For All Intents and Purposes: What Does It Mean and How Can You Use It? Image

“For all intents and purposes” isn’t a phrase that’s particularly common in everyday conversations, but if you’ve ever come across it in business or legal writing, you may have wondered just what all those words mean.

You’re not alone! In fact, many people who use this phrase either use it incorrectly or use the wrong words (more on that below).

Learn how to use “for all intents and purposes” properly so you can write professionally and avoid any miscommunication.

What Does For All Intents and Purposes Mean?

“For all intents and purposes” is a phrase that you might come across in business or legal writing. To better understand this phrase, we can examine each word individually.

An “intent” is a purpose, something that is done with design. A “purpose” is the reason something is done.

Therefore, we can say that “for all intents and purposes” means “in effect” or “practically speaking.”


The phrase “for all intents and purposes” has its roots in 16th century English law. Back then, the complete phrase was “to all intents, constructions, and purposes” but it was later shortened to the more popular version we use today.


Below are several examples of how “for all intents and purposes” can be used in a sentence:

  • For all intents and purposes, our work on the project was complete.
  • The leader was, for all intents and purposes, nothing more than a figurehead.
  • Despite his experience, he played, for all intents and purposes, like an amateur.
  • The treaty, for al intents and purposes, has been nullified.
  • The day was, for all intents and purposes, a victory for the Senator.
  • Though they never made it official, they were, for all intents and purposes, living like a married couple.
  • That city was, for all intents and purposes, her true home.
  • For all intents and purposes, the case was closed.

It’s Not For All Intensive Purposes

The most common mistake most people make with this phrase is mistakenly writing “intensive” instead of “intents and.”

That’s because when spoken aloud, the two sound very similar to the ear. In fact, so many people think the phrase is actually “all intensive purposes” that you’ll see almost as many search results for this phrase as the correct one.

But remember: “for all intensive purposes” is NOT the correct phrase! Always write and pronounce the phrase as “all intents and purposes” if you want to avoid an embarrassing gaffe.

More Commonly Confused Phrases

In addition to “for all intents and purposes,” other commonly confused phrases include “per our conversation” and “vice versa.”

Build your vocabulary and learn how to use these phrases and words properly to avoid common mistakes in your writing and everyday conversations.

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