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Who would have thought that so many people misuse the most common phrases? Let's take a look at 17 phrases you may be saying incorrectly.

"I could care less" and "I could literally eat a horse" are two of the most commonly misused phrases in the English language. While you may or may not be using them correctly, chances are you hear phrases being misused all the time — and it's probably one of your biggest pet peeves! Let's look at 17 of the most commonly misused phrases and learn the proper way to say them. We won't tell anyone if you forward it to a few people you may know.

1
It's a doggy-dog world.

Correct way to say it: It's a dog-eat-dog world.

Meaning: There's no such thing as a "doggy-dog" world. The expression goes all the way back to 43 B.C. when Roman scholar and writer Marcus Terentius Varro (comparing principles of humanity to that of animals) stated that even "a dog will not eat dog." A "dog-eat-dog" world is defined as ruthless behavior to get what you want... so look out.

2
For all intensive purposes...

Correct way to say it: For all intents and purposes… 

Meaning: "Intensive" means your purpose is intense. "Intents and purposes" means practical.

3
I'm suppose to go grocery shopping today.

Correct way to say it: I'm supposed to go grocery shopping today.

Meaning: "Suppose to" is grammatically incorrect. Don't forget to add a "d" to the end.

4
The baby literally screamed all night.

Correct way to say it: The baby screamed for half the night.

Meaning: "Literally" implies that it's true. Don't say "literally" unless it's a fact!

5
the toddler spilled his milk on accident.

Correct way to say it: The toddler spilled his milk by accident.

Meaning: Most people say "on" instead of "by." Surprisingly, "by" is grammatically correct.

6
A mute point.

Correct way to say it: A moot point.

Meaning: "Mute" means unable to speak; "moot" means irrelevant or obsolete discussion.

7
I nipped that problem
in the butt!

Correct way to say it: I nipped that problem in the bud!

Meaning: If you nip a plant in the "bud," you are preventing it from flowering. You simply can't nip problems in the "butt."

8
I ate too much today. Case and point, I ate out four times.

Correct way to say it: I ate too much today. Case in point, I ate out four times.

Meaning: "Case and point" is not a phrase. Instead, use "case in point."

9
Head towards the door and you'll see me.

Correct way to say it: Head toward the door and you'll see me.

Meaning: Toward never has an "s" at the end. Neither does "anyway." Keep in mind that "towards" is acceptable and correct in countries outside the U.S.

10
I should of worked out instead of taking a nap.

Correct way to say it: I should have worked out instead of taking a nap.

Meaning: "Should of" is never proper grammar. It's always "should have" or "should've." The same goes for "would have," "could have," etc.

11
Irregardless of how
the interview goes,
I'm proud of you.

Correct way to say it: Regardless of how the interview goes, I'm proud of you.

Meaning: Regardless means "no matter what" or "in spite of everything." Irregardless is not a proper word — plain and simple.

12
He was at my beckon call while I was sick.

Correct way to say it: He was at my beck and call while I was sick.

Meaning: "Beck and call" means being made available, ready to obey. "Beckon call" is not correct usage of the English language.

13
She hadn't eaten all day, making her hunger pains unbearable.

Correct way to say it: She hadn't eaten all day, making her hunger pangs unbearable.

Meaning: Hunger "pains" do not exist; hunger "pangs" do. This is by far one of the most misused phrases of all.

14
You have another
thing coming!

Correct way to say it: You have another think coming!

Meaning: It's "think," not "thing." The phrase implies you have another thought (or think) coming. Over time, "think" became "thing," which is simply incorrect.

15
The weather will wreck havoc on our picnic.

Correct way to say it: The weather will wreak havoc on our picnic.

Meaning: To "wreck havoc" means destroying chaos and adding more chaos — it just doesn't make sense. To "wreak havoc" means to cause chaos.

16
Yoko ono is a famous escape goat, often blamed for the breakup of the Beatles.

Correct way to say it: Yoko Ono is a famous scapegoat, often blamed for the breakup of the Beatles.

Meaning: A "scapegoat" is someone who gets blamed (possibly erroneously) for the actions of others. An escape goat is a goat that has escaped. Use it correctly!

