Let's say I put on a T-shirt with back in front and front in back. Is there any word to describe the state of the t-short similar to how upside down means that up and down have been reversed?. The sentence where I am trying to use it is something like this:

First the I wore the T-shirt the right way round. Then I put it on […].

Additionally, if my friend does the same thing (i.e. wearing the T-shirt in the reverse manner), and I want to tell him to fix it. Can I say "Take it off and reverse it"?

Does reverse make sense in this context?

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    @kiamlaluno He probably said "your shirt is front-to-back". That's not how I say it personally, but I've heard it; it's common enough :) (I think some people also say back-to-front; this might be more British? But I'm not 100% sure.)
    – WendiKidd
    Aug 31, 2013 at 21:34
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    @WendiKidd: "Back-to-front" is perfectly normal idiomatic English ("front-to-back" less so). In US English, it's more common to say "Backwards".
    – Matt
    Aug 31, 2013 at 21:59
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    @jwpat7: Not in British English: books.google.com/ngrams/…. In American English "front-to-back" is more popular: books.google.com/ngrams/…. Actually see FumbleFinger's answer. He got there first :)
    – Matt
    Aug 31, 2013 at 22:36
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    Front-to-back can mean backwards, but it doesn't usually, so I'm afraid the n-gram results aren't meaningful in this context.
    – user230
    Aug 31, 2013 at 23:07
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    @snailboat: Further investigation suggests you're right. I just assumed front-to-back was the US version because of what Wenndikidd said, which seemed to be corroborated by my NGrams on US/UK corpora. But when I specifically search for "[potentially reversible item of clothing] on front-to-back" it virtually never occurs, whereas there are plenty of results for things like "shirt on back-to-front". I don't know what context accounts for all the US front-to-back hits, but it ain't clothes! Sep 1, 2013 at 0:56

3 Answers 3


There are two common words to describe putting a shirt on wrong.

In the situation you describe, when the front of the shirt is on the person's back, I'd refer to it as backwards:

You've got your shirt on backwards!

If you put it on when it was inverted, that is the inside of the shirt is showing on the outside, I'd call that inside-out.

Your shirt is on inside-out!

I'm having trouble thinking of an idiomatic way to tell the person to take the shirt off and fix it, though; likely because "Your shirt's on backwards!" is usually sufficient to get someone to fix the error themselves. But I think this would work as a good description:

You've got your shirt on backwards! Take it off and flip it around.

That is, turn the front of the shirt to the front of your body, fixing the mistake.

Reverse is understandable, it just doesn't roll off the tongue very easily here. I'd stick with turn it around/flip it around.

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    And then there's "inside-out and backwards." In that case, I'd probably begin with, "Whoa! That must've been some party last night..." :^)
    – J.R.
    Sep 1, 2013 at 23:55

The most common term overall is probably backwards, as noted by WendiKidd. But I've only just discovered that the standard alternative in the US is front-to-back... enter image description here

To my British ear that version sounds odd, because in the UK it's back-to-front... enter image description here

You wouldn't normally use the word reverse except when talking about something like a reversible jacket. And inside-out is a completely different type of "reversal" (with the lining on the outside, rather than the front at the back).

Personally, I'd tell someone to "put it [on] the right way [round]" for any a back-to-front or an inside-out garment. I might include on and/or round on any given occasion, but I don't think that would be affected by whether it was a shirt, gloves, pants, or whatever.

Another point which may be purely personal is that I'd normally use back-to-front in contexts where it's a mistake. If someone is deliberately wearing a baseball cap backwards, that's how I tend to describe it. Unless I'm irritated by it, in which case I might say back-to-front to indicate that I think it's a "mistake".

  • Ah, you decorous Brits! Most people I know just say "Yer shirt's bass-ackward" or "Yer shirt's ****ed. Fix it." Sep 1, 2013 at 1:17
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    @StoneyB: In certain contexts I might say something's arse-about-face, which is at least the same way round as back-to-front, so to speak. I can't believe Americans would say face-about-ass, so there's something not quite right there. I'd also note that Brits can fall arse over tit, but I doubt anyone (even Americans) would fall tit over ass. Sep 1, 2013 at 1:24
  • I'm not sure what these Ngrams have to do with the O.P.'s question. I've never heard anyone say "You've got your shirt on front-to-back," but I've seen "front-to-back" used in plenty of other contexts, such as sewing, stretching, antennae, and a host of others as well. Paging through the results, I was able to find more than one reference where front-to-back was used as a way to prevent urinary tract infections, but I couldn't find one where it was describing someone's misdonned jersey. Maybe some do say it, but I'm afraid these Ngrams don't really say much about this matter.
    – J.R.
    Sep 2, 2013 at 0:12
  • @J.R.: Per my most recent comment to the question itself, I'm no longer sure myself why Google Books apparently shows a marked US/UK split between front-to-back/back-to-front, since (Wendikidd excepted) it doesn't seem at all common for Americans to use front-to-back in respect of abnormal fore/aft orientation. In most other contexts it just sounds totally redundant to me. Why would anyone say they comb their hair front-to-back, for example? I'd just comb mine back. Sep 2, 2013 at 14:39
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    @Fumble - I think front-to-back is used in more procedural contexts. In other words, I just comb my hair back, but, while training an intern at a salon, you might hear a stylist tell the trainee: "You want to comb the hair from front to back."
    – J.R.
    Sep 2, 2013 at 18:42

To me "reverse it" would more likely be inside out (that is, with the part that usually touches your body showing and the part that is usually exterior touching your body).

For what you want, I would say "back-to-front".

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