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Suppose you are a principal of a school. One day when you hear lots of loud laughter and screams from a classroom which has no teacher for some reasons. You go there to find out why those children are shouting. When you get there, you see two children have sit on their chairs and are screaming and clowning around! You're shocked and want to find out the reason of such a silliness. Do the self-made sentences below make any sense to you? If yes please let me know if they are natural in English. If not, please tell me what would the principal say in such a situation to indicate the same message:

  • Have you mistaken here with a circus?

  • Have you mixed up here with a circus?

  • Have you muddled up here with a circus?

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    I (AmE) would consider using for more natural. For example, "Have you mistaken this classroom for a circus?". Also, using here is unnatural, just specify the place (such as "this classroom", "this place" etc.) – user3169 Jan 14 '17 at 19:01
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Normally, when such comparisons are made, we don't use any verb such as mix up or confuse. Instead, we would just ask a rhetorical question:

Do you think this is a circus?

or:

Where do you think you are? A circus?


Another rather common way to do this is to state the fact in the negative, after an introductory exclamation or question. For example:

What are you doing? This isn't a circus.

or:

Hey, knock it off! This isn't a circus.

  • For most contexts, it's quite true that we don't use any verb such as mix up or confuse. But I couldn't resist looking up my favourite counterexample, and I must admit I was quite surprised to find an actual dedicated entry at dictionary.com for You must have mistaken me for someone who gives a shit. That's probably the longest "headword" entry I've ever seen in a dictionary. – FumbleFingers Jan 14 '17 at 14:44
  • @FumbleFingers - Interesting footnote, but, just to be clear for the learners, that’s a completely different context. Though it would be perfectly grammatical (and even a little bit amusing), I can’t imagine a principal saying, “You must have mistaken this classroom for a circus tent.” – J.R. Jan 14 '17 at 15:28
  • J.R.♦: You could argue that they're different registers, but they're hardly different contexts. And let's be honest - schoolteachers are probably more likely than the public at large to use such circumlocutions. After all, if it's going to be framed as a rhetorical question, my "erudite" version is actually far more likely to come out as Do you think I give a shit? (or just Do I give a shit?). You need to be a bit fastidious / schoolmarmish to include the mistake X for Y construction there. – FumbleFingers Jan 14 '17 at 17:24
  • @FumbleFingers - When I said they were different contexts, I simply meant that You must have mistaken me for someone who gives a shit is not something a principle would say when entering a room full of unruly children. – J.R. Jan 15 '17 at 10:19
  • Point taken. Actually, more than 50 years on I still remember a teacher (of English, as it happens) who sometimes used his "wit" to belittle and ridicule individual unruly pupils in front of the whole class. The rest of us used to laugh (with him, at the hapless victim), but later on in the playground we'd usually rally round the victim and all agree that the teacher was just being a bully. – FumbleFingers Jan 15 '17 at 13:47

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