Колчіна А.О. General characteristics of binomials in the English language

Матеріал з PSYH.KIEV.UA -- Вісник психології і соціальної педагогіки

Перейти до: навігація, пошук

Колчіна Аліна Олегівна – студентка Педагогічного інституту Київського університету імені Бориса Грінченка, напрям підготовки «Початкова освіта», кафедра іноземних мов і методик їх навчання Київського університету імені Бориса Грінченка

У статті автор дає загальну характеристику сталих виразів, зокрема фразеологізмів, ідіом і словосполучень в англійській мові, розглядає більш детальнішу характеристику біномам, автор демонструє деякі з класифікацій біномів, а також показує деякі приклади виразів і їх практичне застосування. Автор висвітлює ідеї деяких вчених, що вивчали вирази і біноми.

Ключові слова: Біном, фраза, вираз, сполучник, визначення, приклад.

В статье автор дает общую характеристику устойчивых выражений, в частности фразеологизмов, идиом и словосочетаний в английском языке, рассматривает более подробную характеристику биномам, автор демонстрирует некоторые из классификаций бином, а также показывает некоторые примеры выражений и их практическое применение. Автор высвечивает идеи некоторых ученых, изучавших выражения и биномы.

Ключевые слова: Бином, фраза, выражение, союз, определение, пример.

In the article the author gives the general characteristics of expressions, in particular phraseological idioms and phrases in the English language, particular attention is paid to the general characteristics of binomials, the author demonstrates some of the classifications of binomials, also gives some examples of the expressions and shows their practical application. The ideas of some scholars, who studied expressions and binomials are exposed.

Key words: Binomial, phrase, expression, conjunction, definition, collocation.


Relevance of the topic

We live in an international environment nowadays, we can’t do away with English. In fact English is the most influential language and one of the most enriched languages of the world. At present it is a reservoir of literature, but also because most of the knowledge, experience, research findings are stored in this language.

The process of learning any foreign language is system, long and thorough. Usually it includes different categories. The most important while learning a language for a student is to get some knowledge in grammar, vocabulary and phonetics. But if you are going to speak English fluently, it isn’t enough. So the research on the giving general characteristics on phrasal verbs, idioms, collocations is actual today.

The analysis of research

There are many people, who have studied the expressions, phraseological, idioms, phrases in the English language such as A. Culter, C. Connine, D. Hillert, D. Liu, D. Swinney, L. Lauro, K. Kasparian, R. Gibbs, S. Bell, S. Bobrow, S. Caillies, V. Boulenger, W. Schweigert, Y. Shtyrov.

Some research has already been done on binomial expressions. Janice Golenbock studied “Binomial Expressions”, Yakov Malkiel described "Studies in Irreversible Binomials."

The purpose formulation of research

Today we can talk about the goal not only to learn English, but also speak it perfectly and fluently. But this is impossible without learning expressions, phraseologicals, idioms, phrases and of course binomials. In our opinion, the research on the use of constant expressions is actual today.

The objective of the article is to give general characteristics of binomials, demonstrate some of the classifications of binomials, give some examples of the expressions and to show their practical application.

The main material

There are many phrases in English that use two words connected with 'and'. For example, peace and quiet, fish and chips. These expressions are known as binomials.

Binomials are expressions (often idiomatic) where two words are joined by a conjunction (usually ‘and’ or ‘or’). The word order of a binomial pair is usually fixed (we say 'peace and quiet', we don't say 'quiet and peace') [3], [5].

It is necessary to pay our attention to the most common binomials, split into five categories: binomial pairs joined by ‘and’; binomial pairs joined by ‘or’; binomial pairs with alliteration; rhyming binomial pairs; binomial pairs joined by other words. Binomials joined by and - this group includes expressions expressed by: noun+and+noun. leaps and bounds definition: big jumps example: My English is progressing in leaps and bounds.

odds and ends definition: various items of different types, usually small, often of little value and importance example: There’s nothing important in those cupboards, just a few odds and ends.

rest and recreation definition: relaxation example: The doctor recommended some rest and recreation.

peace and quiet definition: peace, calm example: It’s nice to have some peace and quiet.

skin and bone definition: to be very thin; to look underfed example: That dog’s all skin and bone. I don’t think anyone every feeds it.

adjective+and+adjective neat and tidy definition: clean, organised, tidy – not messy or untidy (also clean and tidy) example: Her house is always very neat and tidy: there’s never anything out of place.

short and sweet definition: when something is very quick and to-the-point; of minimum length and no longer than it needs to be example: His speech was short and sweet – he just said what he needed to say and he was very quick about it.

loud and clear definition: very clear and very easy to understand examples: You don’t have to shout – I can hear you loud and clear.

prim and proper definition: rather formal and fussy example: He’s so prim and proper at work.

rough and ready definition: poor standard example: The hotel was a bit rough and ready.

Adverb+and+adverb: on and off definition: occasionally example: We’ve had meeting on and off.

up and down definition: moving between the same two points repeatedly, in both directions example: We drove up and down the same street ten times looking for the restaurant. She ran up and down the street.

back and forth definition: moving first in one direction then in another, to and from somewhere examples: The taxi driver’s job consists mainly of going back and forth between the

hotel and the airport all day. We rocked the baby back and forth in the chair until she fell asleep. I’ve been running back and forth all day.

by and large definition: on the whole example: The food there is not always the best but by and large I like what they cook. Binomials joined by or - this group of binomials can be expressed by:

verbs: take it or leave it definition: (of a negotiation) your last offer: you are not going to negotiation further or allow the other person to negotiate example: Eight hundred dollars is my final offer for your car – take it or leave it!

sink or swim definition: survive or fail example: He won’t help her; she’ll have to sink or swim. degrees of comparison of adjectives:

sooner or later definition: that something will definitely happen, although it is not known when examples: We’re all going to die sooner or later. If you lie, people will find you out sooner or later.

more or less definition: approximately; almost examples: The repairs to the car will take a week, more or less. Just give me another minute – I’ve more or less finish.

