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.

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    Hello RAFATH. If you show the people here the attempts you yourself have made to address your questions, eg examples given in dictionaries and occurring on the internet, it would be closer to the type of question the Help Center expects. Commented Jul 11, 2014 at 23:32
  • "I was mistaken as a doctor" or "I was mistaken for a doctor" what is the meaning and difference between the two?
    – RAFATH
    Commented Jul 11, 2014 at 23:35
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    @FumbleFingers Edwin, I'm not sure. My intuition is that OP's example in comments is acceptable. was mistaken as an indication of, was mistaken as evidence of and the like seem ok. I think data, communicative functions, intents - stuff that needs interpreting - can be (mis)taken as. General entities - including data etc can be mistaken for. The former would be far more restricted. Entities that are recognised, not interpreted, will give us very strong ungrammaticality judgements: Don't mistake me as Bob. Compare with Don't mistake this drop as evidence of a decline ... Commented Jul 12, 2014 at 19:21
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    @FumbleFingers I'd already posted a comment that it may not be worth reopening. Don't what's happened to it, appears to have been ghosted away. Last two links and the one that was in that comment itself were just for interest. I'm not really a fan of Ngrams at all ... Commented Jul 13, 2014 at 17:57
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    @Araucaria "It shouldn't in any way be mistaken as an academic judgement." It sounds okay to me. :)
    – F.E.
    Commented Jul 13, 2014 at 19:00

2 Answers 2


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]

  • I think that this is a good summary of the distinction between mistaken for and mistaken as, except that I would change your final example to this: Since he spoke like an angel, his intentions were mistaken as good [or honorable].
    – Sven Yargs
    Commented Jul 30, 2014 at 23:43
  • Thanks @SvenYargs, you are right. The sentence provides more clarity with your suggestion.
    – Arun614
    Commented Aug 20, 2014 at 9:16

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.

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