One of the best ways to develop your English fluency is to learn well-known expressions. Binomial expressions are common English phrases that include a pair of words usually joined by “and” or “or” (e.g. black and white, plain and simple, more or less). The order of the words is usually fixed, and they are a single chunk of English vocabulary.
Binomial expressions (also known as “binomials” or “binomial pairs”) are regularly used by native English speakers because they are often catchy and easy to remember.
There’s an amazing variety of interesting and amusing expressions in the English language. Most are known by native speakers, but these English expressions are not commonly used in English coursebooks.
Develop your English vocabulary with these catchy expressions to sound like a native speaker. Just remember that these are generally informal expressions and more common in social situations.
Types of binomial expressions
Most binomials use “and” or “or” and there are common types of English binomial expressions, which include:
• Opposites (antonyms)
Opposite pairs of words create several common English phrases (e.g. hot and cold).
Pair of words with the same or a similar meaning make up other memorable English phrases (e.g. peace and quiet).
• Rhyming or similar sounding words
Some binomial pairs use words that rhyme or sound similar (e.g. meet and greet).
There are pairs of words that use the same word twice (e.g. again and again).
Some expressions use words that start with the same letter(s) (e.g. tried and tested).
30 tried and tested binomial English expressions
Here are 30 binomial expressions that are great for developing English fluency and to sound more like a native English speaker.
1. again and again
to emphasise that something happens many times
I’ve told him again and again that he should start looking for a new job.
2. all in all
to summarise when you look at every aspect of a situation
All in all, he really enjoyed working abroad for a few years.
3. all or nothing
to describe when something must be done completely to be successful or not at all
You have to be fully committed if you want to be a professional sports player. It’s all or nothing.
4. back and forth
to move many times from one place to another and then back again
He kept walking back and forth in his office because he was waiting for an important phone call and couldn’t sit still.
5. bit by bit
to describe when something happens in stages
Bit by bit, I was able to improve my German language skills.
6. black and white (black-and-white)
a) to describe when there are no colours, only black, white and grey.
We watched a black and white movie last night.
b) to describe a situation which is clear to understand and is considered to be completely right or completely wrong (good or bad).
This is a black and white issue for me. I’m right and you’re wrong.
7. bright and early
early in the morning
He needs to leave bright and early tomorrow for an important meeting at work.
8. by and large
used to make a general statement about something
By and large, things are going well since we moved abroad.
9. chalk and cheese
used to refer to two people or things as being completely different from each other
I’m not surprised that he split up with his last girlfriend. They were like chalk and cheese.
10. do's and don'ts
used to describe what should and should not be done in a particular situation
I wish I had researched the recommended do’s and don’ts before I set up my website.
11. fair and square
to describe something that is achieved honestly and without unfair methods
Our team won the match fair and square.
12. heart to heart (heart-to-heart)
used to describe an open and honest private conversation between friends
We had a heart-to-heart (a heart-to-heart chat) yesterday evening about family problems.
13. (go) hot and cold
to feel nervous, frightened or confused
She went hot and cold all over when her exam results arrived in the post.
14. (no) ifs and buts
used to emphasise when you don’t want someone to argue about a situation
No ifs and buts. You have to finish your homework before you can watch television.
15. (the) ins and outs
refers to the detailed information about a situation
Our manager loves to go through all the ins and outs of our company background with new employees.
16. (you) live and learn
to learn something new (possibly surprising) especially through your own experience
I should have arrived at the airport earlier because I missed my flight. Oh well, you live and learn!
17. meet and greet (meet-and-greet)
an event where people can meet each other
The annual technology conference starts on Saturday, and there’s a meet and greet for all the presenters on Friday evening.
18. mix and match
to choose different things and put them together (e.g. clothes, furniture, food)
My friend likes to mix and match different styles of furniture and her house looks great.
19. more and more
used to say that something is continually increasing
More and more people shop online instead of going to the shops.
20. more or less
approximately, almost, to some degree
The travel agent told us that a package holiday in Asia will cost, more or less, €2000 per person.
21. (it's) now or never
used to emphasise that if you don’t do something immediately, there will not be another opportunity in the future
If you really like her, you should ask for her phone number before she leaves the nightclub. It’s now or never!
22. odds and ends
a variety of small things that are not valuable or important
Every few months, I just throw away all the odds and ends in our family home.
23. on and off
to describe when something for short periods of time, but not regularly
I’ve been going to the gym on and off for the last few years.
24. out and about
to go out and do different things
I'm afraid we can’t look after the grandchildren on Saturday, because we’ll be out and about the whole day.
in every way, absolute or complete
You can’t trust him anymore. What he said was an out-and-out lie.
26. peace and quiet
used to describe a setting or period of time which is calm and without stress or distractions.
I need some peace and quiet to concentrate on this job application.
27. pick and choose
to carefully choose something that you prefer
Our boss always wants to pick and choose the venue for our Christmas party.
28. plain and simple
used to emphasise that something is fundamentally true
They can’t afford to go on holiday this year, plain and simple.
29. tried and tested
used to describe something as reliable and effective
We are confident that our tried and tested methods will enable you to learn faster.
30. wine and dine
to entertain someone by having drinks and eating together
We like to wine and dine potential clients when we're on business trips.
Tips to develop your English communication skills
Here are our top tips to improve your English fluency.
This is the best way to develop your English communication skills either with other students or a qualified English trainer.
Take an English language course
We offer online English courses via Skype and provide face-to-face English courses in Munich (Englischkurse in München). Our native English trainers adapt courses for your needs (e.g. for work or English proficiency examinations) and focus on developing your communication skills.
Practise listening and reading
You can also learn English and improve your vocabulary from reading newspapers and articles, listening to music and watching television and movies. This is a great way to discover new English binomial expressions, idioms and phrasal verbs that are used by native English speakers in context.
Free English lessons
We also have free online English lessons for English grammar, vocabulary and pronunciation and you can also join us on social media to learn English phrases, expressions and much more.