Vice Versa: Its Meaning & How to Use It

Text says Vice Versa

Click below to listen to a recording of this passage about “vice versa.”

 

Like many English phrases, “vice versa” is borrowed from another language. Other examples of this in English include, “wanderlust”, originally a German word, and “karaoke”, borrowed from the Japanese language. 

Despite being a pretty common term, it is often misused, mispronounced, and misunderstood in English. This is partly due to the fact that “versa” on its own is generally not considered an English word. 

As a result, many English speakers confuse its meaning and usage. 

So, what does ‘vice versa’ mean? What are the origins of the phrase? And finally, how are you supposed to use it in English? We will answer all of these questions and more, but first, let’s look at how the phrase is supposed to sound:

(Prefer to watch this lesson on video? Here’s our full length tutorial on how to use the phrase ‘Vice Versa: its meaning & how to use it):

‘Vice Versa: its meaning & how to use it’:

 

Vice Versa Pronunciation

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The correct pronunciation of vice versa is a common point of contention (argument or issue), even among native English speakers. There are two common ways that people say the term, but only one of them is correct:

  • CORRECT: Vice verse-uh
  • INCORRECT: Vice-uh verse-uh

You’ll find some sources that claim both options are legitimate ways to say the phrase, but the official pronunciation makes more sense anyway. “Vice” is an existing word in English meaning “sin” or “immoral behavior” (though this meaning does not apply when it is combined with “versa”). It is pronounced the same no matter how it is used; vice simply sounds like “ice” with the letter “V” at the beginning.

Ironically, versa is not an official English word, yet most people pronounce it correctly anyway. Much like the first two syllables in “versatile,” versa sounds like verse + uh. In both cases, the first syllable is stressed.

Alternatively, many people choose to use another pronunciation. As you can see in the INCORRECT pronunciation above, versa does not change, while vice gets an additional syllable. 

Where did the phrase originate?

It’s possible that the alternative pronunciation came about because some people wanted to bring the phrase closer to the Latin phrase from which it was derived. In Latin, the phrase did feature a two-syllable “vice.” However, the original pronunciation was closer to vice-ee verse-uh. 

Moreover, most Latin words with a non-silent “e” on the end are adapted to match English pronunciation rules. For example, the original Latin word rationale has a non-silent “e” on the end, but in English, it is spelled and pronounced “rational” (rash-uhn-uhl). In English, you drop the “ee” sound from the original Latin word entirely.

In short, you can use both pronunciations for vice versa and it won’t make a difference to most people. However, if you want to use the most correct and formal version of the term, it should be vice (one syllable) followed by versa (two syllables). 

Illustration of two women with hands folded and backs turned against each other, angrily looking back at each other. A speech bubble next to the woman on the right says "She doesn't like me and vice versa!"

What does vice versa mean?

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From its original Latin definition, vice versa means “the other way around.” As a result, it typically goes at the end of a statement and refers back to the statement. When this happens, the term indicates a rearrangement of the main elements in the preceding statement so that they are in the opposite or reverse position. In essence, the term allows you to save time, rather than restating many of the same words in a different order. 

This may sound a little confusing, so let’s look at a few examples to better understand the meaning:

  • I would be there for any of my family members, and vice versa.
    • I would be there for any of my family members and any of my family members would be there for me.
  • My daughter doesn’t like her teacher, and vice versa.
    • My daughter doesn’t like her teacher and her teacher doesn’t like my daughter.
  • There are times when I’m happy even when work isn’t going well and vice versa.
    • There are times when I’m happy even when work isn’t going well and there are times when I’m sad even when work is going well.

As you can see, vice versa requires a preceding statement that allows for two elements to be switched or turned into their opposite form. In writing, you can use a comma after the statement, though it is not a requirement. People often put a slight pause before saying “and vice versa,” so the comma allows you to indicate this pause in writing.

Synonyms for Vice Versa

Since the term is taken from Latin, you might be wondering if modern English has any synonyms for vice versa. Fortunately, it does! In fact, there are a few different ways to express the term in English:

  • The other way around
    • Usually, I cook and my husband handles the cleanup, but sometimes it’s the other way around.
  • Conversely
    • He changed a flat tire for me once. Conversely, I changed a flat tire for him once.
  • Inversely
    • When unemployment goes up, inflation goes down. Inversely, when unemployment goes down, inflation goes up.
  • The opposite is also true
    • My sister helps me pick out clothes; the opposite is also true.
  • The feeling is mutual
    • My boss doesn’t like me and the feeling is mutual.

None of these words or phrases work as well as vice versa. Though they all have similar meanings, they are not as easy to use. Both “conversely” and “inversely” are not very common in everyday conversation and they usually require two independent clauses. 

“The other way around” and “the opposite is also true” are cumbersome to say and don’t always convey the exact meaning of vice versa accurately. Finally, the feeling is mutual is one of the best vice versa synonyms, but it only applies when discussing emotions or feelings between two or more people. This is why it is such a popular phrase!

When to Use Vice Versa

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Now that we’ve covered the pronunciation, origin, meaning, and even synonyms, it’s time to look at when you should use the phrase. While this is not a complete list, it will provide you with some common situations in which the term could be useful:

  • Parallel emotions or feelings between two or more people
    • I like him and vice versa. (He likes me)
    • They don’t get along with us and vice versa. (We don’t get along with them)
    • Her mother will always love her and vice versa. (She will always love her mother)
  • Parallel actions taken by two people, things, or groups
    • The government works with our business to combat fraud and vice versa. (our business works with the government to combat fraud)
    • Different countries send aid to the United Nations, and vice versa. (the United Nations sends aid to different countries)
    • My dog bit my neighbor’s cat and vice versa. (my neighbor’s cat bit my dog)
  • Parallel capabilities
    • The software allows you to transfer files from your computer to the cloud, and vice versa. (the software allows you to transfer files from the cloud to your computer)
    • The car can go from 0 to 60 miles per hour in 3 seconds, and vice versa. (the car goes from 60 to 0 miles per hour in 3 seconds.
    • The robot is capable of interacting with animals, and vice versa. (animals are capable of interacting with the robot)

Conclusion

Vice versa is a very useful phrase in English. It might be borrowed from Latin, but it is one of the easiest ways to express the feelings, actions, or ideas of a statement in the reverse order. Additionally, the term is always used in the same way (grammatically), so once you learn how to use it, you’re all set!

We hope you found this guide on how to use vice versa useful! As always, for all things English conversation, grammar, or job-related, visit Magoosh Speaking today!

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