'for all intensive purposes': an eggcorn

“For all intents và purposes” means “in effect.”Don’t confuse this expression with the eggcorn “for all intensive purposes.”

If you conduct business, you have probably run across the phrase “for all intents and purposes.” What does this expression mean? Understanding the sense of the words will help you avoid a common but costly mistake.

The Bits and Pieces of Intents và Purposes

The first step is khổng lồ understand the key elements of the phrase.

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An intent is a purpose, meaning, or design. A purpose is a reason that something exists or is done, the intended result of something, or the point at issue.


The Origin

The phrase “to all intents, constructions, and purposes” dates from sixteenth-century English law. Later, the shortened “for (or to) all intents & purposes” became more popular than the original phrase. It means “in every practical sense” or “virtually.” Even back then, lawyers liked khổng lồ cover all their bases! An idiom is an expression whose meaning doesn’t correspond wholly or literally to lớn the meaning of its individual words, or that doesn’t follow the usual grammatical conventions of a language. “For all intents và purposes” is idiomatic; the all doesn’t always include every intent or purpose. In short, it can mean “for all functional purposes, in effect.”

How lớn Use It

Let’s turn to journalism to discern how to use this phrase. Here are some quotes from around the web. Notice how the writer uses the idiom khổng lồ mean “virtually” or “in effect.”

The weekend is, for all intents và purposes, an East Coast championship for drone pilots hoping lớn qualify for the U.S. National Drone Racing Championships, set for Aug. 5-7 in thành phố new york City.―The Roanoke Times

“Our concern is we’ve got the trail essentially completed,” Sales said. “For all intents & purposes, it looks lượt thích the trail is open.”―Napa Valley Register

With the roof up, the Targa feels khổng lồ all intents và purposes like a 911 coupe.―The Telegraph

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The Wrong Way to Write It

If you intend to lớn convey the sense of “in effect,” you don’t want khổng lồ make the error of writing “for all intensive purposes.” This phrase is an eggcorn, a misheard or misunderstood phrase that an interlocutor transforms into a new word or phrase. (The name eggcorn comes from the tendency for some people to mishear the word acorn as eggcorn). So, “for intensive purposes” probably developed when someone misheard the similar-sounding “for all intents & purposes.” Intensive means thorough, vigorous, or concentrated. It’s evident from the context that most instances of “intensive purposes” should have been “intents & purposes.” Consider an example:

Since taking the new coaching position over a month ago, UNLV’s Marvin Menzies has been working fast & furious khổng lồ broaden the depth of the trimmed down roster that he inherited during a chaotic post season in Vegas. For all intensive purposes, & considering the dire situation, the Rebel roster has certainly filled out with needed difference makers added every few weeks.― MWConnection.com

If you make that mistake, it can distract your readers from your real message.

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If you remember what “for all intents & purposes” means, you should be able to use it correctly. If in doubt, you can always use a synonym like “in effect” or “virtually.”

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