Make your English sound more natural and fluent with useful English word pairs. These binomial expressions will make your English sound more colloquial and conversational.
We start off with some easy ones like salt and pepper and knife and fork and then move on to some you might not know like:
– an arm and a leg
– touch and go
– high and dry
– to and fro
– thick and thin
– flesh and blood
– kith and kin
– kiss and make up
– meat and potatoes
and lots, lot more.
We’ll show you what the word pairs mean and how we use them in action so they’re easy to remember and you know how to use them yourself.
Do you want your English to sound more natural?
And more fluent too? We’ve got some great expressions to help you.
They’re very idiomatic and conversational
And they’re fun too.
So I’m going to say a word and you’re going to say the word that goes with it.
OK, I’ll try that.
So if I say salt?
Salt and pepper.
OK, salt and pepper.
Knife and fork.
Uh huh. Notice you said ‘n. Knife ‘n fork.
Knife ‘n fork. Right.
So the ‘and’ gets reduced to ‘n. in a lot of these.
Husband and …
Me and …
Yes. Ladies and …
You knew them all.
They were very predictable. They’re a kind of collocation – a fixed expression.
Yes, they’re pairs of words that go together and English is full of them.
I bet you know lots already. Give it a try!
Common word pairs
Cup and …
Yes. Boys and …
Boys and girls.
Bride and …
Groom. Bride and groom.
Milk and …
Cookies. Milk and cookies.
Bow and …
Arrow. Bow and arrow.
Needle and …
Yes. Peanut butter and …
Jelly. Peanut butter and jelly.
Rock and …
Rock and … Rock and, what?
Your clue is Elvis Presley.
Oh, rock and roll.
So you’ve got the idea.
You have two words, joined by ‘and’.
And the order of the words is generally fixed, so we say ladies and gentlemen, but not gentlemen and ladies.
It’s rock and roll, not roll and rock.
Now those were easy ones, but there are lots of others that you might not know.
So let’s look at some more.
An arm and a leg
OK, an arm and …
And a leg.
Yes, so what does it mean?
An arm and a leg is when you have paid so much that it feels like it cost you an arm and a leg.
Jay’s bought a new food processor. A very expensive food processor.
We paid an arm and a leg for it.
Peace and quiet
Peace and …
Peace and quiet.
Yes. Peace, of course, means no war and quiet means not noisy.
It’s exactly what I need to do my work. Peace and quiet.
Then why do you have the music up loud?
Argh. Here’s another example. Do you like it when the grandkids come round?
Oh yes, I love it.
And what about when they leave?
Well I feel sad.
OK, I like it when the grandkids leave as well.
She likes the peace and quiet.
Tooth and nail
Tooth and …
Oh tooth and nail.
Yes, tooth and nail. People sometimes fight tooth and nail.
It means fighting in a very determined way because you must win that fight.
Yes, very aggressive.
Now so far we’ve just been looking at nouns.
But lots of other kinds of words can pair up like this.
They could be verbs, adjectives , adverbs, prepositions …
They just have to be the same kinds of words
Let’s see some examples.
Touch and go
Touch and …
Oh, touch and go.
So touch and go is when you’re not sure if something will be successful. The brain surgery was touch and go.
Will I be OK doctor?
Oh, it’s going to be touch and go.
So if something is touch and go it might work or it might not.
And there’s a possibility that something bad might happen.
Short and sweet
Short and …
Sweet. Short and sweet.
So if you’re telling a story and you make it concise and include just the facts, you’re telling it short and sweet.
It would be brief but satisfying. And with presentations, you probably want to keep them short and sweet. People like that.
How long is this meeting going to take?
About twenty minutes.
I’ll give you five.
Then I’ll keep it short and sweet. You’re fired.
Toss and turn
OK. Tossed and …
Turned. Tossed and turned.
Last night in bed, I tossed and turned. I couldn’t sleep. I kicked the covers. I rolled around.
So it’s when you keep changing your position in bed because you can’t sleep.
By and large
By and …
Large. By and large.
OK, this is an expression we use when we’re talking generally. It indicates a general statement is coming.
