• 2-minute read
  • 8th April 2020

All Intents and Purposes or All Intensive Purposes?

English has many well-known idioms, but many of them can cause confusion! The phrase “all intents and purposes,” for instance, is often misinterpreted as “all intensive purposes.” But what does this phrase mean? And how can you avoid errors in your work? Let’s take a look.

The Phrase: All Intents and Purposes

The correct version of this phrase is “all intents and purposes.” It means “in every practical sense” or “virtually,” so we use it when something is effectively the same as something else. For instance, we could say:

The spare room needs painting, but for all intents and purposes the house is ready.

Here, we mean the house is near enough ready (even with the unpainted spare room). This is the correct form of the phrase.

The Error: All Intensive Purposes

Some people mishear “all intents and purposes” as “all intensive purposes”:

Find this useful?

Subscribe to our newsletter and get writing tips from our editors straight to your inbox.

The spare room needs painting, but for all intensive purposes the house is ready.

Admittedly, “intensive purposes” sounds similar to “intents and purposes.” But once we look at what these words mean, the error becomes clear:

  • “Intents” is related to “intention” (i.e., what someone plans to do). So “for all intents and purposes” is simply a way of saying “it will work given your intentions for how you plan to use it.”
  • “Intensive” means “intense” or “highly concentrated.” As such, saying that something was true “for all intensive purposes” would mean “for all purposes that require a lot of effort in a short time.”

These are quite different meanings, so don’t get them confused!

Summary: All Intents and Purposes or All Intensive Purposes?

The correct phrase here is always “all intents and purposes,” meaning “in every practical sense.” And while some people say or write “all intensive purposes,” this is always a mistake! To make sure your writing is always error free, though, why not submit a document for proofreading today?

Comments (2)
15th January 2021 at 03:57
would not intensive purposes simply mean "highly concentrated, intense" purposes if the definition of intensive is highly concentrated, acting intense"
    15th January 2021 at 12:32
    It would theoretically mean something like "intense purposes," but it's not very clear what context that you could refer to purposes as such, and most people who use the phrase have "intents and purposes" in mind.

Got content that needs a quick turnaround?

Let us polish your work.

Explore our editorial business services.

More Writing Tips?
Trusted by thousands of leading
institutions and businesses

Make sure your writing is the best it can be with our expert English proofreading and editing.