hit and miss: meaning and explanation

If something is hit and miss or hit-and-miss, then it is inconsistent or unreliable in terms of its quality, reliability etc.

If an author is a bit hit and miss, then some of their books are good, some of them are bad.

If trains from London to Oxford are a bit hit and miss, sometimes they are on time, sometimes they are late or cancelled.

If a technique is hit and miss, then sometimes it is effective and sometimes it doesn’t work.

‘Hit and miss’ is an example of a binomial expression, which are fixed phrases consisting of two words connected by ‘and’. Common examples are black and white, give and take, pros and cons. The word order of binomials is usually fixed – you can’t say ‘miss and hit’ or ‘white and black’. Many binomials are idiomatic, and the meaning is not easy to guess directly (e.g. ‘bits and bobs’).

Dictation #1

Accent: England (RP)

The excellent , service a bit .
The food always excellent , but the service to be a bit and miss.

…the service tends to be a bit hit and miss…

to tend to do sth is a useful verb to use when you want to describe what is normally true about something, e.g. Films in the UK tend to start about 30 minutes later than you expect them to, because of all the adverts.

Discussion question

Write your answer to this question in the comments section, and I’ll get back to you with some feedback:

  • Give me an example of something which is a bit hit and miss (e.g. a place you eat, a TV series, an author). In what way is it hit and miss?

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