Grammar 4 min read

Is it for all Intents and Purposes or Intensive Purposes?

The correct idiom is “for all intents and purposes,” meaning “in effect” or “in every practical way.” Some mistake it for the incorrect phrase “for all intensive purposes” because the two sound almost identical when spoken aloud. However, this error is a great example of an eggcorn, which occurs when we mistakenly replace words or phrases but the meaning stays intact. Use the correct phrase “for all intents and purposes” the same way you would use “at the end of the day.”

For all intensive purposes, the universe is infinite.
For all intents and purposes, the baker’s decision to use rice flour instead of wheat made the bread gluten-free.

For all intents and purposes, this quick guide will show you exactly how to use the correct idiom in a sentence, so you can look good in front of any audience.

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A town crier holding a scroll with an announcement. Text reads, for all intents and purposes.
Use “for all intents and purposes” when you want to express that one thing has basically the same result or effect as another.

What is an Intensive Purpose?

On one hand, the adjectiveintensive” means concentrated, vigorous, or thorough. On the other hand, the nounpurpose” refers to the reason for doing something or the will to accomplish an aspiration. Therefore, an intensive purpose might be a concentrated aspiration. However, this is usually an erroneous phrase that doesn’t make much sense. In fact, it’s an eggcorn for the correct phrase intents and purposes.”

His comments about the speaker were, for all intensive purposes, taken out of context.
For all intents and purposes, Henry’s divorce from his first wife was a divorce from the Catholic church.

Therefore, for all intensive purposes” is an eggcorn — a mistake that results from someone mishearing words or phrases and creating brand-new soundalikes (e.g., the incorrect eggcorn for the correct acorn).

For example:

  • Expatriates deteriorate into ex-patriots.
  • Polite diners swap silverware for civilware.
  • Important cases skip the Supreme Court and end up at the Extreme Court.

From a literal standpoint, “for all intensive purposes” means “for all thorough aspirations.” That doesn’t make much sense.

📝 In linguistics, eggcorns are also called ononyms.

How do you use All Intents and Purposes?

Use “for all intents and purposes” when you want to express that one thing has basically the same result or effect as another. This means you can use this idiom in the same way that you might use the word “essentially,” or the phrase “in effect.” More informal alternatives are “pretty much” and “at the end of the day.” Finally, you can use this phrase at the beginning of a sentence or in the middle, directly after the verb (His absence from the meeting was, for all intents and purposes, an act of protest).

Here are examples of how to use for all intents and purposes in a sentence:

Gerald said that, for all intents and purposes, he’d finished building the new company website.
For all intents and purposes, the professor just read from his book for two hours.
Julie felt that, for all intents and purposes, she’d seen all the theme park had to offer.
Her decision to finally speak to him was, for all intents and purposes, an act of forgiveness.
📜👑 We can trace the origins of this phrase back to 16th Century England. In fact, a similar phrase first appeared in a 1546 Act of Parliament. This legal document used the phrase “to all intents, constructions, and purposes” to show that the notorious King Henry VIII essentially had unlimited power in interpreting the laws of the land.

Common usage opted to drop the word “constructions,” and the British English variant “to all intents and purposes” survives to this day. Conversely, American English speakers prefer the idiom with the prepositionfor.”

Is Purpose the Same as Intent?

Both words are nouns, but intent does not mean the same as purpose. While intention describes the way you plan to achieve a goal, purpose is the goal or the achievement itself. In other words, intention wants to do something, while purpose actually does it. Additionally, synonyms for purpose include ambition, direction, goal, objective, and scheme. Conversely, other words for intent include determination, resolution, and preoccupation.

“I intend to find my true place in the world,” said the Speaker, striding quickly out of parliament.
Sheila intended to collect her post later.
Mark found his purpose in life when he began climbing mountains.

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Krista Grace Morris

Krista heads up Marketing and Content Creation here at INK. From Linguistics and History to puns and memes, she's interested in the systems we create to share our ideas with each other.

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