The Red Pen: “Step Foot”

We Need to Talk About Grammar is a weekly feature in which I complain about grammatical mistakes I encounter all too often. Feel free to commiserate below, and check out the archives here!

“Ugh, after that nasty bout of food poisoning, I will never step foot in a Taco Bell ever again.”

What’s wrong with this sentence?

I fear many people these days will say, “Nothing!” Those people are wrong. The correct expression is “I will never set foot in a Taco Bell ever again.

I can understand where the confusion comes from. You step with your feet; it makes sense, sort of. However, “step foot” is redundant in a weird sort of way. By using the verb “step,” you are already implying that you’re using your feet, so you don’t really need the word “foot” afterwards. If you think about it, the act of “stepping” is really the act of “setting” your foot somewhere. Thus, “step” and “set foot” can actually be used as synonyms.

“I will never step into a Taco Bell ever again.”

“I will never set foot in a Taco Bell ever again.”

I still prefer the second sentence, if only because I’ve stared at them both too long and now they both kind of seem like nonsense, but the second one seems slightly less nonsensical. It also seems a bit more emphatic, no? Plus, it just rolls off the tongue. “I will never step foot” sounds significantly more awkward to me.

Let me know how you feel about this in the comments!

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One thought on “The Red Pen: “Step Foot”

  1. I have never even heard someone say “step foot in” instead of “set foot in”. I honestly didn’t even know that’s a mistake people make. Oh dear.

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