Infographic: 8 Common Phrases that You May Be Getting Wrong

The only part of English that is more difficult and problematic than spelling is the proper use of vernacular phrases.

Thanks to the many words in the English language that sound like each other but have different spelling and meaning, it is really easy to get a common phrase wrong by replacing the right word with its homonym. 

 common phrases that I have seen people misuse.

Edit: I have updated the infographic to replace “begging the question” with “baited breath”. The second term makes for a more coherent graphic.

On a related note, this is my first homemade infographic.

Nate Hoffelder

View posts by Nate Hoffelder
Nate Hoffelder is the founder of The Digital Reader. He has been blogging about indie authors since 2010 while learning new tech skills weekly. He fixes author sites, and shares what he learns on The Digital Reader's blog. In his spare time, he fosters dogs for A Forever Home, a local rescue group.


  1. Tom Wood7 January, 2018

    Add: Per Say

    1. Nate Hoffelder7 January, 2018

      that would be a good one to add, yes

  2. Anne H. Maxwell7 January, 2018

    You left out my favorite: You can’t have your cake and eat it too.
    Yes, I can have my cake, and yes, I can eat it.
    What you cannot do is eat your cake and have it, too.

    Good article!

  3. Zinc Whiskers7 January, 2018

    “baited breath” when it should be “bated breath”.

    1. Nate Hoffelder7 January, 2018

      that was on my short list, yes – I would have used if I hadn’t run out of room

  4. Kevin7 January, 2018

    Yes, there is also the lost cause of “I could care less,” which once upon a time was “I couldn’t care less.”

    1. Mike D9 January, 2018

      Possibly now a minority usage but still sees plenty of use.

  5. WL Emery7 January, 2018

    Very nice. Thanks!

  6. Mike D7 January, 2018

    “The far-reaching influence of the 39 Articles in Protestant faith cannot be underestimated. ”

    Where /perhaps/ “must not be underestimated” was being groped towards.

    1. Nate Hoffelder7 January, 2018

      … what?

  7. Karl7 January, 2018

    “Begging the question” is an interesting one. It’s probably used incorrectly about 100 times as often as it’s used correctly. And if you use it in the classically correct sense, most audiences will have no idea what you’re saying. So arguably the “incorrect” meaning is becoming the correct one.

    1. Nate Hoffelder7 January, 2018

      You’re absolutely right how often it is misused. And since meaning shifts with usage, we can’t actually say that everyone is wrong.

      I just can’t let this one go.

      1. b7 January, 2018

        Yep. English is a living language so predominant modern usage is *always* correct.

        Were this French, you’d have a point. But it’s not, so you don’t

    2. Will Entrekin8 January, 2018

      Just to add, I think a lot of people use “begs the question” when they really mean “prompts the question,” which I’m not sure is related to logical fallacies. It’s more like this information or conversation prompts this new question.

      Cool infographic Nate!

  8. Zinc Whiskers7 January, 2018

    “Nonplussed” is a word that pretty much has opposite meanings depending on which country you’re in. (English v. American)

  9. b7 January, 2018

    Personally, I like Joey Tribiani’s version of #5 better: “It’s a moo point … it’s like a cow’s opinion … it doesn’t matter … it’s moo”

  10. b7 January, 2018

    Then there’s the phrase “Don’t like this a little bit”. It’s peculiar to Philadelphia (of course, LOTS of things are a bit peculiar in Philadelphia).

    What they mean is that they don’t like this EVEN a little bit.

    1. Straker8 January, 2018

      Often said while drinking a glass of wudder.

  11. Nate Hoffelder8 January, 2018

    I updated the post and swapped out the begging entry for “baited breath”.

  12. William Ockham8 January, 2018

    Technically, those aren’t mondegreens because they didn’t arise from misheard song lyrics or poetry readings or some other vocal performance. The good folks over at the Language Log coined the term “egg corns” for this type of phrasing. See the original entry for egg corns (from nearly 15 years go!):

    1. Nate Hoffelder8 January, 2018

      I saw that, and I think these are mondegreens.

        1. Nate Hoffelder8 January, 2018

          there’s no reason they can’t be both.

  13. Jim Stovall8 January, 2018

    Not sure what the rules are here, but here’s the one that grates on me:

    exact same

    Thanks for the list.

  14. Bob Tudley12 January, 2018

    More common than “reigned in” is “free reign.” I see it regularly in books from major publishers these days, and it’s pretty much driven free rein from the Interwebs.

  15. […] made my first infographic in January, and once I did I realized what no one had told me before. I already had the requisite […]

Leave a Reply

Scroll to top