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Catherine Catherine | 14:30 UK time, Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Hi Olga and everyone else,

Well here I am! My name is Catherine and I work right here at BBC Learning English. I'll be blogging here for a month or so. I'm looking forward to meeting you Olga, and to chatting with you and swapping stories, and of course, offering a few (1) bits and pieces of advice and guidance regarding English!

So, a little about me: I was (2) born and bred in the UK, and I lived in this country all my life until I got itchy feet at the age of 32... so I (3) scrimped and saved every penny I had, until I had enough money to pay for a language teaching course, and as soon as I qualified, I upped sticks and left for Istanbul in Turkey to become an English teacher. That was 14 years ago (I will leave it to you to work out my age) and since then I've lived and taught English in Istanbul, Edinburgh. Buenos Aires, Dubai, Newcastle and now London, where I work for BBC learning English. It's been a great 14 years and I've met some wonderful people and been to some amazing places. There have also been a few hairy moments, but I'll tell you a bit more about the (4) trials and tribulations of being an English teacher another time...

And now for a little English challenge. You'll see above that I've numbered and highlighted 4 phrases as follows:

(1) bits and pieces
(2) born and bred
(3) scrimped and saved
(4) trials and tribulations

These are known as 'binominals' in English. Binominals are fixed phrases, which are made up of 2 words, joined together in a particular way. All the binominals I've highlighted follow the pattern: noun or verb followed by the word 'and', followed by another noun or verb. Each binominal has a set meaning, and you can't change the order of the 2 main words (for example, you can't say 'pieces and bits').

So the challenge is: can anyone match the binominals above with their meanings (a) - (d) below? Have a go, and I'll give you the answers next time!

(a) problems, challenges, difficulties
(b) was born and grew up
(c) a variety; lots of different types
(d) saved as much money as possible, by only spending money on things that were absolutely necessary

Very best wishes

Useful vocabulary

  • got itchy feet - wanted to travel, see new places and do new things
  • upped sticks and left - stopped living in one area and went to live in another
  • hairy moments - unexpected difficult or scary situations
  • a month or so - about a month

For Teachers: Here's a downloadable 'binominals' lesson plan to go with this blog. Happy Teaching!


  • Comment number 1.

    halo,It's my first comment on the blog in bbc ^^ .As I live in Hong Kong , I don't have so much time get in touch with enlgish language but it looks interesting in seeing enlgish can have such wide variety in word phase( as you mentioned "binominals").Look forward to seeing your sharing next time.

    I think the answer maybe


  • Comment number 2.

    Hello Catherine,
    it's very nice to read your blog.
    Here is my match list:
    1 - c
    2 - b
    3 - d
    4 - a
    Have a nice day

  • Comment number 3.

    first of all helloo.your question s secret is lost.because 2 people had answered.)))).secondly ı think you are now more than 45.(ı made a count as you said above.)ı saw that you had been to istanbul.as a person who lives in istanbul ı wanna ask how many years you ve stayed in istabul ?.
    also which part of city?(with name)and where did you work?did you have any unexpected difficult or scary situations in istanbul?theeeeeseee are thequestions that ı wonder soo much.please drop a couple lines.thanks...

  • Comment number 4.

    hi Catherine,
    i hope you teach english in kuwait ( i know you are saying no :), because you had enough time outside and ypu want to rest ).
    i like your challenge and wish you keep up with making it for us,because it is a good way to the people like me who dont have free time to keep in touch with practising english.
    the answers i am sure as follow :
    (1) - c
    (2) - b
    (3) - d
    (4) - a
    thanks for the nice blog.

  • Comment number 5.

    Hi Catherine,
    You already taught me useful tips in your first blog. Thank you.
    I'm look forward to heard your stories and also learn english.
    I think the answers is:
    1 - c
    2 - b
    3 - d
    4 - a
    See you.

  • Comment number 6.

    Hello Catherine!

    Hu, where am I :)
    It's my very first comment here!
    My name is Marcel and I'm writing this from the wonderful country of Germany. And here is my vote:

    1 - c
    2 - b
    3 - d
    4 - a

    Thank you for giving us such an insight into your life.
    Well, I think your 'binominals' are very useful.
    I should enter them on my heavy vocabulary list :)

    Best wishes!

  • Comment number 7.

    Hi dear Catherine , Nice to meet you again ! I liked your Blog very much as It was easy to read and it was full of interesting phrases in the same time . You were lucky to have been to so many countries as English teacher . I 'm so eager to read your stories . Good Job !
    Pary from Iran
    Plus ( As other reader has already given you right answers I don't bother you with my answers )

  • Comment number 8.

