20 Phrases Similar to “Cart Before the Horse”

The statement Cart before the horse is a popular idiom that means putting things in the wrong priorities. Usually, a cart is put after the horse so that the horse can pull the cart along.

Thus, when a cart is put before the horse, it is said to be placed in the wrong order. When applied to real-life situations, it means to make something inconsequential more important than something essential.

For instance, when someone claims they want to have so much money, but they don’t learn a skill, go to school, or start a business; it means they are putting the cart before the horse.

This is because the latter has to come before the former which means that things have to be in the right order before it can work out. So when that happens, the person is said to put the cart before the horse.

What then are the other ways a person can say putting the cart before the horse? In this article, we will be listing twenty (20) phrases that are similar to the statement Cart before the horse.

20 Phrases Similar to “Cart Before the Horse”

  1. Ass-backwards.
  2. Hysteron proteron.
  3. Tail wagging the dog.
  4. Ass over teakettle.
  5. Topsy-turvy.
  6. Backward
  7. Head over heels.
  8. Doing the right thing at the wrong time.
  9. Being faster than your shadow.
  10. Putting things out of order.
  11. Doing things in the wrong order.
  12. Carriage before the horse situation.
  13. The other way around.
  14. Being ahead of oneself.
  15. Backwards logic.
  16. Distorted hierarchy.
  17. House from the roof.
  18. Reversed scheme of things.
  19. Skewed and flipped hierarchy.
  20. Taking the second step first.


Another way to say that a person has put their Cart before the horse is to say that they have their ass-backward. The literal meaning is to walk backward with your rear end first.

On the other hand, it figuratively means that someone is behaving in a hopeless misguided manner. That is, they do things contrary to what is perceived as normal.

It may be an attempt to think outside the box beyond what is expected or logical.

Hysteron proteron

A person can use the figure of speech Hysteron proteron as a replacement for the phrase Cart before the horse. It is a rhetorical way of putting what would usually come last first.

A good instance is when someone says, “I die, and I faint” because a person has to faint when they are alive before they can die. When using hysteron proteron, you put two sentences in reversed order just like “I conquered, I saw, I came”.

Tail-wagging the dog

Phrases Similar to Cart Before the Horse

The statement Tail wagging the dog is another phrase that can be used interchangeably with Cart before the horse. Usually, a dog wags its tail when it is happy or extremely excited.

Thus, when it is said that the tail is wagging the dog, that’s putting things in the wrong order. It figuratively means that instead of the dog being in control, something else is controlling it.

Ass over teakettle

A person can also use the statement Ass over teakettle to replace the phrase Cart before the horse in some situations.

While the former phrase can serve as a way to show that something is going in the wrong order, it is also considered offensive in certain locations.

One of the locations where it is considered offensive is in the United States. Usually, it’s a person’s hand that goes over the teakettle but when they are told that their ass goes over it, it appears like an insult.


Another phrase that can be used interchangeably with Cart before the horse is Topsy turvy. When a person says that something is topsy-turvy, it means that the thing has been placed upside down.

It could also signify that something or someone is in utter confusion or disarray. A good sentence example includes – The state of things has gotten topsy turvy these past few days.


The word Backward can also serve as a good alternative to the phrase Cart before the horse. When something is backward, it is facing or going in the opposite direction.

It means that the thing is positioned in the wrong direction to the usual one. A backward person can also be considered shy because they love to stay out of the spotlight hence doing things the wrong way.

Head over heels

The statement Head over heels is a popular phrase that can be used interchangeably with Cart before the horse. The former phrase is quite popular for signifying that someone is madly in love with another.

However, in this context, it means that someone or something is turning completely over in a forward motion like when someone tumbles head over heels down the stairs.

Some people also refer to it as a summersault especially when the person falls backwards.

Doing the right thing at the wrong time

Another way you can say that a person has put the Cart before the horse is to say that they are Doing the right thing at the wrong time.

Perhaps the things they should be doing are supposed to be in a particular order but instead, they are starting the wrong way.

It can be an attempt at being creative because someone wants to do things in a seemingly extraordinary way. On the other hand, it can also mean a bad thing because it can lead to confusion or missed opportunities.

Being faster than your shadow

Phrases Similar to Cart Before the Horse

An alternative way to say that something or someone has placed the Cart before the horse is to say that they are Being faster than your shadow. Both phrases signify the wrong order of things.

