11 Phrases You’ve Been Saying Wrong Your Entire Life

I’ve been informed that I say a lot things incorrectly. Family and friends are always correcting me saying “huh?”, “did you mean”, and “are you trying to say…”

For many of us, we are simply unaware of our pronunciation fails end up sounding dumb in every day conversation—even though that’s just not true! I just can’t take one more fraudulent usage of these words. So let’s finally put this list of commonly misused phrases to rest. Some of these phrases are commonly written wrong (#10), others are misspoken (#1-13), and the rest are just plain funny (#4)

Here we go.


#1. Wrong: For all intensive purposes

Right: For all intents and purposes

Let’s use a real-life example here. Say I wanted to marry Ryan Gosling. Or, for the guys reading, you wanted Mila Kunis (post-That 70’s show). My purposes would be quite intensive—as in, intense–to make my marriage dreams a reality. But when it’s used correctly, the statement “Ryan Gosling and I are married for all intents and purposes” means you’re married in the practical sense. Here’s hoping.

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#2. Wrong: Hunger Pains

Right: Hunger Pangs

As someone who suffers from CHS (Chronically Hungry Syndrome) I know this one to be true.  To be hungry is to be in pain. While ‘hunger pains’ is also correct, the original phrase is ‘hunger pangs’. As in the sharp jab of pain you feel when you really need a donut.


#3. Wrong: Utmost respect

Right: Upmost respect

Upmost refers to ‘the highest’ or ‘the furthest’. But usually we’re using this phrase when saying, “I have the upmost respect for you”.

WRONG! Upmost is not a word. Uppermost is.

But when you want to use this phrase in terms of respect or admiration, you should say ‘utmost’ because it refers to ‘the most extreme’ or ‘the greatest’.


#4. Wrong: Nip it in the butt

Right: Nip it in the bud

The verb ‘to nip’ means to catch hold of, pinch, bite, or sever. So, you could nip something in the butt, but only in the privacy of your own home. Do what you want, really. But if you wish to actually stop the progress or growth of something, I suggest you “nip it in the bud” like you would a flower.


#5. Wrong: It’s a mute point

Right: It’s a moot point/the point is moot

Just standard dictionary definitions here people. ‘Mute’ means is a synonym for silent, unheard, or quiet. The word ‘moot’ dates back to British law meaning ‘open to debate’ or ‘of no practical value or importance’. Hence, I would argue that the “point is moot” when a friend tells me I shouldn’t be hungry because I ate an hour ago (refer to above).

And no, Joey from Friends, ‘moo point’ is also incorrect.


#6. Wrong: Play it by year

Right: Play it by ear

Ah yes, the phrase that influenced my whole article. Apparently, I’ve been saying this wrong my entire life. In fact, I’ve said this phrase to my boss before. Out loud. In meetings. UGHHHH!

The correct phrase is ‘play it by ear’. It refers to music and playing an instrument by ear, thus improvising the situation. But to be honest, I’m not fully convinced that “play it by year” doesn’t make sense, as well! Why we can’t make a decision WHEN THE TIME COMES?! For instance, ‘Hey guys let’s go get dinner, then out to a bar. We’ll play it by year?!’


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#7. Wrong: I could care less

Right: I couldn’t care less

…because you truly couldn’t care any less than you do right now. “Want Chinese for dinner? Doesn’t matter, I couldn’t care less.” If you could care less—as in, you do actually have a preference—then you’d say something entirely different. Like “No, man. I want freaking pizza!”


#8. Wrong: Fall by the waste side

Right: Fall by the wayside

This phrase means that you aren’t keeping up, like in jogging. The person lagging behind in high school gym class during the mile (all me) would have been ‘falling by the wayside.’ If they ‘fell by the waste side’, they would literally have fallen into a pile of trash— something that’s also preferable to running the mile in public.


#9. Wrong: Irregardless

Right: Regardless

Our first hint should be the fact that spell check in Word tells us its wrong with their red lines. ‘Irr’ and ‘less’ basically mean the same thing. Therefore, saying irregardless is redundant…and grammatically incorrect.

Regardless of how Gretchen Wieners and her Mean Girls feel about the situation (see what I did there?)


#10. Wrong: Deep Seeded

Right: Deep Seated

While both ‘seeded’ and ‘seated’ could be referring to ‘firmly planted’, the correct phrase is “deep seated.”  Beware of small typos such as these when sending emails and texts!


#11. Wrong: Sneak Peak

Right: Sneak Peek

Remember that whole thing about sounding dumber than you actually are? Typing or writing sneak ‘peak’ instead of ‘peek’ in your verbiage could be detrimental. It’s kinda like that whole “since/sense” thing…know the difference. *shakes head in frustration*


#12. Wrong: One in the same

Right: One and the same

What a difference a word makes, huh? The first just sounds painful, but the second is grammatically correct. However, if you wanted to just slur this phrase together and hope no one notices the difference in wording, I won’t tell.


#13. Wrong: Conversate

Right: Converse

Okay, this last one isn’t really a phrase, it’s a word. And an incorrect word at that. The actual term ‘conversate’ does not exist in our language. Don’t believe me? Type it into Word and tell me that the text doesn’t come up red. The best word to use here is “converse.” There’s no need to make up another verb form for ‘conversation’, we already have one.


Which ones have you fallen victim to? Did I miss any big ones? Leave your biggest grammar pet peeves in the comments!

And hey, if you feel the need to casually print this off and post it by the office water cooler, I won’t judge. Consider it a PSA.


About The Author

Lauren Hamer

Lauren is the brains behind CaPABLE…and Beyond, founder of LaunchPoint Resume, Cerebral Palsy have-er, and constant chaser of the ‘good life’. Money and Career writer at The Cheat Sheet and occasional freelancer for career, money, and organizational development topics.