Common English Language Mistakes You Are Probably Making

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For all intensive purposes

Bare with me

I could care less

We’ve spoken about this before, and we’ll speak about it again: English is a tricky language. Even if English is your first language there is still a chance you are using the language incorrectly. Embarrassing, but true! When it comes to English, there’s nothing like being a teacher of English as a Foreign Language to help you realise that you don’t know everything! And considering there are approximately 200,000 words in the English language, we can be forgiven for not knowing every single one of them.

Read more: Mistakes Even English Teachers Make

But there are certain words or phrases which are very common in natural English. We say them, read them, hear them or write them regularly. Yet still – still! – they are not being used correctly. The thing is, all it takes is for one person to change a word in an idiom or mispronounce a sound in a word, and then soon everyone is doing it!

So we’re going to do us all a favour and highlight a few of the most common atrocities our ears and eyes have been subjected to, just to clear up any confusion once and for all.

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case and point –> case in point

Case in point means that you are about to relate something which perfectly describes the point you are trying to make. Case and point imply that the case and the point are two separate things entirely.

nip it in the butt –> nip it in the bud

To nip something in the bud means to stop something before it gets out of hand. While to nip something (or someone!)  in the butt is just outrageously inappropriate.

wreck havoc –> wreak havoc

To wreak havoc means to cause chaos. If you use the word wreck, you mean that the chaos is destroyed. This would presumably result in a state of calm, which is the actual opposite of what is meant by the phrase.

one in the same –> one and the same

Seriously though, one in the same what?

slight of hand –> sleight of hand

Magicians use sleight of hand to make those pesky coins appear out of our ears. Slight means a small amount which could possibly refer to someone with small hands but it wouldn’t really make any sense.

irregardless –> regardless

The clue is in the affixes, people! Ir is a prefix of negation, as is the suffix –less. There is no need for both of them.

baited breath –> bated breath

To bait someone means to taunt them, which is not exactly possible when it comes to breathing. In this case, your breath is bated, coming from the word abated, which means to lessen in severity. In other words, you have less breath because you are holding it.

beckon call –> beck and call

To beckon means to call someone, so we can see why this one can cause confusion. However, the true idiom is to be at someone’s beck and call, meaning that you are there to wait on them hand and foot.

scotch free –> scot free

Presumably, scotch free means free of scotch, while to get off scot-free means to commit a crime and not be punished for it. While we’re not sure of the exact origins of the phrase, no, it doesn’t have anything to do with someone called Scott.

mute point –> moot point

If something or someone is mute, it means it cannot speak or it has no volume, which is clearly not applicable to a point. Interestingly, a moot point refers to both a point that needs to be discussed (in legal situations) and a point that is not worthy of discussion.

peaked my interest –> piqued my interest

peak is the highest point of something, while pique means to arouse or provoke. While this mistake is a bit more understandable than the others, the true meaning of the phrase is that your interest was aroused rather than reaching its peak.

piece of mind –> peace of mind

Pizzas and cakes have pieces. Hopefully, wherever you live there is peace. While it’s certainly possible to give someone a piece of your mind if you do something for peace of mind, you are doing it to alleviate any related worry – not because your brain is breaking into tiny, little pieces.

do diligence –> due diligence

While diligence is something you do, you also need to make sure you do your due diligence, especially when you are considering which TEFL course you should take.

Read more: How Do I Choose the Right TEFL Course?

wet your appetite –> whet your appetite

Yes, yes, yes, appetite refers to food and drink, but that’s not to say that it’s something that we can actually wet. To whet your appetite means to increase your desire for something, usually by exposing you to a small amount of it. For example, doing a TEFL course will whet your appetite for teaching English abroad. #truestory

and our pet peeve:

supposably –> supposedly

It’s. Not. A. Word.

Okay, rant over. We feel better now. It’s a pleasure!

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