Binomials, or binomial expressions, are frequently used by native speakers of English. The word order of a binomial pair is usually fixed, and to use them in a different order would sound strange to a native speaker. Here are some common binomials:
|Aches and pains
|Minor pains and a feeling of discomfort, especially in the muscles.
|After a hectic outing with the kids I had aches and pains all over!
|Alive and well
|In good physical condition
|The search party found the stranded hiker alive and well.”
|Back and forth
|Going to and from a place.
|He’s tired of travelling back and forth to London.
|Bits and pieces
|Small items or personal belongings.
|Here’s a cupboard where you can put all your bits and pieces.
|Bit by bit
|Gradually; little by little; a small amount at a time.
|They renovated the old house bit by bit.
|Black and blue
|Sore and bruised
|The boy was black and blue after falling off his bike.
|Black and white
|Something clear to understand or something in writing
|Climate change is not black-and-white issue for me.
|Born and bred
|Be born and grow up in a particular place.
|I was born and bred in Madrid.
|Bright and early
|Early in the morning
|My dad goes off bright and early every Saturday morning to play golf.
|By and large
|On the whole, generally.
|He can be difficult but by and large he’s a good kid.
|Cloak and dagger
|Refers to stories or situations that involve intrigue, secrecy, espionage or mystery.
|My young brother loves cloak-and dagger spy novels.
|Comings and goings
|How people keep arriving at and leaving a place
|She observed the comings and goings of guests at the party.
|Cut and dried
|Clear and definite or unchangeable.
|There is no cut-and-dried solution to the problem.
|Do’s and don’ts
|A set of basic rules.
|There’s a list of Dos and Don’ts on the wall for everyone who uses the kitchen.
|Done and dusted
|We’ve finished the project. It’s all done and dusted, so let’s go and get a bite to eat!
|Down and out
|Without any money or means of support
|After losing his job, car and home, he was completely down and out.
|Dribs and drabs
|Little by little; in small numbers or amounts
|Instead of the crowd expected, people arrived in dribs and drabs.
|Fair and square
|In an honest and open manner
|Gavin won the competition fair and square – no doubt about it.
|Far and wide
|Over a large geographical area.
|People came from far and wide to visit the exhibition.
|First and foremost
|What is most important.
|She went into politics for a while, but first and foremost she was a writer.
|Give and take
|Make mutual concessions or find a compromise.
|Most relationships require some give and take.”
|Give or take
|More or less; plus or minus an amount or number.
|I’ll be there at 9 a.m. give or take 5 minutes.
|Hard and fast
|Fixed and strongly binding
|The administration established hard-and-fast rules for every procedure.
|Haves and have-nots
|Rich and poor people
|Our aim is to reduce the gap between the haves and have-nots in our society.
|Heart and soul
|Make a lot of effort to do something.
|Paul put his heart and soul into the project. Let’s hope it will be a success.
|Here and there
|In various different places
|We found some mushrooms here and there in the woods.
|High and dry
|In a difficult situation without resources or assistance
|Those who lose their jobs may be left high and dry.
|High and low
|I searched high and low for my keys but couldn’t find them.
|High and mighty
|Superior, haughty, full of self-importance
|She was too high and mighty to tidy up after herself.”
|Hot and bothered
|Agitated, flustered or worried
|There’s no need to get all hot and bothered. It’s just an English test!
|Hue and cry
|Loud opposition to something
|There will be a great hue and cry when the measures are announced.”
|Hustle and bustle
|Noisy activity and surroundings.
|John moved to a small village to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city.
|Ins and outs
|The finer details of something.
|I heard he was arrested but I don’t know the ins and outs of the story.
|Laughter and tears
|Joy and sorrow
|The family reunion was a blend of laughter and tears.
|Leaps and bounds
|Very quickly and greatly.
|Silvia’s English has improved in leaps and bounds this year.
|Loud and clear
|Easy to understand.
|The message was loud and clear; everyone understood.
|Make or break
|Will lead to either success or failure
|This is a make-or-break collection. Our future depends on it.
|Mix and match
|Put different things together e.g. clothes, furniture…
|In our house we like to mix and match different styles of furniture.
|Neat and tidy
|With everything in good order.
|I don’t know how you manage to keep your desk so neat and tidy.
|Now and again
Now and then
|Sometimes but not very often
|We don’t eat out often but now and again wo go to a local Italian restaurant.”
|Now or never
|At the present moment because you may not get another chance
|Go on! Ask him for an autograph. It’s now or never!
|Null and void
|Have no legal force or be invalid.
|The agreement was declared null and void.
|Odds and ends
|Various small items.
