10 Surprising Phrases You Might Be Getting Wrong

surprising phrases getting wrong
Many of us bloggers may not have started our blogs out of our love for the written word. There are many bloggers who are “ideas” people– those who love sharing information about a favorite topic. Personally, I started blogging in spite of the fact writing wasn't my first love; it was a marriage of necessity. Right now, I can almost hear grammarians and writers screeching to a halt at this confession.

That said, it didn't stop me. Several years later, I've come to see common mistakes made by people translating how they speak to the written word. Writing like you talk is a great way to establish a connection with your readers. I'm not much for grammar rules unless they change the meaning of a sentence.  However, getting a phrase or colloquialism wrong changes the meaning of the phrase, which can be confusing for readers!

Here are 10 common phrases you might be getting wrong, what they mean, and how to get them right:

“Make do”

I've been seeing “make due” a lot lately. “Make do” means to make something do well enough. To make the most of what you have. I'm guessing that “make due” means to make something “due” like a library book.

“Sneak peek”

We get a lot of “sneak peeks” in the fashion blogging business. Yet, there are a lot of “sneak peaks” in the blog posts. A “peak” is a pointed extremity whereas to “peek” is to take a brief glance.

“Another think coming”

This one is interesting because many, many, many people say, “If you think this…then you have another thing coming.” I always wondered what that really meant. What will be coming? What is the thing? The correct phrase is “Another THINK coming.” As in, “If you think this, you have another think coming.” Meaning, your current thought is wrong and you'll have another (hopefully more correct) thought coming.

“Free Rein”

As bloggers we're given “free rein” on our blogs, since we mostly own our blogs. “Free reign” is commonly used, but “reign” is what creepy King Joffrey does with his royal power. The phrase actually uses the word “rein” which are the leather straps used to control horses. Sometimes riders would loosen the “reins” to allow the horse to chose the safest path on a difficult course, giving the horse “free rein.”

“Wreak havoc”

The sun will “wreak havoc” on your skin. “Wreak” means to cause and “wreck” (as in a car wreck) means to cause the destruction of. “Havoc” is a wide and general destruction… so when you “wreck havoc” you're actually causing the destruction of destruction.

“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.

“For all intents and purposes”

This one is often mistaken as “for all intensive purposes.” What is an intensive purpose? Is it like intensive care?  If you're intending to use “intents and purposes,” make sure it's the correct phrase.

“Pique my curiosity”

Again with the “peaks,” “peeks,” and “piques”! It can get confusing. Often I see “peak my curiosity.” It kind of makes sense, given the meaning of the word. However, it's correct to use the word “pique” which means to provoke or arouse.

“Without further ado”

“Without further ado” means to go ahead without making a big deal. “Ado” means heightened fuss or concern. Sometimes I see, “without much further adieu.” Since adieu means goodbye, the meaning of the phrase changes to “without further goodbye.” Other forms I've seen are “without further a due” (again with the library books) and “without further a do.”  I don't know what the last one means.

“Nip it in the bud”

It might be tempting to nip your problem in the butt, but you really want to “nip it in the bud” — meaning take care of it before the “bud” grows into something much bigger, like a tree, or whatever buds grow up to become.

What are some of the mistaken phrases you've seen around? Do share!

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54 Responses

  1. Bike Pretty

    You just blew my mind with “another think coming”!

  2. Anastazja Oppenheim

    Yeeeey, I get them all correct! Despite not being a native English speaker! At least there’s *something* I’m doing right 🙂

  3. Dulcie

    Ha thank you so much for this post, I get so annoyed when people do this!
    Also thanks for the random nerdy game of thrones reference haha x


  4. Linda Fiksdal Tranø

    Haha, I see the “sneak PEAK” daily, and it drives me metal, because I want to leave a comment about it, but it feel rude, so I just sit there and get annoyed.

    • Jennine Jacob

      Yeah, I generally refrain from correcting people unless I know them VERY well… ie, my husband, as English is his second language and he ASKS me to correct him. Sometimes it’s hard, because he says cute things like “retroperspective” which is quite funny.

