“Appearances are deceiving”
Yesterday, I heard a BBC reporter use the phrase “appearances are deceptive.” It reminded me of one of my pet peeves in language and writing. People love to use the phrase “appearances are deceiving,” but that usage is incorrect.
I have found numerous places on the Internet that discuss this idiom. Attributed to Aesop, it is often quoted as both “appearances can be deceptive” and “apperances can be deceiving.”
Whatever the original translation, there is clear reasoning which tells us the correct usage. The problem here is that the word “deceive” is transitive, which means it requires an object. That is why the phrase “appearances can be deceiving” is incorrect. You have to be deceiving SOMETHING. Maybe appearances can be deceiving YOU. Or appearances could be deceiving Bob. It is correct to say “appearances can be deceptive” because the “deceptive” is an adjective which is correctly used to describe the noun “appearances.”
So, much to my delight, the BBC reporter used the phrase correctly.
I posted part of this message on the Grammar Exchange site . Grammar Exchange is a great reference. Check it out!