Don’t Get it Backwards! Learn to Use ‘al revés’ in Spanish
Did you know that saying that something is al revés in Spanish can mean different things? Or that in order to communicate all the ideas that al revés conveys in Spanish, you would need to use several different words and expressions in English?
Today, I’ll take you on a journey to the upside down world of the al revés expression in Spanish. I’ll discuss its different meanings, what the dictionary says about it, and will explain to you how to use it. You even get a super quick lesson on adverbs, examples of the different scenarios where you can say al revés in Spanish, and I’ll even include some synonyms for you.
What Does ‘al revés’ Mean?
Al revés is a Spanish expression that has several meanings and is used in different contexts, however as a general meaning you can take it as a way of saying that “things” aren’t in the correct order.
What are those “things”? Well, they can be clothes, shoes, words, a painting, the world. Think of the English expressions “upside down” and “inside out,” blend them together and you’ll get close to the meaning of al revés in Spanish.
Let’s see what the dictionary says and try to get a more precise definition.
A Few Definitions of ‘al revés’
According to the Collins dictionary al revés means “upside down; inside out; back to front.” But also “the other way round” or “on the contrary.” This definition shows you how ample and flexible the meaning of this common Spanish expression is.
On the other hand, the grammar and translation website Word Hippo also includes the adverbs “backward” or “backwards,” as possible meanings for al revés.
As with many idioms and expressions, the true meaning of al revés can’t be perfectly translated, you learn it by using it in real conversations and looking at the way native speakers use it and understand it.
Let’s do exactly that!
How to Use ‘al revés’ in Spanish
When native Spanish speakers say al revés in Spanish they are talking about something that’s in a position that’s not its natural one. It can be many different things and work in several different scenarios.
However, one thing that never changes is that al revés will always be an adverb, as it modifies the verb in the sentence. On this point, I recommend you read my full take on 50 Common Spanish Adverbs to Start Using Today. Unless you’re short on time, then just go through the super brief lesson on adverbs below, and get a basic idea on how they work.
Brief Lesson on Spanish Adverbs and How to Use Them
You use adverbs in Spanish to say when, where, how, how long, and how often an action takes place. The key word there is “action,” as actions are verbs, which shows that one of the most useful functions of adverbs, which is modifying verbs. Actually, it’s common to say that “adverbs in Spanish are to verbs what adjectives are to nouns.”
However, adverbs can also modify adjectives and other adverbs, making them a really helpful part of speech. For this reason, some people even recommend focusing on adverbs as a language hack for learning Spanish.
Do you want to know another good thing about Spanish adverbs? You don’t need to make them agree in gender and number with the noun of the sentence. As they don’t modify nouns, there’s no need to make them agree as, for instance, adjectives have to.
Different Possible ‘al revés’ Scenarios
Now that you know how adverbs work, let’s explore some of the most common scenarios in which people use the al revés expression in Spanish.
Clothes and Shoes
This is one of the most common scenarios where you can use al revés, as you can see in this hilarious post. In Spanish you can wear your clothes and shoes correctly, but you can also wear them al revés. Think of small children putting their shoes on the wrong foot, a guy wearing his t-shirt inside out, or a girl wearing her skirt backwards. You can deal with all these situations by using al revés in Spanish.
Miguelito te pusiste los zapatos al revés.
Hey Mikey, you put your shoes on the wrong foot.
El maestro de español se puso la camisa al revés y no se ha dado cuenta.
The Spanish teacher is wearing his shirt inside out and he hasn’t noticed it.
María trae la falda al revés.
Maria is wearing her skirt backwards.
Some things or objects have a natural or correct position to be in. For example, think of how you read a book, fill a bottle of water, or insert a key on its keyhole. In all these scenarios, you can simply use al revés in Spanish.
¿Cómo estás leyendo si tienes el libro al revés?
How are you reading if your book is upside down?
Tienes la botella de agua al revés, ¡así nunca se va a llenar!
The bottle of water is upside down, you’ll never fill it like that!
Carlos metió la llave al revés y ahora no puede abrir la puerta.
Carlos inserted the key upside down, and now he can’t open the door.
On the Contrary, Opposite
When you’re not talking about physical objects you can also get a situation al revés. For example, you could understand something the wrong way, got a story wrong, or have a different opinion about something.
Todo sucedió al revés de como lo cuentas.
Everything happened the opposite way of what you’re saying.
No me avergüenza haberme enamorado de María, al revés lo veo como una experiencia más.
I’m not embarrassed about having fallen in love with Maria, on the contrary I see it as a learning experience.
A final meaning for al revés in Spanish is viceversa. Express an idea and to say the opposite of that only add al revés at the end.
Cuando tengo hambre no me da sueño, y al revés.
When I’m hungry I don’t feel sleepy, and vice versa.
Synonyms of ‘al revés’
Now, let’s learn a few other synonyms of al revés in Spanish.
Literally meaning “backwards,” people say this to express that you are going in the wrong way.
Estás caminando al revés. / Estás caminando hacia atrás.
You’re walking backwards.
Meaning “on its head,” this is another fun way of saying al revés in Spanish.
Tienes el libro al revés. / Tienes el libro de cabeza.
You have your book upside down.
Meaning “turned around,” you can say this to talk about something that’s in the wrong position.
Tus calcetines están al revés. / Tus calcetines están volteados.
Your socks are inside out.
This one is not as common, but it’s very colorful. It translates as “upside down,” although literally means “on its legs up.”
El carro quedó al revés. / El carro quedó patas arriba.
The car was upside down.
Don’t Get it Backwards!
¡No lo entiendas al revés! Now that you know about all the possible meanings and scenarios on which you can use al revés in Spanish, make sure you don’t get it backwards and use it in real life conversations.
Sign up for a free class with one of our certified teachers from Guatemala and start saying things al revés in Spanish.
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