English Idiom – Switch gears

Alternative versions of this idiom:

  • Change gears
  • Shift gears

Meaning – To suddenly change what you are doing or discussing. To abruptly change the subject. If you switch gears you begin doing something completely different.

  • When you change gear (e.g. in a manual car, some machine or on a bike) you select a different gear to function on. You are using a completely different gear.
  • There is some confusion/disagreement over the true meaning of this idiom. If you switch gears in a car you can go faster or slower, because of this some people use the idiom in a way that means you start doing something at a faster or slower pace. A better idiom for this context would be shift into a higher or lower gear.

When could you use this idiom?

  • You are talking to a friend but getting bored of the subject.
  • A person is nice to you one moment, but nasty the next.
  • During a problem solving session you decide to consider a different idea.
  • You friend is making you uncomfortable by talking about a sensitive subject!
  • “Can we stop talking about that hullabaloo last night? Let’s switch gears and decide what to eat for dinner!”
In The News:
  • Is there an idiom like this in your country?
What is an idiom?

An idiom is a word or phrase that is not taken literally.  An idiom is an expression that cannot be understood from the meanings of its individual words, but has a separate meaning of its own.