To put it eloquently, the English language (and language in general, while we’re at it) is weird AF. Sometimes there are several different meanings and spellings for the same word (like their, they’re, and there, for example). Sometimes there is one word that is spelled the same but said two different ways (“record an album” versus “that athlete made record time”). And a lot of the time, there are common phrases that everyone says one way that should actually be pronounced very differently. What’s even weirder is that so many people say them one way that it just keeps getting passed down, and never really gets corrected.
Why did people start saying these popular phrases the wrong way? No idea! But isn’t it kind of interesting to think that, years ago, someone grammatically butchered a phrase, and it stuck forever? It is to me! Saying these things the wrong way doesn’t make you stupid or ignorant – it just means you were following social cues rather than the proper English language. I don’t want to sound like your English teacher, but you should make an attempt to start saying these things the right way. It just makes you look smarter! Here are a few common phrases you’ve definitely been saying incorrectly your whole life… and how to actually say them.
1. “I could care less.”
How you actually say it: “I couldn’t care less.”
Almost everyone says “I could care less” when they’re trying to get the point across that they don’t care at all. The only problem is that saying “I could care less” literally means you could care less, which means that you do care. See what I’m saying? The right way to say it is “I couldn’t care less” which means you do not care at all.
2. “Case and point.”
How you actually say it: “Case in point.”
When you say this phrase, you’re basically saying “here are two of the same examples which proves I am RIGHT.” But if you say “case AND point,” you’re referring to two different things, the opposite of what you’re trying to say. “Case IN point” is more clear and correct.
3. “First come, first serve.”
How you actually say it: “First come, first served.”
I didn’t know this one until just now, so I’ll be honest – I’m just as confused as you!
How you actually say it: “Regardless.”
When you say “irregardless,” you’re saying a double negative – “without without regard.” That does not make sense and also ruins your point. It’s just “regardless,” which just means “without regard.”
5. “Hunger pains.”
How you actually say it: “Hunger pangs.”
I’m assuming this is one of those phrases that changed because, said out loud, “pains” and “pangs” sound really similar and almost the same. But “pangs” is the correct term here.
6. “One in the same.”
How you actually say it: “One and the same.”
“One in the same” is said quite often, despite the fact that it doesn’t really mean anything. “One and the same” clearly means two things are the same.
7. “You’ve got another thing coming.”
How you actually say it: “You’ve got another think coming.”
This one gets complicated, because it still makes sense to say “you’ve got another thing coming.” The reason it’s technically incorrect is because the original phrase is “If you think that, you’ve got another think coming.” But you can really say it either way, I guess!
8. “Each one worse than the next.”
How you actually say it: “Each one worse than the last.”
Can you predict the future? No? Then how can you say “each one worse than the next?” It doesn’t make sense because it’s referring to the next person or thing – which you haven’t seen yet. The correct way to say it refers to the past, which obviously, you know.
9. “On accident.”
How you actually say it: “By accident.”
Hey, remember when I said the English language is weird AF? It is. That especially comes into play with prepositions. You can’t do something “on accident,” you do it “by accident.” It’s confusing because you can say “on purpose” and they seem similar.
10. “For all intensive purposes.”
How you actually say it: “For all intents and purposes.”
I don’t know where this came from, but “for all intensive purposes” is not a phrase. It doesn’t even make sense!
11. “Hone in.”
How you actually say it: “Home in.”
It wasn’t until just now that I realized the correct phrasing of this is “home in.” To hone something means to improve it. To “home in” means to get closer to something. So if you’re saying, “Let’s hone in on this,” it doesn’t make sense – but “home in” does. Get it?
How you actually say it: “Runners-up.”
Saying “runners-up” when talking about two or more “runner-up” winners sounds awkward, which is probably why we started saying “runner-ups” – it sounds more comfortable. But the grammatically correct phrase is “runners-up.”
13. “Step foot.”
How you actually say it: “Set foot.”
Interesting! I know most people say “step foot” but it should actually be “set foot.”
14. “Should of.”
How you actually say it: “Should have.”
This is more a product of slang, but it should be “should have” and not “should of.” Say it slowly. “Should of” doesn’t sound right.
15. “Nipped in the butt.”
How you actually say it: “Nipped in the bud.”
I’m assuming the incorrect phrasing of this comes from hearing someone incorrectly and then saying what you think they just said. I guess. I don’t know how else to explain it! When you say “nipped it in the bud,” you’re talking about something being finished or ended. Nipping something in the butt is something else entirely.
16. “Tongue and cheek.”
How you actually say it: “Tongue in cheek.”
Saying “tongue and cheek” makes it sound like you’re talking about a tongue and a cheek. Saying “tongue in cheek” is the correct phrasing.
17. “It’s a doggy dog world.”
How you actually say it: “It’s a dog eat dog world.”
I had no idea people were saying “it’s a doggy dog world” when talking about something negative. That doesn’t even make sense! Dogs are great! “It’s a dog eat dog world” makes more sense.
18. “You chock it up to…”
How you actually say it: “You chalk it up to…”
This is another instance where these two words sound so similar when spoken that it’s almost natural to mess them up. But here’s the truth!
Which one of these phrases have you been saying incorrectly? What other phrases are there we didn’t include? Share in the comments!