Popular English expressions we should get right

There are some popular sayings, proverbs and idioms that speakers (predominantly non-native) of English language have used incorrectly over the years. I had firsthand experience of these misconceptions that were (and are still) taught by parents, teachers, peers, etc. around the world. Consequently, it is a propitious time to correct a few of them, so let’s spread the word from here.

The point is that sayings, proverbs and idioms do not change—they are fixed and regular.

Similarly, collocation is the use of certain words or phrases together. There are no reasons for using them together, it just sounds correct to people who have used them all their lives—native speakers.

Let’s get to them right away.

  1. Temper justice with mercy (not Tamper justice with mercy)

If people do what the incorrect version says, justice would have been dead a long time ago. To ‘tamper’ is to make changes without permission, especially to damage. ‘Temper’ means to make something less strong or extreme.

This expression is used to plead for lighter punishment for an offence.

 

  1. Forewarned is forearmed (not To be forewarned is to be forearmed)

‘To be forewarned is to be forearmed’ was actually what I was taught, but it is simply ‘forewarned is forearmed’. It is used to say that if you have the knowledge of a problem before it occurs, you will be prepared for it.

 

  1. He who laughs last laughs longest/best (either of longest or best is acceptable)

It is a popular expression used to emphasize that the person who has control of a situation in the end is the most successful, even if other people had seemed to have an advantage.

Read on: Popular English expressions we should get right

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