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Top 5 Most Commonly Misused Phrases

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Looking like a fool is never fun. Many non-native speakers of English try not to speak the language as much as possible in order to avoid making mistakes and embarrassing themselves. But what they may not realize is that native English speakers themselves make ridiculous mistakes in English that are probably more embarrassing than making a simple grammatical error. Let’s take a look at some of the most common incorrectly used expressions and learn how they should be used.

1. The wrong way: “I could care less if you bought a marker.”

What this means: It’s so interesting that you bought a marker. I don’t have to care about the marker that you bought, but I do care. I’m so interested. Please tell me more about it.

What it should be: “I couldn’t care less if you bought a marker.”

What this means: I really don’t care that you bought a marker. I am in no way interested in the marker that you bought.

2. The wrong way: “I was literally swimming in a pool of tears after he broke up with me.”

What this means: I cried so much that my tears made a pool, and I swam in it. I physically swam in a pool filled with tears.

What it should be: “It was as if I were swimming in a pool of tears after he broke up with me.”

What this means: I wasn’t really swimming in a pool of tears because I know it’s impossible to cry enough to make a pool. It just felt like there were enough tears to make a pool because I cried so much.

3. The wrong way: “For all intensive purposes, you should go ahead with your speech.”

What this means: You must go on with your speech right away because the situation is so intense. Hurry up! Keep going!

What it should be: “For all intents and purposes, you should go ahead with your speech.”

What this means: You should go on with your speech because it’s a practical thing to do in this situation.

4. The wrong way: “It’s a doggy-dog world—some people will betray their friends just to get to the top.”

What this means: This world is like that of a doggy, a small dog. People betray their friends for success in this cute, puppy-like world.

What it should be: “It’s a dog-eat-dog world—some people will betray their friends just to get to the top.”

What this means: This world is merciless, where people will do anything to their own kind just to get what they want. It’s a vicious world.

5. The wrong way: “Irregardless of the weather, I am going to go swimming.”

What this means: “Irregardless” is not a real word. “Regardless” already means you do not care, so “irregardless” is redundant. When using this made up word, you are trying to say that you actually do care what the weather is like.

What it should be: “Regardless of the weather, I am going to go swimming.”
What this means: I don’t care what the weather is like. Whether it’s raining or snowing, I am still going to swim.

Are there other phrases that you’ve heard people use incorrectly? What are they? Share with us.


Rebecca Jee
Rebecca is a Pedagogy & Curriculum Associate and a graduate student at Teachers College, Columbia University pursuing a Master of Arts in Applied Linguistics. Rebecca finds inspiration for her work in the way people interact with others and with their environments. Her focus is on sociolinguistic features of human interaction that can be integrated into the way people learn.

 

9 Responses to Top 5 Most Commonly Misused Phrases

  1. Dan says:

    I have always thought these kinds of mistakes showed a lack of reading. These mostly relate to mishearing phrases, and the more you have been exposed to words in print the more likely it is that you will have seen the actual words “intents and purposes” or the like spelled out. The spread of these phrases shows a broad decline in functional literacy.

  2. Johara says:

    Great site. to learn English.
    Thanks

  3. Jurandir Gonçalves says:

    Gostei muito

  4. Jorge Peña says:

    I want more information please.

  5. Sofia says:

    I’m not a native speaker of English, but I have enough experience to argue that the first two sentences aren’t actually mistakes, but proper informal English. Nobody would ever take them literally! To me, it would be sheer pedantry to stigmatize them.

    • Go Blue says:

      A few more that drive me nuts!

      The point is mute, instead of moot

      That is a bold faced lie, instead of bald faced lie

      Six and one half dozen of the other. Does that make twelve? Six and one half dozen the other is correct.

      The cashiers say this all the time, “I can help who’s next”. I rather hear, “who is next” or “I can help whoever is next”, or simply “can I help you” and decide for yourself which person in line is next (which s normally quite obvious).

      Hopefully, I will…bothers me. It is normally used to imply that you are unsure you will. It really means I definitely will while being full of hope.

      Personally, I would prefer green. I really hate this one. If someone said “I prefer green” would you really need to guess if they were talking about themselves.

      The newest one popping up now, born from the PC culture is, “Just Saying”. This is so annoying. People use this to say what they really think, but somehow pull it back from offending another. If you said it, you said it.

  6. Sayedul Chowdhury says:

    A wonderful place to know the commonly used phrases which are not used correctly.
    Is there anyway I can communicate with Rebecca Jee for support on teaching phonics?
    Thanks

  7. Pat says:

    I second that, Sofia.
    All the best with your English learning experience!

  8. Favas Sn says:

    Thanks to god..
    Now i can learn english easily…
    Also i can reduce my mistakes….

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