When someone is faster than their shadow, it means that they want to do the last things first instead of following the right order of things hence its likeness to the phrase Cart before the horse.

Putting things out of order

The statement Putting things out of order is an alternative way to say Cart before the horse. That’s because, in the traditional sense, a horse is supposed to come before the cart which is the right order of things.

Thus when someone decides to put the cart before the horse, he/she is putting things out of order and arranging them in the wrong pattern hence you can then say that the person is putting the cart before the horse.

Doing things in the wrong order

The phrase Doing things in the wrong order is also considered synonymous with Cart before the horse. That is because, in the right order of things, the horse should come first.

Thus when someone decides to put the cart first they are doing things in the wrong order. The thing to do in situations like this is to correct them or allow them to go ahead with the hope of learning from their mistakes.

Carriage before the horse situation

In most likely situations, the phrase Carriage before the horse situation is used as a synonym for Cart before the horse. Carts in some cases mean the same thing as carriages because they are both pulled by horses.

However, where the carriage is put before the horse it means the same thing. However, they both have some differences which include that a carriage is figuratively more expensive than a cart and while a carriage carries mostly humans, a cart carries goods.

The other way around

The statement The other way around is another way that a person can express that there is a Cart before the horse. It is used to express or show that something was placed in a certain unusual order.

When something is the other way around, it has been rearranged in such a way that the last things come in first. It could be that the person is trying different things to get inspired or motivated.

Being ahead of oneself

A person who has put a Cart before the horse can also be said to be ahead of themselves. It means that they are moving faster than they should and are not taking things one step at a time.

It is more of a situation where a person attempts to take the last step without making the first one. It is impossible and in some cases can lead to a disaster.

Backwards logic

The statement Backwards logic is another alternative to use instead of Cart before the horse. This applies when someone wants to refer to an intellectual property that is presented in the wrong way.

When you think or explain something in a way that is not straightforward or not placed in the correct format, then it is called backwards logic. Most people also refer to backwards logic as a low form of thinking.

Distorted hierarchy

When a person puts a Cart before the horse, they are said to have a Distorted hierarchy. Where something is in the hierarchy, it is believed to be organized in a level of importance either from the lowest to the highest or vice versa.

However, in a situation, where that hierarchy has been distorted then it means that the organization has been twisted or altered. It has been changed from its original or natural state.

House from the roof

Phrases Similar to Cart Before the Horse

An alternative way that a person can express the statement Cart before the horse is to say House from the roof. Usually, it is known that when building a house, the person starts from laying the foundation.

How strong the foundation is determines the type or quality of the house that it will hold. However, when the right order of things has been disrupted or distorted, then a person can be said to be building a house from the roof.

Reversed scheme of things

You can use the phrase Reversed scheme of things as an alternative to the statement Cart before the horse. It is synonymous in the sense that it now operates in a reversed way of things.

A horse is usually put before the cart but if it appears the other way around, it is said to be in reversed form. Situations or activities can also be arranged in such a way that it is considered to be in reversed scheme.

Skewed and flipped hierarchy

You can also use the phrase Skewed and flipped hierarchy interchangeably with Cart before the horse to show that something is not in the right order because their meanings and usages are synonymous.

For instance, you can say, “Things have always worked in a right pattern but since he introduced a skewed and flipped hierarchy, it has been distorted and disarranged”.

When someone says that a hierarchy has been flipped or skewed, it means that the proper order or organization of things have been having been rearranged in a not-so-straightforward pattern.

Taking the second step first

This statement Taking the second step first can be used as a good alternative to the phrase Cart before the horse. There is a popular saying that posits that the journey of a thousand miles, always begins with one step.

However, where a person decides to take the wrong step will he/she be deemed to be faster than their shadow? Taking such wrong steps can put the person in a troubled or sticky situation.

It is usually the first step that determines how a person’s second step will be. This is because where the first step is not good, the person will not be encouraged to take the second step and other steps after that.

To end with

Now that we have exhausted the list of phrases that are very similar to the statement Cart before the horse, you can pick any of them from the list while expressing yourself.

Each of them represents different situations and times where you can use them. They have been well-explained and illustrated to show our readers where and when they can use it.

Ensure to read other of our articles to learn other ways to say or write certain idioms.

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