English word pairs are a kind of collocation – a fixed expression. The technical term for them is binomials and English is full of them! Learning English word pairs is a great way to boost your vocabulary.
In this video you’ll learn how to use these English expressions and see lots of examples in action:

  • fun and games
    alive and well
    alive and kicking
    here and now
    here and there
    trial and error
    quick and easy
    quick and dirty
    pins and needles
    odds and ends
    odds and sods
    bits and pieces
    bits and bobs
    more or less
    more and more

Hi and welcome to another video on English word pairs.
They’re words that often go together so they’re a kind of collocation.
When you hear the first word, you can often predict the second one.
This is the third video in our series, and we’ve got lots of new examples for you today, American and British ones.
And best of all, we’ll show you how we use them in action.
Some of the expressions we’re looking at today have slightly different meanings in British and American English.
When that happens we’ll tell you.
Because I’m British.
And I’m American.
It’s been a while since we played this game. Do you remember what to do?
No, I don’t have a clue.
OK. I’m going to say a word and then you’re going to say the word that follows it. And you can play along as well.
Oh, oh, these are word pairs.
They’re word pairs.
OK, gotcha
Fun and …
Fun and games. Fun and games.
Those are, yeah, those are activities that aren’t serious.
Now fun and games are enjoyable and playful activities but it’s interesting because we often use this phrase in a disapproving way.
Oh will you stop the fun and games and just get to work.
So I wanted you to be more responsible and serious there.
But here’s another use. We often say ‘NOT all fun and games’, so we use it in the negative. For example, college isn’t all fun and games. You have to study hard too.
So it expresses the idea that something that’s fun can also be serious or difficult.
OK, next one.
Alive and…
Well. Alive and well.
That’s right. And when do you say alive and well?
Um, usually when I’ve been rescued from a sinking boat.
So do you often get rescued from sinking boats?
Not often. But alive and well is what we say if someone has been in danger.
Yeah, for example a missing child could be found alive and well.
It would mean that they’re not injured or harmed.
Hello? Hello? I’m alive and well. Please send a million dollars and chocolate. Well I’m hungry.
There’s another one with alive. Alive and…k, k
Alive and what?
K, k, k
Kk? What’s what?
Alive and ki…
Alive and kicking. Oh OK. Yes.
Of course literally ‘kicking’ means hitting something with your foot.
But in this expression kicking just means active and doing things.
If we were talking about someone who we hadn’t seen for a long time, then I said, ‘Oh how’s Bill?’ You might say…
Alive and kicking.
Yes, and that would mean that he was busy doing things. He was active.
So alive and well…?
Not injured or harmed.
And alive and kicking…?
Active. OK. Next phrase.
Here and …
Now. Here and now.
And basically it just means now, immediately.
The present.
Yes. So we use this phrase to emphasize we mean the present time.
For example, we should stop worrying about what happened in the past or what might happen in the future. We need to focus on the here and now.
Orwe might say it when we don’t want to wait for something.
So those were the figures for last month.
Is that everything because I’ve got to go.
No! We need to talk about the temperature in this office because it’s freezing.
Let’s talk about it later.
You always say that! Let’s settle this argument here and now!
Gotta go!
So I wanted to discuss it in the present. I didn’t want to delay it.
But I like our office temperature just as it is.
And there’s another one with here. Here and…
Here and …?
Here and there.
Oh right.
And it means in different places. In various places.
So for example our house needs painting here and there. Some in the living room. Some in the kitchen. Some in the bedroom. Here and there.
Yes. Not everywhere, but different places.
OK, are you ready for a harder one?
Let’s see.
Here’s one. Trial and…
Error. Trial and error.
Yes. This is when we solve problems by trying different things to see what works.
Some plants grow well on our deck, but others die. I’m learning what to plant through trial and error.
When I write computer programs, for example, I’ll have a section of code that I’m not sure about. I’ll run it and I’ll see if it worked. If it didn’t work, I’ll try something else. And I’ll keep doing that until I find the right solution. Trial and error.
OK, so you prefer trial and error to using logic then?
