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Could care less or couldn’t care less and other tricky misused expressions [infographic]

  • September 30, 2013
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Plenty of expressions in the English language have become warped, and they can make a grammar conscious person shiver in horror. Many may be brutalized due to folks hearing them more often than reading them. Here are some beaten-up expressions and frequently mangled words.


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“Nip It in the Bud”

“Nip it in the butt” is incorrect unless referring to a dog chasing a cat. “Nip it in the bud” comes from gardening/agriculture and refers to snipping a plant off while it is still young: “in the bud.” It describes putting a stop to a situation before it becomes a problem. Think of cutting off a bud before it opens into a flower.


Dan began to feel tired but nipped it in the bud with a cup of coffee.

The class became harder, so I nipped it in the bud and got a tutor before my grades slipped.


“Couldn’t Care Less” vs “Could Care Less”

These are both used, but only the first is correct when used as an expression. “Couldn’t care less” shows someone is not interested in something, while “could care less” cancels out the idea behind the expression by stating that the speaker does have concern about the topic.


I’m not hungry, so I couldn’t care less about what we have for dinner.

As long as they get cheese, mice couldn’t care less about the type.


“Anyway” and “Toward” vs “Anyways” and “Towards”

For some reason, people often try to put an -s on both of these words, but that is not correct for all of the cases.


“Anyway” is used oftener as an adverb than as adjective

Anyway, down to business.

It is raining, but I’m going fishing, anyway.

“Toward” is used as an adjective and preposition

I am leaning toward having fish for dinner.


“Anyways” is used as an adjective

You can’t do your job just anyways!

“Towards” is used as an adverb

Efforts towards a peaceful resolution of the conflict



Folks often try to stick -ir on the front, but “irregardless” is not a word.

I will fish regardless of the rain.

The pizza was cold, but I ate it, regardless.


“For All Intents and Purposes”

“Intents and” sounds similar to “intensive,” leading to folks misusing this expression as “all intensive purposes,” which is meaningless.


There is half a cup of flour left; for all intents and purposes, we are out.

For all intents and purposes, I am broke. I have 3 dollars left until payday.


“Should’ve,” “Could’ve” and “Would’ve”

When spoken, these are probably misheard. “Should of,” “could of” and “would of” are improper.


“Pore Over”

To examine or study something carefully is to “pore over” it; “poring over” items in a store is accepted, while “pouring over” items in a store requires a liquid and is frowned upon.

Frank pored over his books the night before the big exam.

Charlie’s gravy is good when poured over French fries.


“Waiting With Bated Breath”

The word “bated” comes from “abated,” which is an old way to say something has stopped (“the rain has abated”). As mentioned, most people probably use the word “baited” because they have heard this expression more than they have read it, but this is incorrect unless referring to a fishhook or a trap. The expression is overly dramatic and rarely used anymore outside of sarcasm.

She was promised a holiday bonus but is not waiting with bated breath.

Howard is stopping by? Great. I will be waiting with bated breath.


There are plenty of other misused expressions and mutilated words. Can you list some?

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