  5. SoarThumb

    Hehe! This article makes me giddy with happiness! Good job of spreading the word. As a person who probably should have majored in English in college, I find these little mistakes infuriating. They are a huge distraction for me when I am trying to read something…that I thought might be interesting.
    I don’t so much see misused phrases as much as words like Your and You’re, Than and Then, Affect and Effect…you know…the usual.

  6. Luz

    As an English-as -a-second-language speaker this comes in super handy! 😀
    I’m blushing just from reading the common mistakes, as I recognized that I’ve mispelled “Sneak peek” dozens of times!
    It can get very confusing to post entries in both English and Spanish!
    So please keep the articles like this one coming! 😀


    • Jennine Jacob

      Oh my, I don’t see non-native English speakers making these mistakes as often, because they tend not to use them as much as native English speakers. I heard on the radio once that non-native English speakers have a difficult time understanding native speakers because we use so many phrases, and that it’s easier to understand other non-native speakers.

      Besides… if English isn’t your first language, I give you extra credit for trying! 🙂

  7. Erin @ Loop Looks

    Here are two that drive me crazy:

    “For all intensive purposes” <- incorrect! It should be "for all intents and purposes"

    All the various misspellings of "Voila!". It's French. The French would be upset if they knew how many people abuse its spelling!

  8. Tatiana

    I’ve seen people use “alas” incorrectly. Like “Alas, they had just the color I was looking for!”

  9. Fashion Agony

    Another thing I see almost every day is “could of” (done something) instead of “could have”, this really annoys me. Great post!

  10. Downtown worker

    I hear “Flush out” instead of “Flesh out” quite often.

  11. Rachel

    I loved this post! I am an English major and freelance journalist, but my spelling and grammar has always been terrible, right from school. While words I use a lot I do eventually learn and I rely on spell check a lot, I do get emails from my mother every morning when the new blog post has a mistake I’ve overlooked, and some of my older readers who’ve been with my blog a long time point some of them out to me too because they know the problems I have. I’m a words person – and I still have issues!

  12. Susann

    At last ! some one is trying to teach English. The worst culprits seem to be native English speakers. My pet hate is when people dont know the difference between Loose and Lose.

  13. Joshua

    Thank you for writing this post, I have read far too many articles and posts on potentially interesting topics that were ruined by improperly used words and phrases. Hearing/reading that something is a ‘mute point’ rather than a ‘moot point’ is the one that drives me crazy.

  14. Rachel

    LOL, the only one I use wrong is “Another think coming”. Oops!

  15. Marie Warne

    This post made me laugh devilishly. I’m a stickler for grammar, spelling and punctuation and I drive my kids nuts with it. Despite their protests, they speak really well (ages 16 and 12). One phrase that drives me crazy is “a whole (n)other set of problems”. “Nother” is not a word! Sheesh!

  16. Fashion cadet

    wow this has left me speechless, I always say another thing coming oops, I will correctly effectively immediately.

  17. Julia duMais

    I was surprised to learn it was “toe the line”, not “tow the line” — I’d assumed the latter because from the teamwork connotations (“toeing the party line”, etc.) I’d just associated it with canals and figured that’s where it came from: everyone hauling (towing) the lines together.

    I’m fairly easygoing about a lot of the grammatical mistakes (even the misuse of “literally”), but with a History degree under my belt, one thing that never fails to drive me up the wall is the use of “Victorian” to describe anything from the beginning of the 19th century through the early 20th. Jane Austen: not Victorian. Downton Abbey: not Victorian. Peter Pan: not Victorian. (American) Civil War: kind of Victorian — right time period (Victoria WAS on the throne), but not the right country.

  18. Emma

    I had absolutely no idea about “another think coming” … I feel like I’ve been living a lie!

  19. Cherina

    LOL at this post. Funny because I actually often make the common mistake of saying “sneak PEAK” instead of “PEEK”. But then again, english is my second language. Womp.

  20. Christine Shieh

    Whooooa, it’s another think coming!? I never use that phrase, but that’s good to know!

