What are binomials? Why is my English teacher talking about maths?
Maria Pilar Gracia 01/02/2020
apparently there is a mathematical concept which is known as binomials, I’m
afraid it is beyond me! However, in
English (and Spanish!) we do have something also known as binomials – and as
the word itself proclaims, it is made up of two elements. They
are two words (as the prefix bi- denotes) linked by a conjunction (such
as and or), in a fixed and
In English (and
Spanish) to say “approximately” we can say:
Tiene más o menos 30 años.
more or less thirty years old.
“más o menos” and “more or less” both mean approximately. And in both expressions we cannot change the
order. We cannot say “menos o más” and
we cannot say “less or more”.
binomials that are exactly the same in both languages, as the above
example. There are some that express the
same idea but are slightly different, such as “safe and sound” = “sano y
salvo”. And there are some that we
simply don’t have in Spanish, “short and sweet” = getting directly to the point
“ir al grano”.
expressions, using binomials makes your English sound more natural and it makes
your English more descriptive. In
reality they are quite common and can be found everywhere… from a newspaper
article (which is clearly written in black and white), to songs
(Anastascia told us she was sick and tired of her love life and Elvis
created a classic) to a very funny scene between Wanda Sykes and Jane Fonda. (see
the links below).
additional twist to many binomials, which is quite common in English – and that
is alliteration. Alliteration is simply
the repetition of sounds. For some reason,
English really likes repeating sounds.
We do this when naming our children (Danny Devito, Kevin Costner, Robert
Redford), when naming our companies (Best Buy, Pay Pal, Coca Cola), when naming
our cartoons (Peppa Pig, Mickey Mouse, Bugs Bunny) and of course we do this in
our binomials (safe and sound, last but not least, rest and relaxation, rock
and roll, now or never).
express similar ideas (rest and relaxation) or contrasts (black and white).
like so many other things in English, these must be learnt by heart. You must learn them through study and
repetition. Some of them are exactly the
same as Spanish, some of them have a similar expression to Spanish, and some of
them have NO connection to Spanish at all.
Here’s an introduction to some common binomials found in the business world:
all or nothing
We cannot take an all or nothing approach to business. We must be prepared to compromise.
bread and butter
Small businesses are our bread and butter. We have to keep them satisfied with our service.
cut and dried
Their instructions were cut and dried. They want a delivery by Monday or we can forget the deal.
dos and don’ts
There are some basic dos and don’ts of email writing that most people accept.
nuts and bolts
When you look at the nuts and bolts of running a business, you soon realise that it’s harder than it seems.
touch and go
For a few days the negotiations were in real danger of collapsing. It was touch and go for a while!
(to fight) tooth and nail
I have fought tooth and nail to get where I am today.
part and parcel
Working long hours is part and parcel of running your own business.
give or take
There are about 100 employees now, give or take.
take it or leave it
I’m afraid I’m unable to bring the price down any further. You can take it or leave it.
unfamiliar with these expressions, use the internet as a tool to find more
example sentences. By finding more
sentences, reading and thinking about what they mean as well as translating
them into Spanish (if that helps) you are reinforcing the language which helps
to fix them in your brain!
Why not listen
to your favourite drama series on your favourite platform and listen out for
their use? Why not read a book by your
favourite English author and underline any you find? Why not have a binomial of the day where you
choose one expression and try to use in an email or conversation?
Esta web utiliza cookies para que podamos ofrecerte la mejor experiencia de usuario posible. La información de las cookies se almacena en tu navegador y realiza funciones tales como reconocerte cuando vuelves a nuestra web o ayudar a nuestro equipo a comprender qué secciones de la web encuentras más interesantes y útiles.