10 “right” and “wrong” expressions in English

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You probably already know that “right” and “wrong” are the same as “correct” and “incorrect” respectively. These words are also used in a lot of informal expressions and idioms in English. Today I’ll teach you ten of them!

1. on the right track

If you’re “on the right track,” it means you are doing something correctly or well. You are going in the right direction. It is often used for following a correct line of thinking:

  • He hasn’t solved the math problem yet, but he’s on the right track.
  • Everyone hopes that the new president can get the country back on the right track.

You can also use “on the wrong track” to describe going in the incorrect direction, or doing something that is likely to lead to bad results.

2. if you play your cards right

This expression means doing the correct things when using your resources to achieve a desired result. Think about playing a card game like poker – yes, there is some luck involved, but if you use some skill in utilizing the cards correctly, then you can win the game.

  • If I play my cards right, I might get a promotion by the end of this year.
    = if I do good work and impress the right people in the company
  • She’s already mayor of the city, and if she plays her cards right, she could get elected as a senator.
    = if she performs well and gains popularity with the voters

3. It serves you right!

We use this expression to say that someone deserved the punishment or bad consequence they experienced. It was their fault, so they deserve the negative result.

  • Oh, you missed the bus? Well, it serves you right for being late all the time.
  • He’s a reckless driver, and yesterday he got a speeding ticket – it serves him right!

4. his/her heart is in the right place

We use this phrase to describe when someone has good intentions, but the result is not very good or they cause problems without intending to.

  • My daughter made a mess in the kitchen while she was making me breakfast – but that’s OK, I know her heart is in the right place. (= she didn’t intentionally make a mess; she was trying to do something nice)

5. Right on!

This exclamation is an informal way to express encouragement, agreement, or support:

  • “What this country needs is a better educational system.”
    “Right on!” (= I completely agree)
  • “I just bought a new car.”
    “Right on! What kind is it?” (= that’s great!)

6. wrong number

If you dial a phone number and it does not connect to the person you are trying to call, then you might have the wrong number.

  • “Hi, is Janice there?”
    “Sorry, you’ve got the wrong number. There’s no one named Janice living here.”

7. get off on the wrong foot

If you “get off on the wrong foot,” it means you do something that makes a bad impression right at the beginning.

  • I got off on the wrong foot by spilling coffee on the boss’ desk during my first day at work.

8. wake up on the wrong side of the bed

We use this idiom to describe when someone is in an unusually bad mood today.

  • The manager yelled at us three times before lunch! He must have woken up on the wrong side of the bed today.
  • Sorry – I didn’t mean to be so rude. Guess I woke up on the wrong side of the bed.

9. Don’t get me wrong

We can say “Don’t get me wrong…” before expressing an idea that could easily be misunderstood, and we want the other person to pay attention and understand our specific feelings. This phrase is often used to make criticism less intense.

  • I don’t think she’s the right person for the job. Don’t get me wrong, she’s a very nice person, but her skills just don’t fit the position. (= I’m not saying she’s a terrible person; the problem is just with her skills)
  • Sometimes I can’t stand my boyfriend. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want to break up with him or anything – but there are times when he really annoys me. (= I don’t hate him and I don’t want to end the relationship)

10. rub (someone) the wrong way

This expression means to annoy or irritate someone. Think about stroking a cat or dog – you usually move your hand in the same direction as the animal’s fur. If you move your hand in the opposite direction of the fur, it will be unpleasant for the cat or dog.

  • His comment that women aren’t good leaders really rubbed me the wrong way. I don’t think I could work with someone who holds such views.
  • I like doctors who are warm, patient, and caring, so when I get a doctor who’s obviously in a rush, it rubs me the wrong way.

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10 "right" and "wrong" expressions in English Espresso English
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