At Face Value

How to use the expression "at face value" correctly

This is an entry on my list of Common Errors in English Usage. Visit the main page for direct links to additional entries.

The idiom face value refers to “the outward or initial appearance of something” or its apparent value. It is used to indicate the acceptance of something without questioning or doubting it. When it is used in this sense (as opposed to the literal “face value” of tickets, stocks, etc.), it should be preceded by the preposition at, not for or another preposition:

took his promises for face value
took his promises at face value

accepted his explanation at face value

Related Resources

Common Errors in English Usage: Errors in diction and idiom commonly made by native speakers of English

List of Common Errors in English Usage (PDF): Printable version of the complete list

Common Grammar Errors: A list of common errors in grammar (topics like subject-verb agreement and parallelism) as distinct from usage

List of Common Errors in English Usage: PDF version

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