According to Phrases.org, ‘for all intents and purposes’ means “In effect; for all practical purposes” and although the phrase’s exact origin isn’t clear, it has been around since the time of Henry VIII (16th century). They also say that the phrase was originally known as ‘to all intents and purposes’, but “it is ‘for all intents and purposes’ that is now more widely used”.
Wisegeek.com says that it was probably used in the legal system as a slightly longer phrase “for all intents, constructions and purposes”. They also quite rightly pointed out that the word ‘intents’ doesn’t need to be plural because you could say “it was her intent to go outside” (for singular) or “it was their intent to go outside” (for plural).
An example of when you might use this phrase is when something is ‘more or less true’ or ‘true in effect’. e.g. “For all intents and purposes Chloe was the manager, even though she hadn’t formally been promoted”.
For all ‘intensive’ purposes
The phrase ‘for all intensive purposes’ is occasionally used in place of ‘for all intents and purposes'; however, it is incorrect. There is much debate over this with the many examples printed – an example of this misprint can be found in the Indiana newspaper The Fort Wayne Daily Gazette as early as May 1870 (source: Phrases.org).
Is ‘for all intents and purposes’ a phrase you use?
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