17
I could care less.

Correct way to say it: I couldn't care less.

Meaning: If you "could care less," then you care and are capable of caring less. Make sure to keep it negative — meaning you don't care and couldn't care any less.

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Comments

Comments on "17 Phrases you're probably saying wrong"

Mike March 09, 2014 | 10:07 AM

"another think coming" is an interesting one because "another thing coming" is actually grammatically correct while the first phrase is not. But "another thing coming" actually changes the meaning to be something different from the earlier phrase. It also doesn't really make any sense.

Limey in Ohio February 21, 2014 | 6:00 AM

My own personal favorite is "chomping at the bit" instead of the correct "champing at the bit".

R-D February 07, 2014 | 12:03 PM

#9 - "Head towards the door and you'll see me." Stating this as 'wrong', is nothing but petty linguistic snobbery, and a fine example of language purism. Pronouncing a vocabulary item from another dialect of English does NOT mean you're incorrectly using the word. It simply means that that variety is making an intrusion into yours. If anything, #9 shows us that British English is having a profound effect on American English, and there's nothing wrong with that in the slightest. Let language evolve.

eva January 31, 2014 | 7:41 AM

This is one I have a problem with - 'play it by ear' or 'play it by air'?

REAGAN MICHAEL FIANKO December 18, 2013 | 12:13 PM

GOOD TEACHING!

Aedan December 14, 2013 | 4:27 PM

Everyone knows how to say these phrases, this is all common knowledge. "Doggy-dog world"? You'd have to be pretty ignorant to slip on many of these.

reduce weight?burning fat?lose weight October 30, 2013 | 6:20 PM

17 Phrases you're probably saying wrong reduce weight?burning fat?lose weight http://slimpomegranate.mywapblog/this-may-are-available-in-as-a-shocker-t.xhtml

Mark October 28, 2013 | 10:07 PM

The only thing I disagree with here is how people think "literally" should not be used in hyperbole. But that's exactly the point: by claiming you could "literally" eat a horse, you are INcreasing the exaggeration. I know it is paradoxical seeming (because, then, what do you say when you do literally mean you could eat a whole horse?)...but I don't think literally is used here "incorrectly." I think it is used for ADDITIONAL exaggeration, additional hyperbolic effect. I think this sort of usage developed to counteract "metaphor inflation." People started saying things like "She was so scared she shat her pants" as hyperbole. Then everyone started understanding that phrase as hyperbole, so people started adding "literally" even when it wasn't literal, not "incorrectly," but rather to "up the ante" and increase the "realism" of the claim (and thus make it even more exaggerated). It's like if someone says, "I'm not joking, I could eat a horse." Of course, they ARE in fact joking, but no one is going to say, "I could figuratively eat a horse," because sticking that "figuratively" in there really kills the hyperbolic image. Adding a tongue-in-cheek "literally" counteracts any sort of "implicit 'figuratively'" that might creep into the sense of it, shocking the audience into imagining the claim as real (even when it's not and no one "really really" intends it to be). Yes, "literally" literally means literally. But, in one of the great triumphs of linguistic meta-recursion, "literally" can also be used figuratively, can be used in a "tongue in cheek" fashion by which you say one thing to actually indicate the opposite. It's sort of like the opposite of "litotes." Litotes is the rhetorical technique of downplaying something to play it up (like saying "not bad" to mean "really good.") In the "literally" case, you're playing something up as SO real as to increase the dramatic absurdity of the claim.

