Nonreversible Word Pairs

Set Phrases with Example Sentences

Certain words go together like bread and water. Bread and water is an example of a word pair that is always used in that order. In other words, we don't say water and bread. This type of word pair is called nonreversible. In many ways, they are like collocations - words that usually go together. Students can use this list with examples to learn the most common nonreversible word pairs. Teachers can use this resource in class to help student learn these set phrases.

Once you are comfortable with these phrases, continue learning set phrases and collocations. Teachers can explore using set phrases in teaching techniques with the lexical approach.

Adam and Eve

Walking through this beautiful park makes it seem like we are Adam and Eve.
Adam and Eve enjoyed a guilt free life before the big mistake that started it all.

bacon and eggs

I love having bacon and eggs for breakfast.
Would you like bacon and eggs this morning?

back and forth

We went back and forth on whether to buy the house or not.
The messages went back and forth until a decision was made.

bread and water

It's very hard, but not impossible, to live on bread and water.
Many movies show prisoners who only receive bread and water.

bride and groom

The bride and groom are very happy today!
Look at the lovely bride and handsome groom.

business and pleasure

Many people say that it's not a good idea to mix business and pleasure.
Have you ever gone a holiday that mixed business and pleasure?

cause and effect

Cause and effect are not always clear.
There are certain linking words which show cause and effect.

cream and sugar

I take cream and sugar in my coffee.
Would you like cream and sugar in your tea?

crime and punishment

We have been discussing crime and punishment in English class this month.
Crime and Punishment is a famous novel by Dostoyevsky.

cup and saucer

Could you pass me the cup and saucer?
Let's have some tea. Could you set the table with cups and saucers?

dead or alive

The criminal is wanted dead or alive.
The days of the wild west were famous for notices looking for criminals dead or alive.

fish and chips

I had some fish and chips for dinner yesterday.
One of the most famous dishes in England is fish and chips.

fun and games

Life is not all fun and games.
Did you think school would be all fun and games?

hammer and nail

Use a hammer and nail to put those two boards together.
Grab a hammer and nails and help me with this project.

husband and wife

The husband and wife appeared to be on vacation.
Did you see the husband and wife staying in room 203?

in and out

I have to go to work. I'll be in and out in a flash.
Let's go in and out of the store.

knife and fork

Could you put the knives and forks on the table?
I need anther knife and fork.

ladies and gentlemen

Ladies and gentlemen, it's my pleasure to welcome you tonight.
Ladies and gentlemen, I'd like to introduce you to Bill Hampton.

law and order

Most people desire law and order in their community.
Law and order is one of the prime responsibilities of government.

life or death

Many people seem to go about work as if it were a matter of life or death.
I feel like this is a life or death situation.

lock and key

Some parents try to keep their teenagers under lock and key.
Our jewelry is kept under lock and key.

lost and found

Look for your coat in the lost and found.
Where is the lost and found department?

name and address

Please provide your name and address on this form.
Could I have your name and address, please?

pen and pencil

Bring pen and pencil to class on Monday.
I always make sure I have pen and pencil by the telephone.

pots and pans

I spent three hours washing the pots and pans.
We keep our pots and pans in that cupboard.

profit and loss

The profit and loss report will be out on Friday.
Could you go over the profit and loss figures for last quarter?

rain or shine

I'll make sure to come rain or shine.
We're having a picnic on Saturday - rain or shine.

read and write

Reading and writing are the two most important skills for this course.
How old were you when you learned to read and write?

right and / or wrong

Can you tell the difference between right and wrong?
He doesn't care if it is right or wrong.

rise and fall

The rise and fall of Rome is fascinating.
Some people feel that the rise and fall of this country is already behind us.

salt and pepper

Could you pass the salt and pepper?
I like salt and pepper on my eggs.

shirt and tie

Be sure to wear a shirt and tie to the interview.
Do I need to wear a shirt and tie?

shoes and socks

You can't get into this restaurant without shoes and socks.
Put on your shoes and socks and let's go.

soap and water

Wash your hands with soap and water.
You'll find soap and water in the bathroom.

sooner or later

Sooner or later we'll all know the truth.
I'll do it sooner or later.

suit and tie

I wore a suit and tie to the party.
That's a nice suit and tie!

supply and demand

The market system runs on supply and demand.
The laws of supply and demand decide a products' success or failure.

sweet and sour

I love sweet and sour chicken.
Would you like sweet and sour Chinese food tonight?

trial and error

Children learn through trial and error.
Most business success occurs through trial and error.

up and / or down

I'd like you to vote this procedure up or down?
Should we go up or down the stairs?

war and peace

Life can be difficult in times of war and peace.
War and Peace was written by Tolstoy.

wine and cheese

Let's have some wine and cheese this afternoon.
They had wine and cheese at the party.

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Your Citation
Beare, Kenneth. "Nonreversible Word Pairs." ThoughtCo, Apr. 2, 2017, thoughtco.com/nonreversible-word-pairs-1209931. Beare, Kenneth. (2017, April 2). Nonreversible Word Pairs. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/nonreversible-word-pairs-1209931 Beare, Kenneth. "Nonreversible Word Pairs." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/nonreversible-word-pairs-1209931 (accessed November 19, 2017).