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Binomials 2: black and white

Alice, Helen and Kitty in Helen's bedroom


There are many phrases in English that use two words connected with 'and'. For example, black and white, milk and sugar. These expressions are known as binomials. In these phrases the word order is usually fixed; we say black and white, we don't say white and black.

The following binomials are noun, verb and adjective phrases.

Nouns - colours and shapes:

black and white: written down
She was really excited to see her name in black and white in the newspaper. It made her feel very important.

black and blue: bruised, an injury or mark where the skin is darker in colour, often as a result of being hit by something
Poor guy! First they stole his wallet and then they beat him black and blue. He was in hospital for a week after the attack.

salt and pepper: hair that is a mixture of dark hairs and grey or white hairs
She's only 30 but she looks so distinguished with her salt and pepper hair.

stars and stripes: the USA flag
The athlete cried when she heard the national anthem and saw the stars and stripes raised in the Olympic stadium.

Nouns - food:

sweet and sour: two flavours that give food the combined flavours of sugar and spice
Fancy some sweet and sour chicken from the Chinese take-away tonight?

bread and butter: simple, plain sandwich
I'm not really hungry. I'll just have some bread and butter for lunch.

ham and eggs: typical British breakfast of pig meat (pork) and eggs
He loves to have a big fried breakfast at the weekend, with ham and eggs and all the rest.

bangers and mash: (informal) sausages and mashed potatoes
The kids love bangers and mash. It's so easy to make so that's great for me too.

Verbs and adjectives - housework:

cook and clean: (verb) make a meal or bake a cake and then wash and tidy up afterwards
I've been cooking and cleaning all day long. I'm exhausted.

wash and dry: (verb) using water and washing up liquid to clean dishes and then to dry them with a cloth
The party was great. Let's leave the washing and drying till tomorrow morning.

clean and tidy: (adjective) cleared up
Go up to your room and get to work! I want to see it clean and tidy before you go out.

spic and span: (adjective) very clean
She's incredibly house-proud. The whole place is always so spic and span. I don't know how she finds the time to keep it so tidy.


a mess
dirty or untidy

I didn't see it coming
I didn't realise this was going to happen. It wasn't obvious to me

to see it down in black and white
to read something written in a letter, book, newspaper etc.

the brunt of it
the main force of something unpleasant

I went off on one (informal)
I became very angry and lost my temper


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