Commonly confused phrases
December 31st, 2013 in Style Guide
Even experienced writers often mess up common phrases. Here is a list of common phrases that most of us seem to get wrong frequently.
1: Nip it in the butt
Correct phrase: Nip it in the bud
To nip something in the bud is to put an end to it before it gets an opportunity to grow.
Bad habits, for example, need to be nipped in the bud.
A butt, on the other hand, is a push or blow especially one given with the head.
2: I could care less
Correct phrase: I couldn’t care less
The phrase ‘I could care less’ seems to suggest that you do care a little. To mean that you don’t care at all, you have to use the phrase ‘I couldn’t care less’.
‘Sophia is really upset with you.’ ‘I couldn’t care less.’ (= I don’t care at all.)
3: One in the same
Correct phrase: One and the same
Use ‘one and the same’ to mean that two things are the same.
Socks and stockings are almost one and the same.
4: You’ve got another thing coming
Correct phrase: You’ve got another think coming
Well, here the phrase ‘You have got another thing coming’ is not exactly incorrect. In fact, it makes a lot of sense and has become quite acceptable.
Interestingly the original phrase ‘If that is what you think, you have got another think coming’ is rarely used.
5: Each one worse than the next
Correct phrase: Each one worse than the last
The phrase ‘each one worse than the next’ doesn’t make much sense because few people are equipped with that ability to foresee the future.
The phrase ‘each one worse than the last’ is used to suggest that the current situation is not better than the previous one. In fact, it is worse.
6: For all intensive purposes
Correct phrase: For all intents and purposes
No matter how strongly you feel about your purpose, the phrase ‘for all intensive purposes’ is incorrect. Another common mistake is to replace for with ‘with’.