There are several expressions and phrases in English that are often misconstrued. Sometimes the speaker just substitutes a different word with a similar sound and sometimes the expression morphs into something else entirely. Some expressions are spoken incorrectly, but mended when they are written down. Regardless of the reason for the mistake, we’re here to clear things up. Below we’ve listed some of the most commonly confused expressions and explanations for their correct forms.
I could care less
When you say I could care less about that, what you’re really saying is that you do care to some extent. This expression is used to describe your lack of care or concern for whatever the topic is, so you should be using “couldn’t” instead of “could”.
I couldn’t care less about going to that party
I have no interest in going.
I couldn’t care less about what strangers think of me.
I am not concerned with strangers’ opinions of me.
He did good
This commonly confused expression stems from using the words good and well interchangeably. The reason for the error is the misunderstanding of adverbs and adjectives. Good is an adjective, which describes a noun. Well is an adverb, which describes a verb. He did well follows correct grammar, but he did good does not.
- He swam well.
- He is a good swimmer.
Nip it in the butt
This is an example where a common phrase is repeated incorrectly so often that it takes on a life of its own. Nip it in the bud means to stop something, or cut it off in the early stages. The “bud” refers to the de-budding of plants to keep them from growing. Nip it in the butt sounds like a dog sank their teeth into someone’s behind.
- Aggressive behavior is not okay, so we want to nip it in the bud before it gets too serious.
- The project was doomed for failure so they nipped it in the bud.
One in the same
The incorrect version of this expression and the correct version sound almost identical, but you can clearly see the mistake when it is written. Grammatically, one in the same doesn’t make any sense. The phrase one and the same is used to express that two things are one.
- The husband of the victim and the murderer were one and the same.
- Batman and Bruce Wayne are one and the same.
If you can do something on purpose, can you also do it on accident? Unfortunately, no. Prepositions can be confusing, particularly for phrases that are opposites. You can do something by accident, but not on accident.
- I crashed my bike by accident.
- I fell down and spilled my coffee by accident.
Irregardless is not a word. Regardless means without regard. Simple as that!
- We are going to see a Broadway show, regardless of the cost!
- You should be nice to people, regardless of how they treat you.
For all intensive purposes
This phrase is a funny one when you see it written down. What is an intensive purpose? Is it quite serious? The correct phrase here is for all intents and purposes, which means “in every practical sense.”
- The library, for all intents and purposes, is part of the University’s Campus.
- For all intents and purposes the contract should be ignored.
You’ve got another thing coming
If you think there’s nothing wrong with this phrase then you’re in good company. This expression has been misused and misstated so many times that the correct version seems strange. When you want to tell someone that they are wrong, you should be saying you’ve got another think coming. This is to say that their original thought is wrong, and they are going to have to think about it again.
- If you expect this to be easy you’ve got another think coming.
- You’ve got another think coming if you plan to get into college with poor grades.
First come, first serve
This phrase is meant to mean that the first to arrive will be the first to eat, or the first to play, or the first to get something, etc. When used incorrectly it sounds as though the first to arrive will be the first to serve the others. The correct use is first come, first served.
- We only have 40 pieces of cake, so it’s first come, first served.
- Seats will only be available on a first come, first served basis.