Misunderstood Expressions Exercise (137)

Each of the following sentences contains a common expression that has been altered because of the speaker's imperfect understanding of it. Revise the sentences to show the correct usage.

Answers and Explanations

1.
Original: If you believe that you can get away with this, you have another thing coming.
Correct : If you believe that you can get away with this, you have another think coming.

The expression is "another think." The meaning is that the other person has given insufficient thought to the consequences of some act.

2.
Original: The burglar who had been caught in the act tried to explain his presence in the beach house, but each lie was worse than the next.
Correct : The burglar who had been caught in the act tried to explain his presence in the beach house, but each lie was worse than the last.

The "next thing" cannot be worse because it hasn’t happened yet. In this expression, each thing is "worse than the last."

3.
Original: The secretary told me that Mr. Jones would get back to me at his earliest convenience.
Correct : The secretary told me that Mr. Jones would get back to me at my earliest convenience.
Alterna.: The secretary told me that Mr. Jones would get back to me as soon as possible.

It’s the convenience of the other person that should be considered, not that of Mr. Jones. Any phrase that shows a concern for the caller would be acceptable in the revision.

4.
Original: The termite inspector was supposed to be here by 8 a.m., but he took a wrong turn on accident.
Correct : The termite inspector was supposed to be here by 8 a.m., but he took a wrong turn by accident.

The idiom is "by accident. In standard English. One does something "on purpose," but "by accident."

5.
Original: My neighbor never took a course in carpentry, but for all intensive purposes, he might as well have done.
Correct : My neighbor never took a course in carpentry, but for all intents and purposes, he might as well have done.

The idiom is "intents and purposes." It means "for all practical purposes." The adjective intensive makes no sense with purposes. Intensive means "concentrated, intense." One can talk about "intensive study" or "an intensive effort," but not an "intensive purpose."

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