Have you ever been grammatically corrected by your colleague because of using common phrases incorrectly?

Words and phrases are indeed powerful tools that could make you look dumb regardless of your educational attainment. Before falling further into language traps, we have listed 10 (ten) most commonly misused phrases to check your grammar with.

Make this an advantage for yourself since proper language is beneficial in life and career.

  • you did good vs you did well

The misconception about the use of adjectives and adverbs is often a mistake in sentence structures. Using the word “good” (an adjective) in modifying the action of the noun is wrong, it sounds like the noun did it generously. We only use adjectives to modify a noun. For example, “she is a good citizen” in other words, “well” (an adverb) is the correct word to indicate that the action was done with good results and was properly executed by the noun.

  • fill up vs fill out

A most common error is when someone told us what to do with the questionnaire or documents we’re holding. Now, the use of “fill up” in a sentence is when you meant to fill a container with water or something or to put something in an empty space. While “fill out” means you have to sign up or complete a form or a questionnaire with the necessary information.

Practice the use of “fill out the form” and don’t be scared if you sound different than what we’re accustomed to.

  • piece of mind vs peace of mind

It might sound hilarious but giving someone a “piece of mind” is entirely wrong. “Piece” and “peace” are homonyms, they do sound the same but their spelling has two different meanings. Piece of mind means offering a few of your own thoughts to someone who may have been upset or disappointed you. You need peace of mind from those types of people, a phrase that conveys a feeling of safety or security.

  • sneak peak vs sneak peek

Using these two phrases verbally is not a problem because they do sound the same, not until you write it down and spelt the second word wrong. Peak means the highest point of something, which could mean maximum if used as an adjective while peek is a sneaky look or glance at a part of something. So, use “sneak peek” if you meant a preview on a certain thing.

  • make do vs make due

If you meant, “I can get by with whatever I have.” make do would fit the sentence but setting a deadline for a project or a task, you meant to say make due. Although, according to studies, make due is a historical form that is no longer used and is considered a substandard phrase nowadays.

  • escape goat vs scapegoat

Let’s say you have a herd of goats and one of them escaped out of the field then you can call it an escape goat. But don’t use this when you refer to someone that suffered for others, someone who took the blame. That’s when we call them scapegoat.

  • nerve-wrecking vs nerve-wracking vs nerve-racking

Have you ever seen these phrases used interchangeably? Sometimes wrecking is used because it is associated with the word wracking, probably a chance of misspelled word. In fact, the original spelling for the phrase used to indicate that something is causing you stress or extremely nervous is “nerve-racking” although “nerve-wracking” is also considered correct since it is a widely-used variant spelling.

  • physical year vs fiscal year

Physical is an adjective that indicates the body or material things detectable by our eyesight. Physical year could also mean the calendar year in each time zone. It has a similar idea to fiscal year but in relation to finances or accounting used by business people.

  • shade light on vs shed light on

There is confusion when you say “shade light on” since shade itself means to hide something. You can’t enlighten something if you’re shading it in the latter. So, if you want to denote that you mean to bring clarity to something, use “shed light on”.

  1. for all intensive purposes vs for all intents and purposes

So, this intense phrase probably developed because someone misheard it instead of the standard idiom “for all intents and purposes”. If you keep on using “intensive purposes” you mean to say, for all purposes which are intense, isn’t it an odd way of delivering it? Remember to use “for all intents and purposes” if you mean to cover all important opinions or that something has the same effect as something else.

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Kristine Gallego

Kristine is currently a Senior Designer in a Japanese architectural firm. She took up her studies in BS Architecture at the Technological Institute of the Philippines-Manila. During her college days, she was a consistent student leader and successfully topped her thesis exhibit as 6th placer. Along with her passion for design and arts, she's also an enthusiastic reader and an avid fan of historical documentaries. Studying history and human behavior is where her curiosity often brings her. The composition style of her literary pieces are inspired by dream-like scenarios, an alternate world to escape out of reality. Because her goal as a writer is to spread a positive vibe for the readers and to learn from them in return.