An ELT Glossary : Binomial and trinomial expressions


Binomials are fixed lexical chunks which consist of two words of the same word class joined by a co-ordinating conjunction. Trinomials have three words of the same class joined by a co-ordinating conjunction.

Examples - Binomials

sick and tired
ups and downs
sink or swim
poor but honest

Examples - Trinomials

hook, line and sinker
tall, dark and handsome
beg, steal or borrow
lock, stock and barrel

- Binomials and trinomials are fully fixed  - items cannot be substituted, and the order of the items cannot be reversed.

- They often include devices such as alliteration (repetition of the same consonant sound), eg part and parcel, sink or swim - or rhyme, eg hustle and bustle, wine and dine, make or break.