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"Mistaken as" vs. "mistaken for"

English Language & Usage Asked by RAFATH on July 28, 2020

I heard someone use the words mistaken as rather than mistaken for.

Is this correct? If it is correct then what is the difference between the two? Is it ever wrong to use mistaken as, and if so, why?

I ask because I was recently advised about something:

It shouldn’t in any way be mistaken as an academic judgement.

In dictionary definitions and usage guides, the preposition used is given as for, not as. However, there are other examples with as, such as ones in comments below, as well as in books on the internet.

2 Answers

When people mix up intangible things, and "as" is used after "mistook" to explain it, people are sometimes confused as to which way to word the sentence. Let's say a headstone engraver was working from a sloppy handwritten order and thought the date of birth was 1949 when it was actually 1948. Did he mistake 1948 as 1949 or 1949 as 1948? Just remember that the correct information comes first in the sentence and the incorrect information follows the word "as": he mistook 1948 as 1949, not the other way around. A helpful way to remember this is to (mentally) change the word "mistook" to a more specific word. "He misread 1948 as 1949" leaves no doubt about which date is the correct one. Whatever a person mistook is the same as what he misread or misheard.

Answered by Gary Workman on July 28, 2020

Usually, "mistaken for" is used when the speaker is refering to something with an identity (anything with mass)- that is a person, or an object.

Ex: He was mistaken for her husband as he was sitting by her side.

"Mistaken as" is used when the speaker is refering to some kind of an action, say, judgement in this question.

Ex: Since he spoke like an angel, his intentions were mistaken as good [or honorable]

Answered by Arun614 on July 28, 2020

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