With the corona virus it’s very hard for us to go out and go shopping, but by and large we’re OK.
Because we can buy food on line.
I’ve got another one for you. I don’t always agree with you, but by and large I do.
Well I’m glad to hear that.
Give and take
OK. This is something that a good relationship needs. Give and …
Take, give and take.
Yes, what does that mean?
Well, give and take is sort of the process of compromise on two sides.
So what are you doing today?
Oh I’ve got no socks so I have to do the laundry.
I could do it for you, if you like.
Really? Oh thank you.
Perhaps you could do some things for me.
Here are a few things.
Oh, no problem.
That was an example of a little give and a lot of take.
Yes, give and take means something more equal, so everyone gets what they want… sometimes.
Business negotiations are often about give and take.
High and dry, high and low
OK, high and…
Dry. High and dry. If you’re left without help and without the things you need, you’re left high and dry.
So it’s when you’re in a difficult situation. Perhaps Jay walked off and he left me with no money, and no phone, and no car keys. And you’ve left me high and dry.
So sorry. Why would I do that to you?
Here’s another one with High. High and …
Low. High and low.
Yes. It means everywhere.
I’ve searched high and low for my car keys and I can’t find them.
Have you seen my glasses? I’ve been searching high and low for them.
To and fro, back and forth
To and …
Fro. To and fro.
Yes, so it’s when things move from one place to another.
Yes. Think of some things that go to and fro.
A pendulum. To and fro, to and fro.
What’s that for?
I’m going to hypnotize you. Just let your body relax.
You’re not going to make me do something stupid are you?
Here’s a similar one. Back and …
Yes. And what does that mean?
Well, back and forth is a movement.
Back and forth is the physical movement, but you can also go back and forth more metaphorically.
Well you can go back and forth in a discussion. One person makes a point. The other person makes a different point and you go back and forth, trying to listen to each other.
Yeah, negotiations could go back and forth.
So some of these word pairs have figurative meanings as well.
Here’s another one like that:
Thick and thin
So thick and…
Thin. Thick and thin.
OK. So thick or thin. But also it has another meaning too.
Right. I’ll stick with you through thick and thin.
Yes, whatever happens. Through good times, through bad times.
So it means in spite of any difficulties or problems.
The words thick and thin can describe size. Is it a thick book or a thin book?
But we also say through thick and thin and it means in spite of any difficulties or problems.
Flesh and blood, Kith and kin
Flesh and …
Blood. Flesh and blood.
Management wants us to process all these reports by Friday. It’s impossible
We’re not machines.
We’re only flesh and blood.
Flesh and blood refers to a human being.
Yes, it means when you’re thinking of someone in terms of them being very human.
Or very close to you. Someone that’s related to you is your own flesh and blood.
So flesh and blood has two meanings. One is human. Not like a machine.
And the other meaning is your family. They’re your flesh and blood.
There’s another one like that. Kith and…
Kith th th.
Oh, kith and kin.
Kith and kin means your family but kiss and tell means something else but it’s another word pair. What does kiss and tell mean?
Kiss and tell is what you don’t do after you’ve had a relationship with someone else.
Yes. It’s when you’ve had a relationship and the relationship has finished. You don’t tell other people about what happened.
Kith and kin, however, is about family. So kith and kin means relatives. Blood relatives.
Kiss and make up
So we’ve done kiss and tell, but there’s another one with kiss. Kiss and… After an argument.
Oh, kiss and make up!
The best part of arguments.
It’s when you become friendly again after the argument.
Meat and potatoes
Meat and …
We often say the meat and potatoes of that job is…. meaning the standard. Because meat and potatoes is the standard meal.
Now that’s new for me because in British English we talk about meat and potatoes when we’re talking about meal, but it has an extra meaning for you?
Yeah, in American English it refers to meals too, but it also means the basics – the simple but really important things.
Observation is the meat and potatoes of detective work.
So for Sherlock Holmes, observation was a fundamental thing.
It was essential. Here’s another example. The meat and potatoes of our video lessons is grammar and vocabulary.
They’re the simple basic ingredients.
But we also show you how we use English in action too.
And we tell you about differences between American and British English.
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