Commonly Confused Idioms And The Correct Way To Say Them

Even celebs get these wrong ...

Idioms are great … until they’re not. When properly used, these sayings can pepper our speech with personality and color our conversations. While they don’t translate literally, their meaning is usually well understood—if they’re used correctly.

When idioms are misused, quite a bit can be lost in translation, leaving the audience scratching their heads. A gaffe between friends is one thing, but what about when the whole world is listening? Like when former President Barack Obama slipped up during a 2013 New Year’s Eve speech.

He said if they thought any government spending cuts wouldn’t be coming with tax increases, “then they’ve got another thing coming.” The thing is … that's not the correct way to say that idiom!

Scroll through for the right way to say that idiom as well as some of the other most common misused idioms. Have you ever gotten these wrong?


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

"For all intensive purposes"

"Nip it in the butt"

This is a reference to gardening. If a plant is "nipped in the bud," it doesn't grow. Simple as that.

"One in 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"

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"

"I could care less"

"Each one worse than the next"

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. The correct idiom is "each one worse than the last."

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

"Statue 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"

"It's a doggy dog world"

"First-come, first-serve"

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: first-come, first-served.

"Extract 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.

"Wet 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.

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