    Hello, Catherine!
    It's my first time I've written here. I like surfing this site because it's very interesting and educational. I visit it every day to listen to the new reports and to learn some new phrases. I advise everyone to visit this wonderful site oftener.
    Dear Catherine, your blog is very interesting! I adore idioms and binominals. It's very useful to know them to make our speech more rich.
    So, my answers:
    Best wishes!
    Alena from Russia.

  • Comment number 9.

    Hello,Teacher it's Mesut
    it,s my first time I've written for The BCC Learning English.but it is not last time :) I'm writing from Turkey I like to follow the sites especially news and 6 minutes english dialogues,I get itchy feets as you had before but I am afraid to face hairy moments abroad that's why.I wont't go anywhere until I can be sure that my english is up to much to travel anyway. My answers are
    and thank you for the beneficial piece of writing. BYE

  • Comment number 10.

    Hi Catherine and the rest of the people: Very interesting your blog and the "binominals", (verbs or nouns). I like English Grammar and enjoy answering questions to revise knowledge. I´d also like tp read something about your working experience in Buenos Aires as I was born and bred in BA. I´m looking forward to your next blog. Best wishes. Beatriz-Argentina.

  • Comment number 11.

    hello Catherine
    This is my frist time to come to the english learning blog.
    Actually, my english is not good. I am so exciting to answer the question above.
    my answer is:

  • Comment number 12.

    Hello Catherine ,

    Thank you for your interesting post as well as your fascinating way to express about you work life ,
    look forward to learn more about your life in different countries, that looks very interesting for me because I like travelling and make friends around world , also how you've dealt with all the problems you've faced along last 14 years.

    finally , as all above answer , I think the right answer is:
    1) c
    2) b
    3) d
    4) a

    Many thanks

  • Comment number 13.

    Hello Catherine,
    nice to meet you. I see, you have visited a lot of countries. It must be very interesting experience. Which of this countries was your favourite?
    Have a nice day,
    Tereza (Czech republic)

  • Comment number 14.

    hello Catherine
    This is my frist time to come to the english learning blog.

  • Comment number 15.

    Hello Catherine ,

    Like your binominals so much, waiting for new ones :)
    my part of job:
    1 C
    2 B
    3 D
    4 A


  • Comment number 16.

    im sorry my english is not good ; but i try to answer 1c 2b 3d 4a thanks for all you do for us .

  • Comment number 17.

    Hello Catherine, nice to meet you.
    Your post, for me as a person who try to learn English, is very clear and easy reading. Thank you.
    Can't wait for story about travelling :)

  • Comment number 18.

    Hello Catherine! Nice to e-meet you.
    I found your post very interesting and I learnt something new about "binominals", in fact, I have never heard about this topic before.
    Doing my research about binominals I found this link at BBC LE, it's really useful for us. http://www.bbc.co.uk/worldservice/learningenglish/flatmates/episode81/languagepoint.shtml
    I am looking forward to reading your next posts.
    See you:)

  • Comment number 19.

    Hello Catherine,

    I am from Algeria. I'm studing in master lever and i have decided to improve my english. I find your website really interesting. So i'll try to participate as much as possible.

    My answers are as follow :

    (1) ------ (C)
    (2)------- (B)
    (3)------- (D)
    (4)------- (A)

    Best wishes


  • Comment number 20.

    Hi Catherine! Nice to meet you! Well, I am a student of English and I am Brazilian. I'm looking for new friends to conversation and learn English each more time. Sorry please if I write of manner wrong. I want to do a request to you that help me to learn English if possible.

  • Comment number 21.

    Hello Catherine,
    I'm ever so happy I came across this BBC-learning section! It's lovely to find more students sharing their thoughts and experiences.
    I'm an English student from Spain and I've been studying the language for the last 4 years or so. I absolutely love the language, specially its literature, it's very rich and interesting! My goal is to be able to communicate properly with any English speakers.
    I used to be very confident when it came to speaking English, but unfortunately I lost that hability, in fact I lost my confidence, I don't know when or how that happened, now I feel quite stressed when I'm asked to speak aloud in front of my classmates, It feels horrible! I wish I could find a way to get my confidence back! I'd much appreciate a piece of advice!
    About the questions, these are my answers.
    1 ----- c
    2 ----- b
    3 ----- d
    4 ----- a
    Thank you! :)
    I'm looking forward to reading your next post.

  • Comment number 22.

    these are my answers:

    1)- C
    2)- B
    3)- D
    4)- A


  • Comment number 23.

