Commonly Confused Idioms And The Correct Way To Say Them

"For all intensive purposes"


Think you know all the answers ... take our quiz before you read the slideshow.

"For all intents and purposes"

The two phrases might sound incredibly similar, but your grammar-correcting friend will be quick to point out that the correct idiom is "for all intents and purposes." It's used to convey "for all practical purposes" or "virtually." The next time this comes up in conversation, take the opportunity to teach them a fun new term: eggcorn.


WATCH: We Asked These People What Words They Always Say Wrong …

"Nip it in the butt"

"Nip it in the bud"

As much as we get a giggle from thinking about nipping it in the butt, the correct word here is bud. Like trimming a flower bud before it grows too much. You get it.

"One in the same"

"One and the same"

Here's another idiom that sounds similar, but if you write them out, you will realize they are not "one and the same." When you use this idiom, you're basically just adding emphasis to the sameness.

"Should/Could/Would Of"

"Should/Could/Would Have"

When speaking or writing quickly, of comes more naturally, but sadly it is incorrect. We all should have used have. Ah, next time!

"You've got another thing coming"

"You've got another think coming"

This was a new one, even for us.

The actual phrase "you've got another think coming" can be traced back to an old-fashioned idiom, "If that’s what you think, you’ve got another think coming." This idiom is intentionally ungrammatical, so modern users find it more natural to land on "another thing." Even President Obama has made the mistake.

"I could care less"

"I couldn't care less"

Think about this one. If you COULD care less, there is an opportunity for you to care less about the subject at hand. But ... if you really want to express your zero f*#*s attitude, try couldn't care less. Sorry, not sorry.

"Each one worse than the next"

"Each one worse than the last"

Here's another one that makes sense if you just think about the meaning of the words. You can't say something is worst than the next because you don't know what the next one will be.

But you do know about the last one, and that's where this idiom comes into play.

"Statue of limitations"

"Statute of limitations"

Can we have a statue erected for the dictionary? No?

No statues in this idiom either. The phrase refers to the statute, or law in question.

"A complete 360"

"A complete 180"

Pull out your protractors. If you turn 360 degrees, you're back where you started. Turn 180 degrees and you've got a new perspective on life.

"It's a doggy dog world"

"It's a dog eat dog world"

Moar doggos!

This idiom suffers in the slurring of words as well, but the correct phrase "dog eat dog" refers to when everyone is looking out for themselves. Kind of like if dogs start fighting with each other to get to that sweet, sweet bone.

"First-come, first-serve"

"First-come, first-served"

This tricky one just comes down to verb tense, but c'mon. We're the dictionary; we're allowed to be a little pedantic.

When using the idiom meaning the first one to arrive is served first, remember that it's past tense.

"Extract revenge"

"Exact revenge"

The use of exact as a verb meaning to demand or request something is lesser known than the similar meaning of extract, but the former is still correct. The next time you want to get retribution, you know the exact way to do it.

Even CNN can get it wrong.

"Wet your appetite"

"Whet your appetite"

You'll never know the difference here unless you're spelling it, but the correct word is whet, which means "to sharpen or stimulate." Just like your appetite when you start smelling those dinner aromas.

Sign up for our Newsletter!
Start your day with weird words, fun quizzes, and language stories.
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

The Dictionary Is More Than The Word Of The Day

Enter your email for quizzes, quotes, and word facts in your inbox every day.
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.