What are binomial pairs?
[SCROLL DOWN FOR A LIST OF BINOMIAL PAIRS WITH MEANING]
Binomial pairs are expressions that consist of two elements that are usually connected by a conjunction. Usually the conjunction is ‘and’ or ‘or’:
- Win or lose
- Bread and butter
- Now or never
- Sick and tired
- My way or the highway
Sometimes, there is no conjunction at all:
- No fuss, no muss
- Like father, like son
The order of the two words is almost always fixed, we can’t reverse them. You won’t normally hear people who say “lose or win”, or “butter and bread”, so it’s important to remember the words in the correct order.
Binomial pairs have their own rhythm as well. The primary stress is usually on the stressed syllable of the second word, and the conjunction word (or/and) will often be reduced:
- Win ‘r LOSE
- Bread ‘n BUtter
- Bigger ‘n BEtter
Many binomial pairs are extremely catchy because of their musicality. This happens mostly with alliteration (when two elements begin with the same letter) or rhyming (when two elements end the same). For example:
- Mix and match
- Black and blue
- Trick or treat
- Loud and proud
- Hustle and bustle
- Wine and dine
Other binomial pairs contain elements that are related in meaning, such as synonyms and opposites:
- Safe and sound
- Come and go
- Friend or foe
- Life or death
Watch the video to learn about binomial pairs:
Welcome to the InFluency podcast. I’m Hadar, your host. And this is episode number 235. And today we’re gonna talk about binomial pairs. Curious to know what they are? Stay tuned.
Hey everyone. Thank you so much for joining me today. And today we’re gonna talk about something really cool and fun. Now, I’m sure you’ve heard these expressions – binomial pairs – a hundred times already. But maybe you haven’t paid attention to it ‘cause you didn’t know it has its own category. Right? Unlike phrasal verbs, for example.
So, binomial pairs are fun, they’re short expressions, and I’m gonna explain all of that in a sec. But there are short expressions that are really useful. And think of it like an accessory, like a necklace or a bracelet, or something that you add. It’s not a must, but when you use it, it makes things more whole and prettier.
And even though it’s not a must, like I said, to use binomial pairs to be fluent in any way, and I actually think that you can get the meaning and the gist of most binomial pairs when you’re listening to English. And I know you’re so curious to know what binomial pairs are, so I promise I’m gonna give you some examples in a sec.
So, I think that it’s really important to understand that it’s not a must for you to understand English better. It helps ‘cause usually you can get it from the context. But when you do understand it and when you understand that it’s a thing that you should pay attention to, then you are probably gonna start using it more and remembering it more.
So for example, I remember that the first time I heard the term binomial pairs was when I was teaching a group in a company a few years ago. And someone was asking me to teach about binomial pairs. And I was like, I don’t know what those are, actually! And then I looked it up and I was like, Oh, I actually do know what those are; I didn’t know that that’s how they’re called. And then I looked into it a bit more. And you know me, I have to think about, you know, stress and intonation and rhythm. So I was like trying to figure it all out.
And that’s it. So, I wanna share with you some things that I have discovered about binomial pairs. So let’s listen to today’s episode to find out what those are, how to use them, and a few additional fun facts. So let’s listen.
‘Rise and shine, honey’. ‘We’re gonna do this bigger and better’. ‘Don’t drink and drive. It’s dangerous’. ‘I can’t stand all the hustle and bustle of the city’. ‘What can I tell you? You live and learn. You live and learn’.
Hey everyone, it’s Hadar. Thank you so much for joining me. Today I’m going to talk about a type of expression that exists in English, that is very common. And I promise I’m gonna make it short and sweet, so you don’t get sick and tired of me. This expression is called a binomial pair. Binomial pairs are expressions that are comprised of two words or even two parts, and are connected with one word, generally the word ‘and’ or ‘or’.
Now, the thing about these expressions that they come together. So for example, if I’m talking about short and sweet, safe and sound, sick and tired, we’re talking about pairs that the order of the words is irreversible. Meaning, if you change the order – ‘I’m tired and sick of you’, right? ‘I hope you get home sound and safe’ – it’s not gonna work out.
So, these expressions are set expressions. And what we’re gonna do today is we’re gonna look at a few interesting things that happen when using these binomial pairs. For example, intonation, rhythm, stress, and also sounds, so that when you use them or when you hear them, you’ll start recognizing them and use them more.
