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Put the cart before the horse

  • Put the cart before the horse is an English proverb that has its roots in Roman antiquity. We will look at the meaning of the phrase put the cart before the horse, where it came from and some examples of its use in sentences.

    To put the cart before the horse means to do something out of order, to have the wrong priorities, to prioritize inconsequential things over important things. The figurative use of this phrase in English dates back to the 1500s, but the Roman politician and philosopher Cicero used the term in his essay called On Friendship: “We put the cart before the horse, and shut the stable door when the steed is stolen, in defiance of the old proverb.” Interestingly, Cicero refers to put the cart before the horse as an old proverb, suggesting that the figure of speech was well known before his own time. Related phrases are puts the cart before the horse, putting the cart before the horse as well as the negative admonition don’t put the cart before the horse.

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    Examples

    No one has yet said they will pay for repairing the dam, so we should be careful not to put the cart before the horse. (The News & Observer)

    Rogers said the process “put the cart before the horse”, and it would be better to assess which candidates were suitable among those who had applied, “leaving the government to choose from among those deemed to be suitable”. (The Irish Times)

    Putting the cart before the horse, the Punjab government started the project without addressing the reservations of citizens and environmental experts. (The Daily Times)

    But just as you don’t put the cart before the horse, it doesn’t put the project before the artist (The Democrat & Chronicle)

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