10 Common English Phrases You've Been Saying Incorrectly

WRONG: 'You are the splitting image of your father.'
PHOTO: istockphoto

It's been three years since our last full English lesson, and we think it's time for another round. While not the end of the world, it can be slightly embarrassing to make these mistakes, especially mid-conversation, so here are 10 common English phrases you might not know you've been getting wrong this entire time. 

1. "Splitting image"

Correct: Spitting image

An idiom, the term "spitting image" means exact likeness, duplicate, or counterpart. This is inspired by the Biblical use of spit and mud to create Adam in God's image. 

2. "First come, first serve"

Correct: First come, first served

If you think about it, "first come, first serve" suggests that the person who arrives first serves the people who arrive late. As you already know, it actually means that the first person to arrive is prioritized. 

3. "Nip in the butt"

Correct: Nip in the bud

To nip something in the bud is to stop a problem before it becomes bigger. The analogy involves removing the buds from plants and flowers before they are fully formed. 

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4. "Taken for granite"

Correct: Taken for granted

Yes, people make this mistake. We're not really sure why because even the confusion doesn't make sense. To be taken for granted is to be unappreciated. 

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5. "Free reign"

Correct: Free rein

We understand why people assume it's "reign" since royalty is known to have the freedom to do whatever they please. Sadly, it's actually "rein." ICYDK, a rein is the strap used by a rider to control a horse. So when a rider gives a horse free rein, it means the horst can run around as much as it wants—there's no control.

6. "On accident"

Correct: By accident

Wish we could give you a reason why doing something "on purpose" is acceptable but doing something "on accident" isn't (maybe because the very nature of an accident is it's unintentional, lol). And of course, "by accident" is correct, but "by purpose" sounds (and is) wrong. It's just one of those English language rules that we have to swallow. 

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7. "One in the same"

Correct: One and the same

Saying "one and the same" means two things are so similar, they might as well just be one thing. Some people prefer simply saying, "They're the same." But "one and the same" puts an emphasis on their similarities.

8. "Each one worse than the next"

Correct: Each one worse than the last

"Each one worse than the next" doesn't make sense because you can't predict the future...or can you? For one thing to be worse, you need to have tried or experienced something else that was bad beforehand so you have a point of comparison. 

9. "She did good"

Correct: She did well

One of the first things they teach you in English class is using "good" vs. "well." Here's a refresher if you've forgotten: Use "well" as an adverb (words used to describe verbs, adjectives, or another adverb) and "good" as an adjective (words used to describe nouns). Easy, right?

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10. "Butt naked"

Correct: Buck naked

People make this mistake because when you're naked, your butt is exposed. And in that way, it does make sense...unfortunately, it's still wrong. "Buck naked" is the correct expression, with "buck" having a pretty in-depth etymology if you Google it. It could be referring to: 1) a male deer, and eventually, slang for males of various species, 2) a derogatory term against American Indians who used to ride their horses totally naked

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