So first, I’m gonna give you a few examples of binomial pairs. For example, ‘wine and dine’. ‘Wine and dine’ is an expression that says to entertain someone and to host someone, and to give them food and wine, and to really take good care of them. Another example is ‘loud and clear’. I hear you loud and clear. You’re very clear and it’s easy for me to understand you. Loud and clear.
Another one is ‘neat and tidy’. ‘Neat and tidy’ is very clean, very organized, very tidy. Neat and tidy. And again, you’re not gonna hear people saying. ‘it’s tidy and neat’. No. Neat and tidy. Neat and tidy.
Let’s look at a few more examples that I have found on YouGlish.
“I agree, this is our bread and butter.”
“I’m sick and tired of seeing these videos”.
“Heard you loud and clear”.
“The political back and forth now…”
“I was born and raised in Hollywood, California.”
“Rain or shine, London works in all weather”.
By the way, if you wanna find out the meaning and see some examples of the most common binomial pairs, check out my blog post. I collected a lot of different examples for you over there. I put the link in the description.
Now, in terms of pronunciation, when we pronounce this pair, the interesting thing is that both words – both content words, the first and the second word – are somewhat stressed, while the word in the middle is totally reduced. So the rhythm of this phrase is usually ‘TA-da-TA’. Sick and tired. By and large. Hustle and bustle. Neat and tidy. Back and forth. Right?
So you stress the first word, then you reduce the middle word, right? the conjunction or the preposition, and then you stress the second word, whereas the second word is usually stressed a bit more. By and LARGE. Neat and TIDY. High and DRY. Up and DOWN. Highs and LOWS. Highs and LOWS. TA-da-DA. Right?
So, both the rhythm here is pretty consistent, but also the intonation. Right? Because you raise the pitch for the first word, you reduce the pitch for the middle word, for the connecting word, and then you raise the pitch, and it’s usually a little higher: by and LARGE, back and FORTH, odds and ENDS. Right? And usually the next word is going to be a little higher in pitch and a little longer, cuz it’s a little bit more stressed. Generally in English, the latter word in such phrases is the word that gets most of the stress.
Now, another interesting thing to look at is how it sounds. So, a lot of times these words are connected not just in the meaning, but also in the sound of the words. What do I mean by that? You’ll notice that in a lot of cases, the two words begin in the same sound. For example: Black and Blue, Safe and Sound, Live and Learn, Mix and Match, Drink and Drive, Trick or Treat, right? Friend or Foe, Now or Never. Okay? And remember, we have the explanation of many of binomial pairs on the blog post. So check it out if you want to go a little deeper.
Now, another thing to notice is that sometimes they simply rhyme. So they don’t start in the same sound, but they simply rhyme. And that creates like this musical feel to the language when you add it. So it’s a fun expression to start using. For example: hIGH and dRY, lOUD and prOUD, hUSTLE and bUSTLE, mAKE or bREAK. Right? So, when you use them, it adds that little edge to your speech.
All right, that’s it. Now tell me, which one of the ones that we discussed is your favorite binomial pair? And if you have a few more that you’d like to share with us, write them down right here in the comments below.
I hope you enjoyed it. Go check out the blog post for more information about binomial pairs and a lot more examples. Thank you so much for being here. Take care, and I’ll see you next week in the next video.
Here are the definitions of some of the most common Binomial Pairs:
- Win or lose – whether someone succeeds or not
- Bread and butter – something that is fundamental to something else
- Sick and tired – very bored or annoyed, fed up
- My way or the highway – either do what I say or get lost
- No fuss, no muss – no complications
- Black and blue – having bruises
- Hustle and bustle – a lot of activity and noise
- Wine and dine – entertain someone with a good meal
- Safe and sound – not in danger and not injured. Unharmed
- Loud and clear – in a way that is very easy to understand
- Give or take – approximately
- Thick and thin – both good and bad times
- By hook or by crook – by any means possible
- Like father, like son – A son will turn out like his father
- Bed and breakfast – a guesthouse that provides only overnight accommodation and a breakfast
- Come and go – repeatedly appear and disappear
- Ride or die – very committed and supportive
- Sink or swim – to fail or succeed
- Law and order – a situation in which people respect the law, and crime is controlled by the authorities
- Take it or leave it – used when you don’t care whether someone accepts your offer or not
If you want to see how these are used in sentences, type these phrases in YouGlish!