Mark October 28, 2013 | 10:06 PM

The only thing I disagree with here is how people think "literally" should not be used in hyperbole. But that's exactly the point: by claiming you could "literally" eat a horse, you are INcreasing the exaggeration. I know it is paradoxical seeming (because, then, what do you say when you do literally mean you could eat a whole horse?)...but I don't think literally is used here "incorrectly." I think it is used for ADDITIONAL exaggeration, additional hyperbolic effect. I think this sort of usage developed to counteract "metaphor inflation." People started saying things like "She was so scared she shat her pants" as hyperbole. Then everyone started understanding that phrase as hyperbole, so people started adding "literally" even when it wasn't literal, not "incorrectly," but rather to "up the ante" and increase the "realism" of the claim (and thus make it even more exaggerated). It's like if someone says, "I'm not joking, I could eat a horse." Of course, they ARE in fact joking, but no one is going to say, "I could figuratively eat a horse," because sticking that "figuratively" in there really kills the hyperbolic image. Adding a tongue-in-cheek "literally" counteracts any sort of "implicit 'figuratively'" that might creep into the sense of it, shocking the audience into imagining the claim as real (even when it's not and no one "really really" intends it to be). Yes, "literally" literally means literally. But, in one of the great triumphs of linguistic meta-recursion, "literally" can also be used figuratively, can be used in a "tongue in cheek" fashion by which you say one thing to actually indicate the opposite. It's sort of like the opposite of "litotes." Litotes is the rhetorical technique of downplaying something to play it up (like saying "not bad" to mean "really good.") In the "literally" case, you're playing something up as SO real as to increase the dramatic absurdity of the claim.

al October 24, 2013 | 11:17 AM

The title: do people say things "wrong" an adjective, or "incorrectly" an adverb? Bad title

David October 13, 2013 | 10:05 PM

What REALLY irritates me is when people pronounce Castle as Carsil. I like to watch the TV Show called Castle. Right throughout the show people call him Castle. Probably dozens of times in each episode. At the end, the Announcer comes on and says something like "Don't forget to be watching CARSIL next week". The show is in English, the Announcer speaks English, so can't use a foreign accent to justify it. My name is David, and I would be very annoyed if another Australian called me DARVID. I find it rude not to pronounce someone's name they way they pronounce it.

Chris October 13, 2013 | 3:48 PM

Never heard anyone say even half of these. As for the rest, let it go. They are the harmless mispronunciations and misuses, mostly of idioms whose original meanings are lost. No well-educated person would make these mistakes, so this is just snobbery and condescension against the less-educated rearing its ugly head.

Larry October 09, 2013 | 7:34 AM

"He is the spitting image of his father" should be "the spit and image". I don't think I have ever heard anyone say this correctly including myself.

vicky October 07, 2013 | 12:46 PM

excuse but "moot point" is a point that is most certainly up for debate. Only in law does it mean that the point will not reach a conclusion, but that suggests that the involved debaters will not compromise because it is such an arguable point!

Jack October 02, 2013 | 9:26 PM

@Brian, biannual does mean twice a year, it's biennial that means either something that lasts for two years or is once every two years. "Of" instead of "have" that is one of the most annoying ones seen all over the internet.

Norberto October 01, 2013 | 9:51 AM

This drives me nuts. I don't know if it's regional or just plain incorrect but "all of THE sudden" irks me! I've only ever known the phrase to be "all of A sudden".

Ryan Henson Creighton September 18, 2013 | 10:07 PM

The one that drives me nuts is "i am weary of that suspicious-looking guy in the corner." No - you meant to say that you are either leery of him, or you are wary of him. "Weary" means that you are tired of him, which likely wasn't your intent.

David August 20, 2013 | 9:14 AM

Brian - please check a dictionary. To avoid confusion, I do use semi-annual and "biennial" which are non-ambiguous terms. Literally, in the non-figurative sense, reach for the nearest dictionary and you will find out biannual is an exceedingly ambiguous term.

Brian August 19, 2013 | 9:46 PM

Dave, Biannual does not mean "twice a year" it only mean once every 2 years. Semiannual means twice a year. (Bi means 2, semi means half).

David August 18, 2013 | 4:18 PM

You have some mistakes. The definition of "Literally" makes it acceptable in #4. It means both "actually" and "virtually", much like "biannual" means "twice a year" and "once every 2 years". For #10, you might hear "I should of ..." but I would suggest you are merely hearing "should have" contracted to "should've", a common verbal contraction. In #13, a "pang" is a brief spasm of pain so while "hunger pains" may be non-traditional, it is not factually or grammatically incorrect. #14 you're frankly wrong. Using Google's Ngram search you can see the appearance in literature of "another thing coming" significantly outweighs "another think coming" until 1903 when they switch. In fact, "another think coming" doesn't even pop into existence until 1899.

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