Small tasks to finish.
|Part of the garage was full of odds and ends.
I’ve got to take care of a few odds and ends before I leave.
|On and off
|I’ve been suffering from backache on and off this past year.
|Out and about
|Go out regularly and take part in an activity
|My mother was ill for a while but she’s out and about again.
|Out and out
|Don’t trust that man. He’s an out-an-out liar!
|Part and parcel
|An integral or essential part of something.
|Travel is part and parcel of the job.
|Peace and quiet
|Freedom from stress and noise; a period of calm.
|I just can’t concentrate. I need some peace and quiet.
|Pick and choose
|Select only certain things and reject the others.
|You must obey all the rules. You can’t pick and choose!
|Pins and needles
|A tingling sensation in a part of the body.
|I lay curled up for so long that I had pins and needles in my legs.”
|Pride and joy
|Something that makes you feel proud and happy
|The house he built is his pride and joy.
|Prim and proper
|Formal and socially correct
|She’s too prim and proper to be seen drinking beer!
|Pros and cons
|The good and bad sides of something; the advantages and disadvantages.
|Before we decide on anything we should discuss the pros and cons.
|Pure and simple
|Plainly, without exaggeration or further explanation
|If you cheat, you fail the exam – that’s the rule, pure and simple!
|Rank and file
|The ordinary workers or members of an organisation – not the leaders
|The minister remains popular with the party rank and file.
|Rant and rave
|Speak loudly and angrily about something.
|You can rant and rave about the rules but you still have to obey them!
|Rough and ready
|Hastily prepared but sufficient for the purpose. Without formality or refinement.
|The map of the area was rough and ready, but we found our way.
|Rules and regulations
|Instructions as to what is allowed or forbidden.
|The rules and regulations in our school are very strict.
|Safe and sound
|Not injured or hurt in any way.
|After the avalanche all of the skiers were found safe and sound.
|Short and sweet
|Brief but pleasant or appropriate.
|His introductory speech was short and sweet – which suited everyone!
|Sick and tired
|Annoyed or frustrated with something to the point of weariness.
|Tom was sick and tired of having to explain the problem over and over again.
|Sink or swim
|Succeed or fail solely through your own efforts
|After a brief explanation the new recruit was left to sink or swim!
|Skin and bone
|Be very thin or emaciated.
|She was nothing but skin and bone after a severe illness.
|Sooner or later
|Eventually; at some time in the future
|I’ve mislaid my bracelet but I’ll find it sooner or later.
|Step by step
|From one stage to the next.
|The whole procedure was explained to us step by step.
|The long and (the) short
|Used to explain something without giving the details
|The long and short of it is that I just don’t want to go.
|Toss and turn
|Move around restlessly in bed because you are unable to sleep.
|She tossed and turned all night, and woke up feeling exhausted.
|Trial and error
|Solving a problem by trying different methods and learning from mistakes.
|Some things we have to learn by trial and error.
|Trials and tribulations
|The difficulties we face in life
|It’s a book about the trials and tribulations of living abroad.
|Tried and true
|Tested and known to be reliable
|A cup of warm milk is my tried-and-true remedy for insomnia.
|Up and coming
|Showing great promise or likely to achieve success
|Nowadays he’s meeting competition from up-and-coming players.
|Ups and downs
|A mixture of both good and bad experiences or events.
|Anne and Tony have had their ups and downs but they’re still together.
|Wear and tear
|Damage that happens gradually over time due to everyday use.
|After several years of wear and tear we had to buy a new sofa.
|Weird and wonderful
|Strange or unusual but ingenious
|A collection of weird and wonderful inventions was on display.
|Wine and dine
|Entertain someone with a good meal
|The company likes to wine and dine good customers.