We all make mistakes; this is as true in speech and language as it is in life. However, the difference is that when it comes to language we don’t always know when we are wrong. Sometimes we can’t find the right word or we doubt something as soon as we’ve said it, but in many cases we are completely oblivious when we have uttered something erroneous.
For this reason, many people continue to repeat incorrect versions of common phrases, thinking that they are in fact just using an everyday phrase the way it was intended to be used. They may eventually discover that they are misusing the phrase much to their embarrassment, but more often than not they persevere blissfully unaware of the mistakes coming out of their mouth.
To prove this point, you will find a number of common and frequently-used phrases below with both the correct and incorrect versions. Maybe you know someone who has been getting one of these examples wrong, or maybe you’ve been mistaken yourself; whatever the case, make sure to check out this list to ensure that you avoid these mistakes in the future.
- ‘For all intensive purposes‘ (Wrong); ‘For all intents and purposes‘ (Right) – To show that all possibilities and outcomes have been considered, you should use the correct phrase ‘for all intents and purposes’.
- ‘I could care less‘ (Wrong); ‘I couldn’t care less‘ (Right) – To say you ‘could care less’ implies that you do care to a certain degree. If you want to indicate that you don’t care at all, stick with the correct phrase.
- ‘One in the same‘ (Wrong); ‘One and the same‘ (Right) – To compare two things that are virtually identical you say they are ‘one and the same’.
- ‘Shoe-in‘ (Wrong); ‘Shoo-in‘ (Right) – If you’re describing something or someone that is guaranteed to win or succeed, remember to say ‘shoo-in’ not ‘shoe-in’.
- ‘Peak someone’s interest‘ (Wrong); ‘Pique someone’s interest‘ (Right) – If you want to arouse someone’s curiosity, then you’re looking for the second option in this case.
- ‘Mute point‘ (Wrong); ‘Moot point‘ (Right) – Unless you’re referring to a silent point, you should be using the word ‘moot’ to say something is irrelevant.
- ‘Nerve-wrecking‘ (Wrong); ‘Nerve-racking‘ (Right) – Although you might feel like something is ‘wrecking’ your nerves, the correct word here is ‘nerve-racking’.
- ‘Deep-seeded‘ (Wrong); ‘Deep-seated‘ (Right) – While ‘deep-seeded’ does seem logical, the phrase is actually ‘deep-seated’ meaning established at a deep or profound level.
- ‘Escape goat‘ (Wrong); ‘Scapegoat‘ (Right) – This one is fairly obvious, but worth including as it is something that people seem to get wrong.
- ‘Without further adieu‘ (Wrong); ‘Without further ado‘ (Right) – You’re not cutting short a goodbye, you’re expressing a wish for no trouble or difficulty.
- ‘Should of‘ (Wrong); ‘Should have‘ (Right) – This one is understandable due to the way it sounds, but remember that ‘should have’ is the correct version.
- ‘Case and point‘ (Wrong); ‘Case in point‘ (Right) – When giving an example of the thing you’re discussing, the correct version to use is ‘case in point’.
- ‘Wet your appetite‘ (Wrong); ‘Whet your appetite‘ (Right) – ‘Whet’ meaning to sharpen or stimulate is the correct way of writing this common phrase.
We hope you enjoyed this article. If you can think of any other examples we’d be happy to read them in the comment section below. For a more complete list, feel free to check the sources below.
- Lifehack, ’25 Common phrases that you’re saying wrong’. Available here [accessed on 23/01/18].
- Work+Money, ‘Commonly misused phrases that will make you sound unprofessional’. Available here [accessed on 23/01/18].
Liam Kennedy – Schuman Trainee at the Terminology Coordination Unit of the European Parliament. Graduate of Journalism with a Language (French) at Dublin Institute of Technology. Completed a Masters in Translation Studies at University College Cork.