Binomial phrases – what are they and why do you need to know them? That’s what we’re going to discover today! Hint- we’re not talking about mathematics! This is part 1 of a series.
Binomials are English expressions where two words are held together by a conjunction. The order of the words is usually fixed – if you swap them around it sounds wrong to the ear of a native speaker. Knowing these types of expressions is another step in your journey towards speaking confidently in English.
There are a few different types of binomial expressions. Today we will look at when a conjunction is used with antonyms, words that are opposites.
BLACK AND WHITE
I have mentioned this one in another video about colour idioms. In that video I have given some more advanced uses of black and white, but you can also just use it to describe something that is without colour, like an old movie or a photo.
I really love those old black-and-white movies.
Please note: if you use this phrase as an adjective like this, remember to put a hyphen between each word when writing.
GIVE AND TAKE
This is about co-operation and compromise. You give a little, you take a little. All good relationships have a bit of give and take. Whether that’s a marriage or business partnership or just friendships.
Relationships tend to fall apart when there’s no give and take.
Now, here’s the tricky part. If you use the same words and join them with ‘or’ – give OR take, that’s another thing altogether.
GIVE OR TAKE
With ‘or’, this pair of words becomes a general estimation.
I think there were about a hundred people at the party, give or take.
There might have been 98 people, there might have been 104. It’s not an accurate number.
MORE OR LESS
More or less is a similar expression to give or take, that we use for a rough estimation, or to say almost.
This shape I drew is symmetrical, more or less!
The next two are about the direction of movement.
BACK AND FORTH
Back and forth is to go from one place or position to another and then back again to the original position or place.
She always paces back and forth whenever she is nervous.
UP AND DOWN
Up and down is when something moves upward and downward alternately.
When we first met, he looked me up and down and sniffed in disapproval.
HIGH AND LOW
High and low refers to many different places.
We looked high and low for my phone, but it had disappeared.
But, both expressions, when used in the plural form, mean something completely different!
UPS AND DOWNS / HIGHS AND LOWS
This is for times when things go well and times when things go badly. We can use HIGHS AND LOWS in the same way. In this context make sure that both words are plurals.
– Marriage is full of ups and downs that you work through together.
– My life has had so many highs and lows.
CHALK AND CHEESE
Chalk and cheese is used comparatively as a simile or metaphor, to show that two other things are opposites.
– George and his brother are like chalk and cheese (simile)
– George and his brother are chalk and cheese (metaphor)
SOONER OR LATER
Sooner or later is an unspecified time in the near future.
My neighbour’s cat has been missing for a few days, but it will turn up sooner or later. It always does.
ON AND OFF
On and off means intermittent. It is often used to describe relationships.
Ross and Rachel had an on and off relationship in the TV series ‘Friends’.
Until next time!