Meaning of Binomials in English – With Examples

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Danielle McLeod

Danielle McLeod is a highly qualified secondary English Language Arts Instructor who brings a diverse educational background to her classroom. With degrees in science, English, and literacy, she has worked to create cross-curricular materials to bridge learning gaps and help students focus on effective writing and speech techniques. Currently working as a dual credit technical writing instructor at a Career and Technical Education Center, her curriculum development surrounds student focus on effective communication for future career choices.

Word pairs are popular options to help create flow and add detail and expression to your explanations. They are commonly used and have a formal name: binomials. 

Also called binomial expressions and binomial pairs, there is a huge list of phrases that fit this category, of which we have shared examples below. Take a look at what binomials are, why they are used, and how you can use them to help clarify your writing. 

What is a Binomial?

Binomials are a pair of words linked either by a conjunction or preposition. They also are referred to as binomial expressions and binomial pairs. The words can be fluid, meaning they can be reversed, or they can be static and cannot be interchanged with one another. This is explained in more detail below. 

Why Do We Use Binomials in English?

Binomials are catchy and easy to remember and help negative English speakers further the meaning of the sentences they speak and write. When you use them, you make your English sound more fluent. You also add detail to your message so more people understand you. 

Types of Binomials

There are a few different types of binomials worth knowing the differences between to provide you the options to pick and choose which work best in your speech and writing. 

Irreversible Binomials

Irreversible binomials cannot switch words around without making the binomial sound strange or awkward. Sometimes the meaning can even be lost or confused if the pairs are swapped with one another. This makes up the majority of binomial pairs. 

For example:

  • Cease and desist

Reversible Binomials

Some binomial word pairs can be switched with one another, making them reversible. When these words are reversed, they don’t sound odd or confuse the meaning of what you are trying to explain. 

For example:

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  • Pepper and salt

Synonymous Binomials

Synonymous binomials are word pairs that have a similar or identical meaning to one another. These are usually reversible as well unless the order sounds awkward. 

For example:

  • Friends and allies

Echoic Binomials

Echoic binomials use the same word to complete the word pair. 

For example:

  • Stronger and stronger

47 Common Examples of Binomials 

There are A LOT of common binomials available for you to take advantage of to help make your writing flow and use to bring further meaning to your sentences. These are some of the most popular binomials used in everyday speech and writing, but many more exist. See how many of these you can begin integrating into your own material. 

  1. high and low
  2. by and large
  3. goods and services
  4. safe and sound
  5. knife and fork
  6. fair and square
  7. peace and quiet
  8. rain or shine
  9. ham and eggs
  10. old and gray
  11. odds and ends
  12. nuts and bolts
  13. dead or alive
  14. pins and needles
  15. bread and butter
  16. short and sweet
  17. down and out
  18. pros and cons
  19. live and learn
  20. on and off
  21. give or take
  22. all in all
  23. step by step
  24. life and death
  25. hugs and kisses
  26. make or break
  27. cease and desist
  28. rock and roll
  29. dos and don’ts
  30. neat and tidy
  31. far and wide
  32. ups and downs
  33. bigger and better
  34. wear and tear
  35. little by little
  36. aches and pains
  37. rags to riches
  38. more or less
  39. rise and fall
  40. high and dry
  41. now and then
  42. checks and balances
  43. pots and pans
  44. sooner or later
  45. salt and pepper
  46. rise and shine
  47. loud and clear

Using Binomials in Sentences

Binomials are a great way to add flow and sophistication to your writing. Take a look at how they are used in the examples below in order to add them to your own material. 

Then the water is pumped out until the vessel is lifted high and dry. [New York Times]

Your rain gauge may show more or less, but it only matters what the gauges show at certain sites across the area. [Click Orlando]

At the time of rental, I mentioned a small scratch on the front bumper to the representative; he said it was “normal wear and tear” and not to worry about it. [Boston Globe]

The four legislative leaders in Lansing sat down with the Free Press to talk about the ups and downs of 2015. [Detroit Free Press]

Little by little, she won the hearts of the employees and eventually moved inside a couple of years ago. []

A Lafayette insurance agent has been issued a cease and desist order by the Louisiana Department of Insurance for allegedly misappropriated insurance premiums. [The Advocate]

Fashion is every little element combined that makes “the look.” Makeup is one of those crucial elements that can make or break your desired look. [Daytona Times]

Let’s Review

Binomials can be reversible or irreversible and contain two or more words linked together by a conjunction or preposition. They work to help clarify speech and writing and allow for a higher degree of fluency and comprehension when used correctly.