  21. Rachel

    I have never ever heard anyone say, “another think coming.” I guess that’s because it’s now more common to say it the other way ( http://grammarist.com/usage/another-think-coming/ ) That may have been how it began, but I think that one has evolved into “another thing.” NPR even did a story about Obama saying “thing,” rather than “think.” http://www.npr.org/2013/01/05/168678901/another-think-coming-scrutinizing-an-oft-misused-phrase

    I’d say you’re safe either way, but I’m sticking with “another thing.”

    “Couldn’t care less” drives me nuts when people get it wrong, though! I’ve unfollowed people on Twitter for having atrocious grammar (one was even a second grade teacher).

    • Janet

      I was so surprised to learn that some people get “another think coming” wrong. I have never heard anyone say “thing” instead of “think” in that context. Why would anyone say that? The phrase doesn’t make any sense if you substitute “thing” for “think.”
      As for “to all intensive purposes”, is that one a wind up?! I don’t believe anyone would say that in real life.
      I have, however, heard people say “I could care less” when they meant that they couldn’t care less. It was a commonplace error in the USA when I was there about 20 years ago.

  22. cc

    Where did you find this information? I’m glad you posted most of these, since I am personally a fan of good grammar; I don’t think I should have to interpret what I read into proper English. With “another think coming,” however, that’s simply not correct. I’m an avid reader and writer, and I have read the phrase used correctly (with thing) many times in classic and contemporary literature, and never with think. I don’t even know what that would mean, unless it’s supposed to be some kind of lower class colloquialism, but even then it doesn’t make grammatical sense.

    • Jennine Jacob

      There is a lot of supporting evidence on Google. 🙂

    • Janet

      Sorry, but it most definitely is “another think” and not “another thing”. Otherwise it just wouldn’t make sense would it? My father used the phrase a lot, e.g. “if you think I’m going to let you go out dressed like that, you’ve got another think coming!” The phrase is always used in that type of context. Another example, “If he thinks he’s going to win our votes with those policies then he’s got another think coming!”
      You see the context? If “think” is replaced with “thing” then the two phrases above wouldn’t make any sense.

  23. Maya

    Glad to know that I use my phrases correct. There were some new phrases in there I didn’t use before, now that I know the meaning I might make use of them hehe 😀

  24. Evelyn (CottonCandyDiva)

    It’s not a phrase, but a word that gets misused often and it annoys me a lot! People don’t misuse it when they speak it, but writing it they do! ‘Advise’ when they mean ‘Advice’ as in “could you please give me some advice” often I see “thanks for the advise” drives me nuts!

    oh and a lot of bloggers overuse or don’t use it correctly ‘per se’ they will write it as ‘per say’ …’per se’ is Latin for ‘by itself’, whereas ‘per say’ would translate to ‘by say’ many people spell things, how they are said!

  25. E-M

    “nip it in the bud” – that made me laugh! Writing has always been a huge passion for me but since English is not my first language it can be so complicated to put my words and thoughts from my native language to Englih. I try to evolve in my writing as much as possible and knowing these little tricks is so so helpful! 🙂 Thank you xo

  26. Clever Little Buttons

    I’m a writer as well as a blogger and I am one of those people who started their blog purely as a place to write my thoughts. It is definitely hard to get a balance between creating blogs that are fun and light as well as being grammatically correct, but that is what spell check is for!

    Great post
    Cass @ cleverlittlebuttons

  27. Dana

    I agree with “voila”! So many people get that one wrong – viola, wala, woala, walla… All wrong!

  28. DeAundreia Frasier

    I’m so glad that you posted this. I have seen so many of these mistakes that I began second guessing myself. I also have started seeing ‘I’m sorry for your lost’ when I am certain that it’s ‘I’m sorry for your loss’ and ‘your welcome’ when it’s actually ‘you’re welcome’.

    Awesome post, I did giggle at a few of these and “sneak peek” sent me running back to my blog to see if I used the proper version (I did, thank you grammar classes).

  29. HautePinkPretty

    MOOT POINT!!! It drives me bananas when people say mute point. It’s not mute.

