Binomials, also known as frozen binomials, binomial pairs or Siamese twins, in the context of the English language, refer to a pair or grouping of words often used together as an idiom or collocation. Excellent opportunities for practising linking.
Typical examples include Ladies and gentlemen, fish and chips.
Binomials can be formed in several ways:
- with "and" as the conjunction, as in: pros and cons; black and blue
- with "or" or "nor" as the conjunction: more or less; sooner or later
- Note 1
- most (though not all) such expressions are only used in one way. Inverting them, eg; saying white and black instead of black and white gives a completely different emphasis, usually indicating that they are to be taken literally, or sometimes humorously, rather than figuratively.
- Note 2
- when spoken, in many (most?) of the cases the "and" will be pronounced 'n', as in fish 'n' chips, rock 'n roll
Another way of grouping them can be as follows:
- black and blue; black and white; free and easy; high and low; hot and cold; lost and found; loud and clear; over and under; rough and ready; safe and sound; sick and tired; slow and steady; sweet and savoury; sweet and sour; up and down; etc.;
- apples and pears; B&B (bed and breakfast); bacon and eggs; bits and pieces; boys and girls; bread and butter; fish 'n' chips; flesh and blood; gin and tonic; hands and knees; heaven and hell; husband and wife; knife and fork; night and day; odds and ends; oil and vinegar; R&D; rhythm and blues; rock ‘n’ roll; salt and pepper; socks and shoes; this and that; thunder and lightning; trial and error; ups and downs; war and peace; etc.;
- come and go; cut and paste; drag and drop; eat and drink; give and take; live and learn; pull and push; read and write; stop and start; touch and go; etc.;
- here and there; high and low; left and right; now and then (now and again); over and under; up and down; etc.
Trinomials are groups of words similar to binomials but using three words: blood, sweat and tears; cool, calm and collected; here, there and everywhere; hook, line and sinker, and so on.
Cockney rhyming slang
Cockney rhyming slang makes extensive use, albeit indirectly, of binomials. While not a priority language item for most students, or teachers, those students planning to spend time in London will inevitably come up against these binomial expressions at some stage. Useful for linking exercises.
- Bunin Benor, Sarah and Levy, Roger "The Chicken or the Egg?: A Probabilistic Analysis of English Binomials" UCSD Department of Linguistics at The University of California at San Diego
- Lindstromberg, Seth and Boers, Frank. "Means of mass memorization of multi-word expressions, part one: The power of sound patterns" in Humanising Language Teaching Year 7; Issue 1; January 05