Should I say: "I am wrong!" or "I am mistaken!"?

I, as a person, am not wrong for sure! What I did/tell/do could be 'wrong'! Please, explain!


I think that you're mixing two different and perfectly fine meanings of the same word.

According to the Cambridge Dictionary

wrong adjective (NOT CORRECT)

A2 If someone is wrong, they are not correct in their judgment or statement about something.
You were wrong about the time - the bank closed at 3.30.
He's wrong in thinking that we will support the project financially.

wrong adjective (NOT WORKING) ​

B1 [ after verb ] not working correctly
Something's wrong with the television - the picture's fuzzy.
The doctors are still trying to find out what's wrong.

You as a human being may be perfectly healthy ["working" fine - NOT B1] but still you may be wrong [not correct - A2] in some of your judgements or beliefs.

mistaken adjective
C1 wrong in what you believe, or based on a belief that is wrong

I was mistaken and I was wrong are synonymous if you want to express that your judgment was not correct. As pointed by @Smock, you can say either.

  • 2
    I may be wrong but ... are they not quite synonymous? Both Cambridge and Oxford Dictionaries mark them as synonyms lexico.com/en/synonym/mistaken Do you have any source to back up the difference that you have pointed? I think that wrong is the opposite of correct and can be used when something is morally wrong or when something is factually wrong. – RubioRic Jun 26 '19 at 10:09
  • @jonathanjo Ok, I see, I think that the difference it's too subtle, as you have pointed. You should compile your comments in an answer. No irony. – RubioRic Jun 26 '19 at 15:24
  • Good suggestion. Please do comment on my answer. – jonathanjo Jun 26 '19 at 16:40

If you are in error, you can certainly say either.

They are not synonyms: I am wrong includes more kinds of error than I am mistaken.

  • mistaken is only for matters of fact, perception, logic etc
  • wrong can be used for those kinds of errors, but also for use with values and other moral positions: any kind of error.

Some examples:

  • You are wrong in punishing him, it didn't matter (moral error)
  • You are mistaken in punishing him, he is innocent (factual error)
  • He is wrong to charge £100 (could be any reason, including greed, typing wrong numbers, anything)
  • He is mistaken to charge £100 (could only be errors of fact, typing wrong numbers etc)
  • I am the wrong man, officer, you should find the real killer (Police looking for killer, but I am not him. Very common theme in Hitchcock films.)

OED has dozens of entries for wrong including:

  • "Of persons: deviating from integrity, rectitude, or probity; doing or prone to do that which is evil, noxious, or unjust; opprobrious, vicious."
  • "Not in consonance with facts or truth; incorrect, false, mistaken."

It is wider than mistaken which has only three non-obsolete entries:

  • "Wrongly conceived, entertained, or carried out; erroneous."
  • "Of a person or persons: having a wrong opinion or judgement; labouring under a misapprehension."
  • "Of a person's identity: with regard to which a mistake is or has been made."

Just to be clear: these can be considered subtle differences. (For those interested, the philosopher JL Austin covered these kinds of issues in his book How to do things with words, 1955, easily found online.)


If you're not sure you are wrong, and you just want to say that you realize you might be wrong, you can say any of these:

  • I could be wrong.
  • Maybe I'm wrong.
  • I'm just guessing.
  • Don't quote me on that.

Your sentences...

  • I am wrong.
  • I am mistaken.

... are grammatical and idiomatic, but they mean you think you definitely are wrong. You could also say:

  • I stand corrected.
  • My mistake.
  • My bad.

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