put the cart before the horse

put the cart before the horse


  • to do things in the wrong order or sequence
  • to do something in wrong manner
  • reverse the right method of doing something

Example Sentences

  1. Aren’t you putting the cart before the horse in decorating your new office? You haven’t even been awarded the job yet.
  2. Don’t put the cart before the horse by investing in a new shop before selling that old one situated in west of the city.
  3. By waking up late at night and sleeping all day long. Why are you putting the cart before the horse?
  4. I think you are putting the cart before the horse by leaving your permanent job before getting new one.


The medieval wording of the phrase was to put the oxen before the yoke. The phrase was a popular figure of speech in the 16th century. People travelled by horse and cart and there was a predetermined order in which they travelled. You could not put a horse before a cart as the horse was necessary to pull the cart.

Roman politician and philosopher Cicero (106 B.C.–43 B.C.) mentions the phrase in his essay called “On Friendship” published in 44 B.C.

“We put the cart before the horse, and shut the stable door when the steed is stolen, in defiance of the old proverb.”

He mentions “in defiance of the old proverb” leading some to believe that the phrase was in use even before he mentions it.

The phrase was first recorded in English in 1589 in George Puttenham’s “The arte of English Poesie”:

“We call it in English proverb, the cart before the horse, the Greeks call it Histeron proteron.”

Hysteron proteron is a figure of speech in which what should be put last is in fact put first. It calls attention to the important part by putting it first.

“We granted his prayer and gave him John, and we made his wife fertile for him.”
– Quran (89-90, 21)

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