The next category is binomials are based on alliteration, when the two words begin with the same sound: part and parcel definition: that something is always an essential part of something and is never missing from it examples: Long hours of training and a lot of travelling are part and parcel of being a professional footballer. For some old people loneliness is part and parcel of everyday life. Tears are part and parcel of growing up [6].

safe and sound definition: not in danger and not injured in any way examples: The missing boy returned to his family safe and sound. The soldier—thought to be dead—was found safe and sound in the forest.

rules and regulations definition: laws, rules, legislation examples: The rules and regulations in prisons are very strict. There are different rules and regulations for commercial vehicles than for ordinary passenger cars.

live and learn definition: to learn from the experiences that life gives us (often you live and learn), said when you hear or discover something which is surprising example: You mean I can get a discount because I’m under 26? Well, you live and learn – I never knew that! Rhyming binomials - binomials have two words with a rhyming sound:

hustle and bustle definition: a lot of noisy activity caused by people, usually in cities example: There’s always lots of hustle and bustle at the market on Wednesdays.

make or break definition: the result will be either success or failure, nothing between example: The next match is make or break for us. If we lose we’ll have no chance of winning the league.

wear and tear definition: the decrease in value and/or quality of something because of its age and a lot of use example: The wear and tear on his knees means he can no longer play football at the top level. I paid 3000 euros for my car but because of wear and tear I sold it for just 1500 a year later.

here and there definition: scattered round example: There are cafés here and there.

willy-nilly definition: haphazardly, randomly, and without much planning and organisation; without order example: The product sold badly because the salesmen travelled to customers will-nilly without any strategy or plan. She’s so untidy – when she gets undressed she simply throws her clothes around the room willy-nilly.

out and about definition: going out example: She’s better now, and out and about again.

down and out definition: without a home and money example: He is unemployed and down and out. Binomial pairs joined by other words

back to front definition: when the back of something faces the front, and vice-versa example: You’ve got your t-shirt on back to front! Take it off and turn it around.

step by step definition: to do something methodically, one step at a time example: Follow the course and step by step you will learn how to create modern and attractive web pages.

slowly but surely definition: gradually example: Slowly but surely, I realized the boat was sinking [4],[7].

Andrea Mayr researches the order of binomials and shows that there is in fact a pattern of more frequently occurring words appearing first in binomial expressions, also he uses it to examine why certain expressions do not follow this pattern.

To hypothesize why certain expressions do not follow the higher frequency first rule, he first used the corpus to see how many of these expressions are indeed fixed in the order he had assumer was their fixed order. For example, if the expression was “sticks and stones” he would enter “sticks+and+stones” and “stones+and+sticks” to see which occurred more frequently, or if both even occurred at all. Expressions that do not occur at all in what he will refer to as their “reverse form”, are considered fixed expressions because they cannot, or do not, occur in this reverse form.

Another hypothesis as to why an expression would not follow these “rules” is because of cultural hierarchy. For instance, the expressions “Men and women” and “cowboys and Indians” do not have the more frequent word in the first position. This could be simply because the more “important” word is put first. This could be an artifact of the time the expression was developed. If the expression started long enough, political correctness would have not been considered yet. This would be why “Men” come first. However, it does not explain why “black” comes first in the expression “black and white”.

Another idea, for verbs, is that the words occur in the order in which they occur. For instance, expressions like “stop and shop” and “come and go” do not follow the pattern, but that could be because we have to stop before we shop and come before we go. The order of the action governs which comes first here (this follows for “hit and run” and “eat and run”). We could simply have an example of “order of operations” as we do in algebra. The order of events takes precedence in choosing the word order, but if they occur simultaneously, the frequency of the words in English then determines which word will come first in the expression [2].

As a result of systematic use of binomials, we would like to pay your attention to trinomials – 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 [1].


During our research we studied that the most common group of binomials is binomials joined by “and”, expressed by nouns; with less activity in our speech we use binomials expressed by adjectives and adverbs. Also, we use a lot of binomials, which have two words with a rhyming sound. If we talk about the order of binomials, we concluded that there are two theories: the first position takes the word which we use more often; or the first position takes the word which is more important. It is difficult to say, which of these theories is correct, but we are sure, that each of them can exist.

English is integral part of our life. That’s why it is necessary to learn and know more English expressions. Thus, we gave general characteristics of expressions, in particular phraseological, idioms, phrases in the English language, gave general characteristics of binomials, demonstrated some of the classifications of binomials, gave some examples of the expressions.


  1. Andrea Mayr, Language and Power: An Introduction to Institutional Discourse. Continuum, 2008.
  2. Bobrow, S. A., & Bell, S. M. On catching on to idiomatic expressions. 1973, Memory & Cognitio, 1, p.343-346.
  3. Janice Golenbock, “Binomial Expressions – Does Frequency Matter?, Patterns of English Usage, Spring 2000.
  4. Liu, D., Idioms: Description, comprehension, acquisition, and pedagogy. New York, NY: Routledge, 2008.
  5. Schweigert, W. A., The comprehension of familiar and less familiar idioms. Journal of Psycholinguistic Research, 1986, 15, p.33-45.
  6. Swinney, D. A., & Culter, A., The access and processing of idiomatic expression. Journal of Verbal Learning and Verbal Behaviour, 1979, 18, p.523-534.
  7. Yakov Malkiel, "Studies in Irreversible Binomials." Essays on Linguistic Themes. Univ. of California Press, 1968.

Особисті інструменти
Ми в мережі