30 tried and tested English binomial expressions

English binomial expressions 1

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).

• Synonyms

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).

• Repetition

There are pairs of words that use the same word twice (e.g. again and again).

• Alliteration

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.

English binomial expressions 2

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.

English binomial expressions 3

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.

25. out-and-out


in every way, absolute or complete

You can’t trust him anymore. What he said was an out-and-out lie.

English binomial expressions 4

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.

Practise speaking!

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.

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