Most People Are Saying These Common Phrases All Wrong — Are You One of Them?

by Bethany Ramos
Jul 11, 2017 at 8:00 a.m. ET

Have you ever walked around with something in your teeth all day, smiling brightly at everyone you pass? It's beyond humiliating — and, sadly, there's a verbal equivalent.

There's a huge chance you've been confidently throwing around some often-used phrases, but saying them totally wrong. About 17 common sayings exist in the English language that people are constantly mispronouncing — and unless you're part of the grammar police, you might be one of them. But "for all intensive purposes," don't be too embarrassed, because obviously you're not alone.

Let these helpful grammar do’s and don’ts point you in the right direction.

Originally published February 2016. Updated July 2017.

1 /18: It's a dog-eat-dog world.

1/18 :It's a dog-eat-dog world.

This oldie but goodie has been screwed up since the dawn of time. In 43 B.C., Roman scholar and writer Marcus Terentius Varro coined the ruthless phrase when he compared humanity to animals, saying that even “a dog will not eat a dog.”

2 /18: For all intents and purposes.

2/18 :For all intents and purposes.

Say this phrase a few times fast, and you can see where the confusion lies. But it still doesn’t change the fact that “intensive,” signifying a purpose that is intense, is just plain wrong.

3 /18: I’m supposed to.

3/18 :I’m supposed to.

As we’ve learned many times before, adding one little letter — in this case, a “d” — makes a world of difference.

4 /18: The baby screamed for half the night.

4/18 :The baby screamed for half the night.

There is literally no other way to say this: Don’t use the word “literally” unless you are talking about a fact.

5 /18: He spilled his milk by accident.

5/18 :He spilled his milk by accident.

This is an easy slipup to make, so don’t get too down on yourself. “By” is the grammatically correct preposition to use with “accident,” not “on.”

6 /18: It’s a moot point.

6/18 :It’s a moot point.

“Mute” means unable to talk, while “moot” means irrelevant or obsolete. Case closed.

7 /18: I nipped that problem in the bud!

7/18 :I nipped that problem in the bud!

This phrase comes about from nipping a plant in its bud to prevent it from flowering. Let’s leave the “butts” out of it, shall we?

8 /18: Case in point

8/18 :Case in point

Correcting this grammar gaffe is easy — “case and point” is not an expression. It’s just not.

9/18 :Toward

Ah, another grammar sin that feels so right it can’t be wrong. Nonetheless, don’t ever add an “s” to the end of “toward” or “anyway.” You’re welcome.

10 /18: Should have

10/18 :Should have

You are likely to mess this one up if you are writing or speaking quickly, but still — it’s “should have” or “should’ve.” And yes, “would have” and “could have” count too.

11 /18: Regardless

11/18 :Regardless

As fun as it is to say, “irregardless” is not a thing.

12 /18: Beck and call

12/18 :Beck and call

Yet another common phrase that does not exist in the English language — it’s in your best interest to wipe “beckon call” from your vocabulary forever.

13 /18: Hunger pangs

13/18 :Hunger pangs

It may get quite painful when you get hangry before lunch, but “hunger pangs” is still the correct usage of the phrase.

14 /18: You have another think coming!

14/18 :You have another think coming!

“Thing” has replaced “think” in this expression over time, totally confusing its meaning. “You have another think coming” actually means that you have another thought coming your way.

15 /18: Wreak havoc

15/18 :Wreak havoc

In this case, “wreck havoc” is a bit too redundant, implying adding chaos to more chaos. “Wreak havoc” is the proper usage that means causing damage or destruction.

16 /18: Scapegoat

16/18 :Scapegoat

Blame all your problems on a scapegoat, but don’t forget — an escape goat is the goat that got away.

17 /18: I couldn’t care less.

17/18 :I couldn’t care less.

This mispronunciation is perhaps the most common of all because it requires a little extra thought to get it right. The intention of the phrase should always be negative: When you “could not care less,” it means you’re really, really fed up... which is how you might feel if people spell these common words incorrectly

18 /18: Commonly misused phrases

18/18 :Commonly misused phrases

Pin this and never say one of these phrases wrong again!