I know that all you lovely readers are well-versed in these rules. But it never hurts to brush up. You might also have a friend who gets one of these wrong. Share away! I have already devoted an entire episode to the phrase we get egregiously wrong most often: “I couldn’t care less.” Now let’s look at six new phrases that are often misused or misspelled. As always, watch the video explanation (this one’s short!) and read along below.
INCORRECT: Unphased / phased
CORRECT: Unfazed / fazed
It is mind-blowing for many people to learn that unphased is not the word you’re looking for when trying to convey that someone is unperturbed by something. They are unfazed by it. I saw a photo of a baby and a dog on Instagram recently with the caption, “The dog doesn’t even phase her anymore.” It should be spelled faze. Don’t worry, friend, NPR made the mistake, too.
INCORRECT: Every once and a while
INCORRECT: Every once and awhile
CORRECT: Every once in a while
“Every once in a while” is the proper form of this expression, because we’re talking about one occurrence in a larger space of time. Not “every once and a while” OR “every once in awhile.” And what a great moment to plug this previous episode that talks about a while versus awhile.
CORRECT(ish): You’ve got another thing coming
BUT EVEN MORE CORRECT: You’ve got another think coming
Unlike the blatantly incorrect “I could care less,” this is an example of a phrase whose incorrect usage sort of makes sense and has become its own phrase because of rampant misuse. But technically, it’s still wrong. Both of these phrases are used when you’re trying to tell someone they’re wrong and should rethink something.
Most people don’t even know the correct phrase (you’ve got another think coming) unless they look it up, but it originated way back in the mid-1800s and was misconstrued through speech along the way to become thing. The correct version makes more sense if you use the entire sentence: “If that’s what you think, you’ve got another think coming.”
So, I guess the question here is who is more correct. In To Kill a Mockingbird (1960), Harper Lee says, “…but it had another think coming…” (source)
INCORRECT: Peak my interest
CORRECT: Pique my interest
They sound the same, and we’re more familiar with the work peak. But pique means to arouse anger or curiosity in something. On a similar note: It’s sneak peek. No matter how badly you want to write sneak peak.
INCORRECT: Step foot in
CORRECT: Set foot in
This one irks me, and it’s a mistake that seasoned writers make a lot. Set in this case is a transitive verb, which means it needs an object — the foot — to act upon. Step is not a transitive verb; it’s pure action. When you walk, you step. When you step, you set your foot down. Using set here implies deliberation and makes your point — that you truly do not want to step into the room even by setting one foot down — logically stronger. Logic, however, doesn’t mean much when it comes to grammar these days.
Every once in a while, I am fazed by a mistake that really piques my anger. If you think I’ll set foot anywhere near the perpetrator, you’ve got another think coming. See y’all next month! Till then, if you have a grammar rule you want to explore, email me at [email protected].
Freshen up on Grammar Guru’s previous episodes!
Grammar Shape-Up Series: Apart vs. A Part
Grammar Shape-Up Series: Fewer vs. Less
Grammar Shape-Up Series: “Couldn’t Care Less”
Lay vs. Lie: Are You Using Them Correctly?
Apostrophes: Are You Over- Or Underusing Them?
FYI: The Acronyms You Need To Know
5 Words You’re Probably Using Incorrectly
3 Rules You’re Likely Breaking
Everyday vs. Every Day & Other Tricky Word Pairs
Grammar Guru: Prepositions CAN End A Sentence. Sometimes.
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