    Hi Catherine
    It's my frist comment on this blog. I read your article and I find it interested and useful.
    I think the answers are:
    Hope it will be correct. In addition, my English is not good, please correct for me if there has any mistake.
    Thank you
    Have a nice day!

  • Comment number 24.

    Hello Catherine! Here I am to say that it's a pleasure for me can talk to you. Your blog it's very interesting and I'm going to continue following you because I've very that learn with you. I hope that we can swap experiences and ideas.

  • Comment number 25.

    Hello Catherine! I go tell you a little about me: I was born and grew up in the Brazil and live with my parents until today in a little city of state of Ceará called Russas. I am 35 years old and I’m student of letters English in my city. Well, I never travelled to out from my country but I have a dream of one day meet London. So, I’m looking for new friends that can help me to better my English and I hope that you be one theirs. Since now I thank your help.

  • Comment number 26.

    Hi Catherine! How have you been? It is good to hear from you again. Thanks to your posts I will have learnt many new words by the end of February. Here are my answers: 1)C, 2)B, 3)D, 4)A. Have a great week ahead!! Ps: Going through some rough times is part of our life. The important thing is staying hard. :)

  • Comment number 27.

    The answers are: 1c; 2b; 3d and 4a

  • Comment number 28.

    1) bits and pieces – variety; and lots of different types
    (2) born and bred- was born and grew up
    (3) scrimped and saved- saved as much money as possible, by only spending money on things that were absolutely necessary
    (4) trials and tribulation-problems, challenges, difficulties
    Hi Cahtrine,

    welcome for this blog. it is really an interesting challenge. it is easy way to learn Phrases. looking for innovative method to learn more like this this whole month. I am really looking for to know the last challenge you had mentioned in your English teaching. I will also put my experience of learning English.

  • Comment number 29.

    Thanks for all your lovely comments everyone! I'm glad you liked my first blog. Check out my new blog - it's called 'Humour and Culture' to check your binominals homework answers and learn some bits and pieces about 'parallel form' :-))


  • Comment number 30.

    Hi Catherine:

    Thank you for learning such stuff here from your blog.I do really think these phrases are very helpful and useful to us.

    I have left my born and bred country for a month or so,due to some business.With refference to your post that you got itchy feet at your age of 32,I must say that I got itchy feet earlier than you got,and then I do the same thing like you do ,scrimped and saved all my money,for the reason of going abroad for tour.I do enjoy the feedom life alone.

    Besides,I'd like to say that I admire about your teache life very much.It makes you can travel all over the world.Whereas my work is too boring,and the pressure is always from inner relation of persons rather than work itself.My life make me like a hummer bird.I always upped sticks and left from one city to anothe,but there is a little help for my ability improvement.I prefer to another life which can face the trials and tribulations usually.A few hairy moment can make person stronger and more mature.

    Finally,I am looking forward to reading your unusual expenrice occured in bits and pieces place.

    All the best!

  • Comment number 31.

    Hello Catherine,

    Thank you for your first lesson!

    I hope you'll give us lots of different advice on how to improve our English writing skills. I'd like you to tell us about your home town where you were born and grew up, share your practical experience on how to save as much money as possible and work hard to achieve our goals. And it will be interesting to read your stories about your life in different countries, challenges and difficulties you faced with there.

    I'm eager to read your next post!


  • Comment number 32.

    hi Catherine, I'm mexican i would like you continue giving us more advices.


  • Comment number 33.

    It's too easy.no challenge.

  • Comment number 34.

    Hello Catherine, am Basma
    my answer are
    Have anice day ^^

  • Comment number 35.

    Hello, Catherine,
    It seems interesting after reading your article.My answer is:

  • Comment number 36.

    A very interesting lesson.
    But I think the word is actually 'binomials'.
    It is used in maths and in linguistics.


  • Comment number 37.

    Glad you liked the lesson cchat :-)

    You are quite right: in fact, 'binomials' is another word for 'binominals' - they are synomyms.


    Best wishes

  • Comment number 38.

    hello catherine

    I'm from indonesia and i'm learning english.
    Thanks a lot for your posting.
    keep posting.

  • Comment number 39.

    hello catherine hoping you will be always fit...well here is my anwser:
    and by now I guess you are next to your 46

  • Comment number 40.

    Hi Catherine,
    It is my first time writing the blog. It is your blog that intrigued me to write the blog.Your blog is quite helpful and informative.I hope we will always have been getting such knowledgeable blog from you.However,My answer is following:

    Thank you

    Keep writing bye and see you

    - Priyanjan

  • Comment number 41.

