10 Common Binomial Expressions in English

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English Idioms Course

Binomials are expressions with two words joined by a conjunction:

  • rock and roll
  • more or less
  • step by step

The order of the words in the expression is fixed; for example, we can’t say “roll and rock” or “less or more.” In this lesson you’ll learn 10 common binomial expressions in English with definitions and example sentences.

#1 – pros and cons

The advantages (pros) and disadvantages (cons) of something.

What are the pros and cons of moving from the countryside to the city?

#2 – sick and tired

When you are extremely annoyed or frustrated with a person or situation; when you are at the point where you will not tolerate the situation anymore and you might get angry or lose your patience.

I’m sick and tired of working long hours for such little pay – I’m going to quit my job.

#3 – short and sweet

When something is very quick and gets directly to the point; it is no longer than it needs to be. In other words, it doesn’t waste time.

Her presentation was short and sweet – she gave a great overview of the topic in just 15 minutes.

#4 – odds and ends

Various small, unimportant, inexpensive items.

I need to clean out my desk – the drawers are full of odds and ends.

In addition to physical objects, this expression can also be used for miscellaneous tasks or pieces of information:

John’s still at work, taking care of a few odds and ends before leaving for the day.

#5 – back and forth

Moving first in one direction then in the other.

This bus runs back and forth from the airport to the train station.

The distance of this movement doesn’t need to be large. For example, you can say:

The boys threw the baseball back and forth.

#6 – by and large

In general, usually.

There are a couple things I don’t like about my neighborhood, but by and large it’s a nice place to live.

#7 – wear and tear

The damage to something that happens gradually over time from regularly using it.

I’m selling my cell phone. Although it has a bit of wear and tear, it works perfectly.

#8 – safe and sound

Not in danger and not injured in any way.

We were worried when our dog went missing for a week. Luckily we found him safe and sound in the park.

#9 – sooner or later

Something will definitely happen, although we don’t know exactly when.

We’re all going to die sooner or later.

#10 – ups and downs

Alternating periods of things going well and things going badly.

There have been a lot of ups and downs during our 30 years of marriage.


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