Notice the prepositions here. We can find solutions to problems BY trial and error or THROUGH trial and error.
And it means testing lots of different methods to find out what works.
Next one.
Quick and…
Quick and easy?
Yes. And it just means quick and easy to do.
Here’s a quick and easy way to chop vegetables.
OK, another one with quick. Quick and… d, d, d ,…
Quick and dirty.
So if you have a job that’s going to take time to do right, but you find a way around the correct method and do it faster, that’s quick and dirty.
Yes, so it’s probably not the best way to do something, but you might find a quick and dirty solution to a problem.
OK. The next phrase has an extra meaning in American English that we don’t have in British English.
See if you know it.
Pins and…
Pins and needles.
OK, these can be the literal things you use when you’re sewing. But it has another meaning for me. Which is if I go to sleep perhaps in an awkward position, and the blood in my arm stops flowing, and then I wake up and shake my arm. There’s an uncomfortable feeling when the blood starts flowing again and we call that pins and needles. But I think you have another meaning for it in American English.
Oh yes, when we’re on pins and needles we’re filled with excitement in anticipation of something that’s going to happen. For example, I’m on pins and needles waiting to hear about my new job.
Oh right. OK. Does it also mean nervous?
It can mean that as well. Yes.
OK, we don’t say that in British English.
We don’t know who will win the next election, but we’re on pins and needles waiting for the result.
So for me this phrase has two meanings. It can be things for sewing or the funny feeling.
It can mean those things for me too, but it can also mean nervous or excited.
OK, next one.
Odds and…
Odds and ends
Yes and …
We have a drawer full of odds and ends
We do.
In our kitchen there’s a drawer that’s full of rubbish.
There’s nothing valuable in it and we should clear it out.
It’s sort of different things of different sorts. They’re not connected in anyway.
Right. You’ll find buttons in there and screwdrivers.
In British English we also say odds and sods. That’s a ruder way to say it.
We definitely wouldn’t say that in American English. Odds and sods?
Mmm, there’s a similar one. Bits and…
Bits and pieces?
So what are bits and pieces?
Ah well they’re what’s left after something’s been broken up terribly.
So bits and pieces can be fragments. A fragment is a small part of something that has broken off.
For example, if you break a bottle you could have bits and pieces of glass on the floor.
Yeah. Now a bottle is a physical object, but you could also use the phrase more metaphorically.
When might you say bits and pieces?
Um, let’s see. The bits and pieces of my life had to be put back together after I declared bankruptcy.
Oh right. OK, nice one.
Now here’s the thing. I can use bits and pieces to mean fragments too, but in British English it has other meanings as well. For example, I might put my bits and pieces in my bag before I leave a place.
So for you ‘bits and pieces’ are personal belongings?
Yes, they’re small things that belong to me. Or I could go to the supermarket to buy some bits and pieces. Just small things.
I’d say odds and ends in American English. (Vicki nods)
In British English we have another one that’s similar. Do you know it? Bits and b…
Oh bits and bobs. Right. I’ve heard that.
Uhuh. Would you say it in American English?
Bits and bobs means the same as bits and pieces.
And it’s definitely British English, not American.
Do you want me to wash these trousers for you?
Oh thank you. She means pants.
I’ll just check to make sure you haven’t left any bits or bobs in the pockets.
Great. She means odds and ends.
V: OK, the next word pair is very common.
More or …
More or less.
Yes. And it means almost.
So American English grammar is more or less the same as British English grammar.
Yes, they’re almost the same.
So I might say to Jay have you finished editing the video and he might say…
More or less.
Yes, and it means actually he hasn’t finished it.
But it’s almost finished.
OK, we should stop now or I won’t have time to edit this one.
OK, just one more quick one. It’s very common again.
More and…
Oh. More and more.
So it means in greater and greater quantities.
If you keep watching our videos you’ll learn more and more English.
That’s true, so make sure you subscribe to our channel and click the bell so you get notified.
And your friends can learn more and more English too if you share this video with them.
Bye everyone.

This is the third video in our series on English word pairs. You can see the others here:

Video 1: https://youtu.be/nK3ThZFxjFs
Video 2: https://youtu.be/W-R-GVUs6dQ



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