There are certain common phrases, or idioms, that even native English speakers get wrong. Idioms are phrases such as saying it is raining cats and dogs. We use these a lot in our culture, but sometimes we get the words a little bit wrong. The dictionary’s definition of an idiom is “a group of words established by usage as having a meaning not deducible from those of the individual words (e.g., rain cats and dogs, see the light).”
Here are some idioms that are commonly said incorrectly and the correct word to use instead:
When you want to say something happened from the beginning, you might say right off the back. Wrong! It should be right off the bat.
Do you say play it by ear or play it by year? This means that you are being spontaneous and seeing what happens instead of making rigid plans. If you say play it by ear, you are correct.
If two people get along and are inseparable, you may say they are two peas in a… pod or pot? The correct one here is two peas in a pod.
When you want to convey how rough and competitive something is, you might use this idiom. Do you say dog eat dog world or doggie dog world? They sound similar when said out loud, but dog eat dog world is correct.
If you get away with something, you got off scot-free. Many people accidentally say scotch-free.
If you catch something early before it becomes a problem, do you say nip it in the bud or nip it in the butt? The latter sounds funnier, but the right way to say it is nip it in the bud.
If you like something, you should say that’s right up my alley, not that’s right in my alley.
If a bad situation gets worse, you might tell the person who caused the problem to worsen that they added insult to injury. Many people say added salt to the injury instead, but that is simply not right.
Have you ever said the ball’s in your hand when referring to wanting someone else to make a move? You should be saying the ball’s in your court.
So, what idioms do we tend to use correctly? A few examples are: “hit the sack” which means to go to bed or go to sleep, “beat around the bush” to avoid a touchy subject, or “steal someone’s thunder” to take the praise for something that someone else accomplished.
Do you realize that you were saying one of these idioms wrong? Do you disagree with any of these?
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