crossed wires: meaning and explanation

When you get your wires crossed, you are confused about something or have misunderstood a person or a situation.

Although this expression can be used about an individual (e.g. I got my wires crossed), it is usually used to describe a situation in which two people have taken a different understanding from the same situation (such as when or where to meet each other). e.g. He wasn’t expecting me for hours – I suppose we got our wires crossed.

A good time to use this expression is when you are dealing with or explaining a misunderstanding. The expression is used to say that the situation is an accident, and no one is to blame, e.g. Oh well! We must have got our wires crossed I suppose.

This expression can also be used as a noun phrase – crossed wires. e.g. I waited for him for ages but he didn’t turn up. It’s a case of crossed wires I suppose.

Have a go at these micro-dictation exercises to hear this expression being used in context – how much can you understand?

Listening exercises

Micro-listening #1

Accent: Scotland

this face – we our otherwise.

About the sentence

…Let’s talk about this face to face…

Let’s + verb is a very useful way of introducing a suggestion. e.g. Let’s have a takeaway tonight – I can’t be bothered to cook.

The phrase face to face is a synonym for in person. If you talk to someone face to face, then you are physically together, rather than talking over the phone or online. e.g. I haven’t had a face to face meeting with my colleagues for months now. We all work remotely.

Micro-listening #2

Accent: North America

brownie tart – .
The waiter brownie instead lemon tart – suppose.

Micro-listening #3

Accent: North America

Michael . .
Michael was us here at 3. have got .

About the sentence

…Michael was supposed to meet us here at 3…

If you say that something is supposed to happen or someone is supposed to do something, then you are saying that it should happen according to a plan, the rules, expectations etc. e.g. I’m supposed to be giving a presentation today but I think I’ll need to pull out – I’m losing my voice.

…we must have got our wires crossed…

Must have + past participle is used to speculate about the past. This is when you don’t know what happened for sure, but are ‘guessing’ with varying levels of certainty.

When you are almost certain about what happened based on logic or evidence, then you can use must have + past participle. e.g. Jess must have gone home – her office is locked and her coat is gone.

Extra practice

Here are some questions/links to help you learn the new vocabulary:

  • When was the last time you got your wires crossed? What happened?

Photo by John Barkiple on Unsplash

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