Binomials are expressions (often idiomatic) where two words are joined by a conjunction (usually ‘and’). The order of the words is usually fixed. It is best to use them only in informal situations, with one or two exceptions.
– odds and ends: small, unimportant things, e.g. Let’s get the main things packed; we can do the odds and ends
– give and take: a spirit of compromise, e.g. Every relationship needs a bit of give and take to be successful.
You can often tell something is a binomial because of the sound pattern.
– Tears are part and parcel of growing up. [part of / belong to]
– The boss was ranting and raving at us. [shouting / very angry]
– The old cottage has gone to rack and ruin, [ruined/decayed]
– He’s so prim and proper at work, [rather formal and fussy]
– The hotel was a bit rough and ready, [poor standard]
– She has to wine and dine important clients, [entertain]
Other times, the clue is that the words are near-synonyms.
– You can pick and choose; it’s up to you. [have a wide choice]
– My English is progressing in leaps and bounds, [big jumps]
– It’s nice to have some peace and quiet, [peace/calm]
– The doctor recommended some rest and recreation, [relaxation]
– First and foremost, you must work hard, [first / most importantly]
Many grammar words combine to form binomials.
– There are cafes here and there, [scattered round]
– We’ve had meetings on and off. [occasionally]
– I’ve been running back and forth all day. [to and from somewhere]
– To and fro can be used just like back and forth.
– He is unemployed and down and out. [without a home or money]
– She’s better now, and out and about again, [going out]
– She ran up and down the street, [in both directions]
Your language probably has many binomials. Make sure those which look similar in English have the same word order as your language. These four are very neutral binomials and can be used in formal or informal situations. Try translating them.
– A black and white film, please. Ladies and gentlemen, your attention, please!
– She ran back and forth. There was hot and cold water in every room.
Binomials linked by words other than and.
– You’ve got your sweater on back to front, [the wrong way]
– He won’t help her; she’ll have to sink or swim, [survive or fail]
– Slowly but surely, I realised the boat was sinking, [gradually]
– Sooner or later, you’ll learn your lesson, [some time/day]
– She didn’t want to be just friends; it had to be all or nothing.
– Well I’m sorry, that’s all I can offer you; take it or leave it.
It’s about the same distance as from here to Dublin, give or take a few miles, [perhaps a mile or two more, or a mile or two less]