9 Misused Phrases in the English Language

By | July 8, 2015

Most people I know are condescending, especially when it comes to not wanting to admit they’re wrong. Over a month’s time, I’ve collected a list of misused phrases in the English language. Here are 9 that were the most misused.


1. On Accident & By Accident

I eek everything I hear someone say, “it was done on accident”. With tough phrases like this one, it must be hard for an English Language Learner (ELL) to learn proper English grammar rules. There’s practically an exception to every rule. Remember: you can do something on purpose, but not on accident. Prepositions kill big time.


2. Suppose To & Supposed

I’ve read hundreds of essays throughout my years as high school English teacher. I often remind my students that when it comes to verbs, the preposition comes before the action and not the other way around. So the next time you want to write down “Suppose To” remember the “d”. “Suppose to” is incorrect, as is “use to.” Proper grammar: I was supposed to call her on Monday, but I forgot.


3. Make Due & Make Do

To “make due” would be to make something be turned in on time. If you were checking a book out, the librarian will make your book due on a certain date. However, your principal will likely “make do” with the slashing of funds in the art department or decreasing enrollment that’s causing teachers to be surplussed. “Make do” is short for “make do well enough.”


4. Iterate & Reiterate

My high school English teacher once shared with us a secret about re-redundant word. “Iterate” means to say or do again, making the “re” before it useless. If I had a nickel for every time I heard someone use reiterate when it’s actually iterate, I’d be broke.


5. Regardless & Irregardless

Used mostly when speaking, “irregardless” is a nonstandard word that probably came about from mixing regardless and irrespective. Most Microsoft Word editors will mark this word in red and replace it with the more accurate one – “regardless”.


6. For All Intends and Purposes & For All Intensive Purposes

If you’ve been saying “for all intensive purposes,” you’ve been saying it wrong. It’s “for all intends and purposes”; there is nothing intensive about doing things on purpose. Example: For all intents and purposes, New Year’s Day is the same thing as January 1.


7. First Come, First Serve & First Come, First Served

“First Come, First Serve” means that the first person to arrive has to serve all who come after them. The actual phrase is “first-come, first-served,” to indicate that the participants will be served in the order in which they come. I’ve seen Harvard Business Review journal get this wrong.


8. Sneak Peek & Sneak Peak

We get a lot of “sneak peeks” in the movie and entertainment industries. Yet, there are a lot of “sneak peaks” in the blogs I read. A “peak” is actually a pointed extremity whereas to “peek” is to take a glimpse.


9. Could Care Less & Couldn’t Care Less

If you “could care less” that means you’re capable of caring less than you do. Saying you couldn’t care less means there is no possible way to care less about something, like, “I couldn’t care less about football.” This means I have absolutely no opinion, care, feeling, or attitude towards the sport, and it’s impossible to care less about it. Be the judge!

One thought on “9 Misused Phrases in the English Language

  1. Jake W.

    I’m sorry. I’ve never heard of the phrase “For All Intends and Purposes.” What exactly does “intends” mean?

    “If I had a nickel for every time I heard someone use reiterate when it’s actually iterate, I’d be broke.”

    What? So you’re saying that you’ve never heard someone use “reiterate” when they should have used “iterate.” Somehow, I don’t believe you.


Leave a Reply to Jake W. Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *