English Trinomials: Examples and Meanings

As you probably know by now, if you’ve read other articles in this blog, I love the English language: the grammar, the vocabulary, etc. I even love the damn English phrasal verbs! I must be a bit crazy. Anyway, today, I’m going to teach you the concept of English trinomials, which are a bit rare but are present here and there in the English language, and so I thought you might be interested as well! 

What are English trinomials?

English trinomials are popular idiomatic expressions consisting of three main words that appear together in a fixed order. So they’re basically three-word, fixed collocations in English. For example: drugs, sex and rock’n’roll

Where does the word trinomial come from?

The Latin prefix “tri-” refers to “having three” and “-nomial” derives from Greek “nomos”, which means “part” or “portion”. And, as you will have guessed, we also have English binomials. 

List of English trinomial examples

Here’s arguably the most comprehensive list of common English trinomials

  • beg, borrow and steal
  • blood, sweat and tears
  • cool, calm and collected
  • could’ve, would’ve, should’ve
  • eat, drink and be merry
  • good, bad, or indifferent
  • here, there and everywhere
  • hook, line and sinker
  • hop, skip, and jump
  • ifs, ands or buts
  • left, right and centre
  • lock, stock, and barrel
  • morning, noon , and night
  • nasty, brutish and short
  • ready, willing, and able
  • this, that and the other
  • Tom, Dick, and Harry
  • way, shape or form

English trinomials: meanings and sample sentences

beg, borrow and steal

  • Meaning: Do whatever may be necessary to acquire something greatly desired.
  • Example: «I’m gonna get the money to buy Casey’s ring, even if I have to beg, borrow, or steal.»

blood, sweat and tears

  • Meaning: Extremely hard work; unstinting effort.
  • Example: «He’s going through all the blood, sweat, and tears involved in getting a PhD.»

cool, calm and collected

  • Meaning: Not upset or very bothered by things.
  • Example: «My brother is always calm, cool, and collected.»

could’ve, would’ve, should’ve

  • Meaning: Used in response to someone making excuses, meaning you cannot change the past.
  • Example:
    A: “It’s not my fault! Everyone else should have shown up on time, so I could have served the food when it was hot!”
    B: “Right, could’ve, would’ve, should’ve!»

eat, drink and be merry

  • Meaning: A proverb that promotes enjoying life in the moment, commonly said at a party or other festive gathering. It’s the first part of a longer proverb: «Eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we may die.»
  • Example: «Eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we may die.»

good, bad, or indifferent

  • Meaning: Having a positive, negative, or null effect. Often used to pose a question about something, especially in the titles of articles.
  • Example: «The new study investigates whether this new drug is good, bad, or indifferent when it comes to treating Alzheimer’s disease.»

here, there and everywhere

  • Meaning: In many different places; all over.
  • Example: «I’ve been looking for you here, there, and everywhere.»

hook, line and sinker

  • Meaning: Used to emphasize that someone has been completely deceived or tricked.
  • Example: «He fell hook, line, and sinker for this year’s April Fool joke.»

hop, skip, and jump

  • Meaning: A short distance.
  • Example: «The restaurant was just a hop, skip, and a jump from our hotel.»

ifs, ands or buts

  • Meaning: Used to indicate certainty.
  • Example: «As far as I’m concerned, she’s the most qualified candidate, and there are no ifs, ands, or buts about it!»

left, right and centre

  • Meaning: On all sides.
  • Example: «Deals were being done left, right, and centre.»

lock, stock, and barrel

  • Meaning: Including everything; completely.
  • Example: «The place is owned lock, stock, and barrel by an oil company.»

morning, noon , and night

  • Meaning: All of the time.
  • Example: «I never would’ve dreamed I would eat lobster morning, noon, and night, for free.»

nasty, brutish and short

  • Meaning: It refers to how life is experienced when at war or in a horrible situation.
  • Example: «The country is in strife, life truly is nasty, brutish and short.»

ready, willing, and able

  • Meaning: Well prepared and eager to do something.
  • Example: «Any time you want me to babysit, I’m ready, willing, and able.»

this, that and the other

  • Meaning: Various unspecified things.
  • Example: «They stayed up chatting about this, that and the other.»

Tom, Dick, and Harry

  • Meaning: Used to refer to ordinary people in general.
  • Example: «The didn’t want every Tom, Dick, and Harry knowing their business.»

way, shape or form

  • Meaning: In any manner or under any circumstances (used for emphasis).
  • Example: «This definitely wasn’t a normal job in any way, shape, or form, but it certainly was interesting.»

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