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 English Vocabulary for ESL learners 


Fixed expressions where two words are joined by a conjunction or a preposition

Binomials, or binomial expressions, are frequently used by native speakers of English. The word order of a binomial pair is usually fixed, and to use them in a different order would sound strange to a native speaker.
Here are some common binomials:

Odds and ends Various small items.
Small tasks to finish.
Part of the garage was full of odds and ends.
I've got to take care of a few odds and ends before I leave.
On and off Intermittently; sometimes. I've been suffering from backache on and off this past year.
Out and about  Go out regularly and take part in an activity My mother was ill for a while but she’s out and about again. 
Out and out Absolute; complete Don’t trust that man. He’s an out-an-out liar!
Part and parcel An integral or essential part of something. Travel is part and parcel of the job.
Peace and quiet Freedom from stress and noise; a period of calm. I just can't concentrate. I need some peace and quiet.
Pick and choose Select only certain things and reject the others. You must obey all  the rules. You can't pick and choose!
Pins and needles A tingling sensation in a part of the body. I lay curled up for so long that I had pins and needles in my legs." 
Pride and joy  Something that makes you feel proud and happy  The house he built is his pride and joy
Prim and proper Formal and socially correct She's too prim and proper to be seen drinking beer!
Pros and cons
The good and bad sides of something; the advantages and disadvantages. Before we decide on anything we should discuss the pros and cons.
Pure and simple  Plainly, without exaggeration or further explanation  If you cheat, you fail the exam – that’s the rule, pure and simple
Rank and file The ordinary workers or members of an organisation - not the leaders The minister remains popular with the party rank and file.
Rant and rave Speak loudly and angrily about something. You can rant and rave about the rules but you still have to obey them!
Rough and ready Hastily prepared but sufficient for the purpose. Without formality or refinement. The map of the area was rough and ready, but we found our way.
Rules and regulations Instructions as to what is allowed or forbidden. The rules and regulations in our school are very strict.
Safe and sound Not injured or hurt in any way. After the avalanche all of the skiers were found safe and sound.
Short and sweet Brief but pleasant or appropriate. His introductory speech was short and sweet - which suited everyone!
Sick and tired Annoyed or frustrated with something to the point of weariness. Tom was sick and tired of having to explain the problem over and over again.
Sink or swim  Succeed or fail solely through your own efforts  After a brief explanation the new recruit was left to sink or swim
Skin and bone  Be very thin or emaciated. She was nothing but skin and bone after a severe illness. 
Sooner or later Eventually; at some time in the future I’ve mislaid my bracelet but I’ll find it sooner or later.
Step by step From one stage to the next. The whole procedure was explained to us step by step.
The long and (the) short Used to explain something without giving the details The long and short of it is that I just don't want to go.
Toss and turn Move around restlessly in bed because you are unable to sleep. She tossed and turned all night, and woke up feeling exhausted.
Trial and error Solving a problem by trying different methods and learning from mistakes. Some things we have to learn by trial and error.
Trials and tribulations The difficulties we face in life It's a book about the trials and tribulations of living abroad.
Tried and true Tested and known to be reliable A cup of warm milk is my tried-and-true remedy for insomnia.
Up and coming Showing great promise or likely to achieve success Nowadays he’s meeting competition from up-and-coming players.
Ups and downs A mixture of both good and bad experiences or events. Anne and Tony have had their ups and downs but they're still together.
Wear and tear Damage that happens gradually over time due to everyday use. After several years of wear and tear we had to buy a new sofa.
Weird and wonderful Strange or unusual but ingenious A collection of weird and wonderful inventions was on display.
Wine and dine Entertain someone with a good meal The company likes to wine and dine good customers.

Please note that British English spelling is used on this website.

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