Grammar Grappler #26: Is it “free rein” or “free reign”?

A fellow Amory Panther brought this confusing word pair to my attention through Facebook. Let’s see how well you choose the correct word in this sentence:

Best Sports Network gives regional managers [free rein, free reign] to make decisions in the best interest of their coaches and schools.

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Answer: free rein

Reign refers to a period of power observed by royalty. The Queen of England continues to reign.

A rein is a strap used to control an animal, such as a horse.

With these definitions firmly in place, people naturally assume the expression is free reign because it refers to no limit on power or authority. That is incorrect. Free rein is a metaphor; when you have free rein, you can do whatever you want because no one else is controlling the reins.

You now have free rein to comment on this post and share other examples of commonly confused words.


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