  30. Melinda's Musings

    Could you do a post on correct punctuation? I’m often having trouble with that for some reason. I like to use dot dot dot (…) or (-) hypen when I’m unsure how to punctuate something. It’s awful and makes me feel like I should take some elementary school level classes on grammar!

  31. Corinne Alexandra

    Not exactly a phrase, but I constantly see “lose” and “loose” misused almost as much as “their/there/they’re”.

    And I love the “nip it in the bud” one. My boyfriend and I had a debate about this one a while back since he swore it was “butt”, haha. 😉

  32. Rhoda Wheeler

    Thank you! As a former high school English teacher, grammar nazi, and etiquette consultant, I am thrilled to see your post and all the responses.

    It is absolutely NOT “another thing coming” — it’s been so misused and abused, few know the correct phrase. Your explanation of this was flawless.

  33. Zamri

    I used to do typo. such as the past tense of ‘strike’ is supposed to be ‘struck’, but i wrote it ‘strucked’. For e.g. ‘what strucked me the most’. How embarrassing! (but we all learn from mistakes, huh?) 🙂

  34. Lee

    I must be the dumb one here as I have never put another think coming so I have been getting that one wrong 100% of the time. You learn something every day. Hopefully I got that one right.

    Great info Lee

  35. Zabe B

    one of my faves is penultimate. people somehow think it means “most ultimate” (which makes no sense), when in fact it means next to last. as in, not quite ultimate.

  36. Khensani Mohlatlole

    What really blew my mind was ‘all intents and purposes’. I’ve been saying ‘intensive purposes’ forever and I consider myself much of a grammar Nazi.

    I do really hate it when people use the ellipsis instead of a dash. You know, when some says ‘cobalt is my favourite colour… even though that’s what my nightmares consist of’ (that was just a random example) instead of ‘cobalt is my favourite colour–even though that’s what my nightmares consist of’.

    Also, the American spelling of favour, colour, honour, etc.


  37. Katrina

    “Could care less” seems to be used mainly by Americans- I often find myself shouting at books by American authors who write that. I mean, surely it’s obvious if you look at it logically?? However, although I know that it’s “another think coming”, it just doesn’t feel right, so I’m not sure I can ever see myself saying it properly! The same goes for “an historic event”, I know it’s right, and I’m fine with writing it like that, but when I’m talking, it feels like I’m talking like a child or something!

  38. Retro Chick

    Heals and heels drives me crazy. You’d think Fashion bloggers would know the difference!

  39. moiminnie

    Not a native English speaker, but I definitely use “sneak peek”, “couldn’t care less” and “without further ado” a lot. I don’t want this to sound cocky but I don’t remember spelling these wrong. Also, a lot of people have complimented my grammar many times, which is a bit confusing for me haha. But I realized that usually non-English speakers pay much more attention to what they write and even check for spelling, then native speakers. Wonderful post!
    minnie @ http://moiminnie.blogspot.com

  40. Jamie

    Thank you so much for this! All of these are major pet peeves of mine, but “sneak peak” has to be my all-time BIGGEST. You’re not sneaking a peek at a mountain top!

  41. Nasreen

    hahaha this is great! I NEVER knew about the “another think coming” I really thought it was thing. and “wreak” havoc too 😛


  42. Liz

    I see many “should of” and “could of” phrases being used when the “of” should be have. I think they think it’s “of” because that apostrophe v-e is sounded out as if it’s an “of”.

    It’s still really annoying, however.

    There’s another, I just can’t think of it at the moment. 🙁

  43. Gita Amanda

    This post is so helpful! English is my second language, so everytime I write a new post — especially when I try to use English phrases — I google them and make sure that they are correct! It does make writing new post takes up a lot my time. Kind of embarrassing, really. But you know, better safe than sorry!

  44. Klenita

    Lately, the phrase I’ve felt most jarring is “try an do it”, when what is meant is “try to do it”. However; I can hear my father saying, “Try, and do it”. His meaning would have been, “Don’t be satisfied with trying, because I expect the task to be accomplished.”