‘back and forth’, ‘by and large’, ‘safe and sound’, ‘out and about’, ‘more or less’, ‘wear and tear’, ‘hustle and bustle’, ‘ups and downs’

Earlier this year, I shared 12 binomial expressions commonly used in English and gave examples with a business context. The post was extremely popular and was shared by many people. Thank you. Its popularity made me think that a further post with more examples might be welcome.

So here I am. Let’s start off with describing what binomials or word pairs are in English. Binomials are two words that are linked by a conjunction (usually and/or) and used together as a fixed expression. The word order is fixed which means that you can’t say ‘forth and back‘ or ‘large and by’. Most languages, as far as I know, have similar expressions.

In this post, I’d like to share 14 more binomial expressions commonly used in English. I want to show you in particular how these binomials are used in a business context.


1. All or nothing – something you would do completely or not at all
We cannot take an all or nothing approach in our business. We must be prepared to compromise.

2. To be at someone’s beck and call – when you are at someone’s service to do what they want you to do.
If he wants to work all the hours of the day that’s up to him. The trouble is he expects us all to be at his beck and call day and night.

3. Bells and whistles – special features that are added to a product or service. It’s often used in Marketing language.
You can order the basic service or for an extra £20 you can get all the bells and whistles included in the package.

4. Bread and Butter – a job or activity that provides the main income for a business
Small businesses are our bread and butter and we would be reckless to upset them.

5. Cut and dried – we can use this expression in two ways
Simple to understand: Their instructions are cut and dried. They want us to deliver to by Monday at the very latest or we might as well forget the deal.
Final decision no room for change: We need a cut – and- dried decision by the end of the week.

6. Dos and don’ts – the general rules that businesses have of what can and cannot be done
There are some basic dos and don’ts of email marketing that most people accept.

7. Last but not least– something that is equally important even if it’s mentioned at the end.
Last but not least, I’d like to thank the events team for organising a fantastic evening.

8. Life-and-death (adjective) – Something that is important and serious
The refugee crisis is a life-and -death matter. We cannot treat it so lightly.

9. Make or break – an expression that is very common in business to mean a situation or event or period that is extremely important because it can make something succeed or fail. It’s often used in the following ways:
A make or break decision/situation
A make or break deal – This is a make or break deal. We must make this work for us.
Christmas is often a make- or-break time for small retailers.

10. Nuts and bolts – the practical facts of something instead of the theory
When you look at the nuts and bolts of running a business, you soon realise it’s not as easy as it sounds.

11. Part and parcel -a feature of something that cannot be avoided
Working long hours is part and parcel of running your own business.

12. Song and dance – a long and complicated story or statement that sometimes is not true
Oh, she made such a song and dance (statement) about how busy she was and how she couldn’t possibly take on more work.
He gave me a song and dance (story) about how difficult it was to get good workers these days.

13. Fight tooth and nail – work very hard to get something
We fought tooth and nail to get to where we are now and I am not going to give up now.

14. touch and go – an uncertain situation
For a few days the negotiations were in real danger of collapsing. It was touch and go. Scary!

I hope you found this second post in my binomials series useful. If you did, please share it with your friends and colleagues.

Be sure to download my FREE guide on the 10 ways to better communication in English at work (see below). Not only will you receive my tips in a handy e-book, but you will also receive my FREE weekly lessons, like this post, directly to your inbox.

Ciao for now


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