Reverses and Converses


Reverses are expressions that denote opposite movements or changes of state. This is not only spatial movement or changes; spatial terms constitute only a small portion of the reverses that exist.  For two terms to be reverses, they must be related in one of the following ways:

1)    They denote a movement from A to B, and one from B to A. This distinction is flexible as shown by the reverses tie:untie and enter:leave. The action is not the exact opposite, but in the first case we move between a “state of being tied” to a “state of being untied”. In the second we move between “inside” and “outside”.

2)    Changes in state must both vary from the initial state (R) in opposite directions; this is a relative relationship, not absolute.

This is a necessary, but not sufficient condition in determining reverses.


Expressions that denote different points of view of the same relation are considered converses.

For example, ‘in front of’ and ‘behind’ are converses because “if A is further forward than B, we can say either A is in front of B, or B is behind A” (Cruse 231).