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For Heaven’s Sake

For Heaven's sake

“For Heaven’s sake.”

Or, if you want to get more personal, “For Pete’s sake.” Or a reasonable facsimile thereof.

Each of these expressions is a plea for goodness, begging the receiver of the message to look past the motives behind his or her actions and to act according to that which is ultimately right in the universe.


“For Heaven’s sake, don’t be so stupid!”

“Make up your mind, for Pete’s sake!”

Whether you find the expression effective or not is up to you. But please, if you do choose to include it in your arsenal of communication tools, don’t be among the people who say:

“For Heaven’s sakes.”

Even worse is the homonymous “For Heaven sakes.”


1. Purpose; motive: a quarrel only for the sake of argument.
2. Advantage; good: for the sake of his health.
3. Personal benefit or interest; welfare: for her own sake.

Firstly, pluralizing the possessed sake (as in “For Heaven’s sakes”) is unnecessary, and arguably incorrect.

Secondly, using the possessor (Heaven) as an adjective to describe the plural sakes (as in “For Heaven sakes”) is so wrong it almost doesn’t even warrant further explanation. Just don’t do it.

This is yet another example of an expression that, if used incorrectly often enough by enough misled people, can somehow find its way into the realm of that which is acceptable in conventional English.

Please, stop the madness. For Heaven’s sake.

4 comments… add one
  • andreas June 15, 2005, 12:18 pm

    so this re-inspired a question in my mind about how to properly spell the phrase “if worse comes to worst”

    If worse comes to worse?
    If worse comes to worst?
    If worst comes to worse?

    the first one seems to be the one you hear, but #2 is more logical. #3 sounds nicely cataclysmic since “worst” is already superlative, but is probably wrong.

    in googling this question i came upon this grammar site:

    Common Errors In English


  • jaced June 16, 2005, 1:47 am

    Great link on the errors!

    Regarding worse/worst:

    Breaking it down, the first thing to note is that “worse” is a relative term, while “worst” is an absolute term.

    I initially agree that #2, “If worse comes to worst”, makes the most implied logical sense. But the others are worthy of some attention.

    1. If worse comes to worse. (From worse to worse.)

    This isn’t entirely illogical. It’s basically saying “If something lame becomes lamer”, but not quite. The nested phrase “comes to” implies that we’re arriving at a destination. That said, it’s more grammatically correct to say “from worse to worse” than “if worse comes to worse”. Note that the former is fine, as “worse” is relative; it’s like saying “from worse to (even) worse”.

    2. If worse comes to worst. (From worse to worst.)

    Like you point out, this makes the most sense, particularly because the phrase implies arrival.

    3. If worst comes to worse. (From worst to worse.)

    This, as grammatically incorrect as it sounds, actually seems to be strongest in making the point. Since “worst” is an absolute term, it is impossible by definition to get worse than that. So the idea of “worst to worse” actually seems to be making the strongest statement, as it’s speaking of something that’s theoretically impossible.

  • andreas August 25, 2006, 9:41 am


  • andreas August 25, 2006, 9:42 am

    #3 is also over the top, kind of like… “I’m gonna kill you deader than dead!”

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