 go3 caang2||eat an orange|
|對人掉個橙||deoi3 jan6 deu6 go3 caang2||throw an orange [at somebody]|
|洗個橙||sai2 go3 caang2||wash an orange|
|剝個橙／剝橙皮||mok1 go3 caang2/mok1 caang2 pei4||peel an orange|
|搣個橙／搣橙皮||mit1 go3 caang2/mit1 caang2 pei4||peel an orange|
|切個橙||cit3 go3 caang2||cut an orange|
|掉咗個橙||deu6-zo2 go3 caang2||throw away an orange|
|搾橙汁||zaa3 caang2 zap1||squeeze juice from an orange/make orange juice|
|食橙汁||jam2 caang2 zap1||drink orange juice|
|一架鋼琴||jat1 gaa3 gong3kam4||one piano|
|架鋼琴上便||gaa3 gong3kam4 soeng6bin6||on the piano|
|架鋼琴後便||gaa3 gong3kam4 hau6bin6||behind the piano|
|架鋼琴側近||gaa3 gong3kam4 zak1gan1||next to the piano|
|彈［鋼］琴||taan4 [gong3] kam4||play the piano|
|同個琴調音||tung4 go3 kam4 tiu4yam1||tune a piano|
|打爛鋼琴||daa2laan6 gong3kam4||break the piano|
Note that in a lot of cases, the counter is optional with a slight difference in meaning. (It usually differentiates between talking about a specific object or a general one.)
You should now be able to put complete sentences together using some of these word-groups. For example, 啲細路仔匿埋喺張枱下便 or 有條友企喺張枱上便.
Also, with reference to the Cantodict project (or for that matter, any other collaborative dictionaries): I strongly feel that this is the kind of thing to prioritise as far as dictionary examples are concerned. What’s needed is an abundance of simple, practical examples that demonstrate which nouns are used with which verbs.