    Hi Catherine,

    Well, it sounds like almost everyone got the correct options. My answer is

    I would suggest to be offered more binominals so that i can extend my vocabulary competence. thanks

  • Comment number 42.

    Hello Catherine,

    it's the first time I write on this blog! I hope it will help me to improve my knowledge of English.
    That's my answer to your question:

    (1) bits and pieces a variety; lots of different types (c)
    (2) born and bred was born and grew up(b)
    (3) scrimped and saved saved as much money as possible, by only spending money on things that were absolutely necessary (d)
    (4) trials and tribulations problems, challenges, difficulties (a)

    Thank you.
    Best wishes,

    Maddalena (Rome)

  • Comment number 43.

    I have just looked it up in a dictionary and I found only the word binomials. Binominals ist from the statistic world. Is that right?

  • Comment number 44.

    hi catherine

    "I'm proud of participating on this blog.I'm from Pouso Alegre city (Brazil).Your text is very interesting and usefull.My answer is c,b,d,a in the sequence of the question.

    God bless you!

    Sergio Pivoto

  • Comment number 45.

    Hi, This is Sarah .This is my firest time to blog.I am interisted in this site because it incourage me to express my English language.

  • Comment number 46.

    hi. my name is vuqar. surname is shamilli.I want to make a plan for improving my english......I am from azerbaijan...I live in baku....baku is capital of azerbaijan...I study at the sate oil academy.....I am first year......My best aim is speakin english well,but I dont know that, what I must do? what kind of books I must use.....I have gone to many course, my level is pre-intermediate...I can speak a little.....I need a good plan........if you give a good advice mee, I will glad

  • Comment number 47.

    Hello Catherine,

    This is my first comment on the blog in bbc.
    My English is not so good and i would like to improve my English.
    I hope you'll give us lots of different advice on how to improve our English.
    My answer is:


  • Comment number 48.

    Hello Catherine,
    This ia the first time I sent comment on the blog in bbc and my E is not good to comminucate
    I realy want to improve my English so please help me to be better

  • Comment number 49.

    Hello Catherine,
    I am from Vietnam, I am learning English to apply a foreign company to work.
    And this is the first time i write to foreigner so i am very nevous
    i am very happy to be able to talk to you to improve my English
    Thanks and best regard,

  • Comment number 50.

    Hello Catherine,
    nice to meet you.
    it's very nice to read your blog.
    i love it.
    my answers are
    1. C
    2. B
    3. D
    4. A

  • Comment number 51.

    Hello Catherine,
    nice to meet you and i proud joined bbc learning English.
    i am musytaqo from Indonesia.
    very nice to read your blog and i love it.
    my answers are
    1. C
    2. B
    3. D
    4. A
    I hope it will be corect. ^^

  • Comment number 52.

    I have a question about English grammar! I’m using your web site especially (Ask about English)point. When I tried to making out topic “Adjective order” I couldn’t clearly understand difference between “opinion” and “quality”. What sort of words we must use as “opinion” and “quality”?
    For example: you wrote (a beautiful??? old Indian carpet) where are a beautiful mean quality. But my opinion it’s ugly. If you say a new old Indian carpet of course I can’t bet with you after that because it’s really a new (fact = quality) carpet. We can write “a beautiful(opinion) big old Indian carpet” or “a big beautiful(quality) old Indian carpet”. Please help me understand this point!
    Best regard!

  • Comment number 53.

    Good morning Catherine from Lyon, France
    Have been doing EFL training for a number of years, now based here and have finally decided to take the plunge and sign up to the wonderfyul resources made available by the BBC. I'm really trying to find ways for my trainees to adhere to English in self-help with my staff acting as door opener, guide and reviewer to make contact time as profitable as possible. Lyon is home to a major homeopathic medicine lab so I've sort of introduced "homeopathic" English. Small doses, regularly and as painleesly as possible. Needless to say, like the treatment, there needs to be a certain amount of faith.

    Well, that's just an intro but I am particularly happy to now know what binomials or binominals are. Wow. Now I can put a name on what I've been using.

    Keep up the good work

  • Comment number 54.

    Thanks Catherine a lot and I would like to guide me to answer of this question : How I could be an certified teacher in my native language specially I am not graduated from this major ?
    Note : My native language is Arabic and I need to be an Arabic Teacher for foreigners because I like Arabic very much and have good background of it .
    waiting your sincerely reply
    Mohamed Gamal
    Egypt - Cairo


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