This is a mistake I made in my math class. How do I describe the case when I put the value of a to b and the value of b to a. For example, the correct answer is a = 1, b = 2, but I wrote b = 1, a = 2. How do I describe such a mistake, can I say something like "Oh, my mistake, I wrote the values of a and b reversely"?

  • 2
    Maybe you can use verb "mix" or "swap" ?
    – Igor Bobko
    Sep 10, 2021 at 21:13
  • 2
    "I reversed/switched the values of a and b."
    – user3169
    Sep 10, 2021 at 21:53
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    I see this all the time (my job involves analysing data input errors for audit purposes) You meant to input bank account number 1234 but you typed 1324. And didn't notice. You transposed the middle two digits. Our solution at the moment is to make inputter do it twice and compare them, which works for typing errors, but fails for people with certain disorders such as dyscalculia. We catch them down the line when the monthly ban reports come in. Sep 10, 2021 at 22:24
  • "I inverted the answers for a and b"
    – gotube
    Sep 11, 2021 at 5:47

1 Answer 1


Suggestions for normal speech:

  • I mixed up the two values.
  • I swapped/switched the two values by accident.
  • I swapped/switched the two values by mistake.

"Transpose", as suggested in a comment, also works perfectly, but note that it is a slightly formal word.

  • "Swap" and "switch" sound like overt actions you took, replacing one with the other.
    – gotube
    Sep 11, 2021 at 5:48
  • 1
    It's probably more accurate to say transpose is an example of technical language, than an example of formal language. Saying transpose in a maths class should be fine.
    – AnonFNV
    Sep 11, 2021 at 9:05
  • - 'overt' means open/unconcealed, not intentional. With a qualifier like "by mistake", 'switched' works fine. (Ngram/corpus search validates this) - yeah, actually I wasn't sure whether to describe it as formal or technical... Technical language is a subset of formal language, one might argue?
    – Sabrina
    Sep 11, 2021 at 22:20

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