What is Rhetoric?

Rhetoric teaches us how to add beauty and grace to our composition, spoken or written, Its purpose is to enhance the effect of a literary composition by adorning it with felicitous and attractive expressions or what may be called the effective style. There are many features in English language by which we can enrich the beauty of speech, rhetoric is one of them.


(1) Based on Similarity:

(a) Simile, 
(b) Metaphor, 
(c) Allegory, 
(d) Parable, 
(e) Fable


In a simile, a comparison is made between two different things or ideas by the word 'like' or 'as'. The following examples may taken in this regard.

  •  The burglar moves like a cat.
  • The boy shows the man as morning shows the day.

Explanation- A comparison is made in all above the sentences between two different things- 'burglar' and 'cat', and 'child' and 'morning'. The point of comparison is also clearly shown in all these cases by the word 'like' and 'as' respectively. Therefore, these are examples of simile.


In a metaphor an implied comparison is made between two different thins or ideas. But the point of comparison between them is no clearly shown. In metaphor, unlike simile, the words 'like', 'as', 'so' etc. are dropped. For example:

  • The camel is the ship of the desert.

 Explanation: In the above sentence, a comparison is  made between two different objects- 'camel' and 'ship' but the point of comparison is not clearly stated. So, it is an example of metaphor.


It is comparison between two different objects but the comparison is not short. It is not, like the simile or metaphor, simply figurative, but has a didactic or instructive note or objective. 


The Parable is a short allegorical story or narrative. The story is allegorical, implying an analogy. It is intended for a highly religious or moral instruction such as 'The Parable of the Prodigal Son', 'The Parable of the Sower' in Bible etc. 


 A fable is a short story like parable with a moral but it is not allegorical as the parable. It contains a fictitious story, a narrative, quite short, and it is generally found concerned with irrational animals and their habits. Some examples of fables are- 'The Lion and The Mouse' in Aesop's Fables', Chaucer's 'The Nun's Priest's Tale' etc.

2. Based on Association:

(a) Metonymy
(b) Synecdoche
(c) Transferred Epithet 
(d) Allusion


The name of one thing is substituted for that of another, when these two things are loosely associated. That means when you think a particular thing and this thing reminds you os something else associated with it (one thing is said , but another thing is  is meant, and there exists a relation between the thing named and the thing meant).
For example-

  • A sweet throat enchants the audience.
  • Who steals my purse steals my trash.
  • It is good for students to read Milton.

In all above the sentences, one thing is said but another is meant; in the first sentence 'throat' is said but 'voice' is meant; In the 2nd sentence, 'purse' is said but 'money' is meant. Similarly, in the last sentence 'Milton' is said but 'Milton's writing is meant respectively.

Metonymy has six varieties in which one thing is said but another one is meant. These are given below:

  1. Symbol or sign for the thing symbolised
  2. Instrument or organ for the agent
  3. Author for his work and place for its production
  4. Container for the thing contained
  5. Effect for the cause and the cause for the effect
  6. Name of the passion for the object and the act for the object inspiring it.


In synecdoche one thing is named and another thing is meant. There is an intimate relationship between the thing named and the thing meant. For example:
India can fight against COVID-19.

[Here India is named and people of India is meant.]
Like metonymy, synecdochy variates in different modes. These are:

  1. A part for the whole
  2. The whole for part
  3. The species for the genus
  4. The concrete for the abstract
  5. The abstract for the concrete
  6. The material for the thing made
  7. Individual for the class

An allusion is a word or expression used recalls to one's mind some notable character, memorable event, legend, or saying of the past.

3. Based on Contrast:
(a) Antithesis
(b) Epigram
(c) Oxymoron
(d) Climax
(e) Anti-Climax
(f) Condensed Sentence

In an antithesis two contrasted words or ideas are placed together in a balanced form for the sake of emphasis some thought, idea, or concept. For example
The scheme was great, but the execution was poor.
Expression; In the above sentence, two contrasted words 'great' and 'poor' are placed in a balanced form for emphasis. So, it is an example of antithesis.

I love the country, I hate the town
Youth is full of pleasure, age is full of care
To do a great right, do a little wrong.
Man proposes, but God disposes.

In the above sentences two contrasted ideas- 'love the country' and 'hate the town', 'youth is full of pleasure' and 'age is full of care' in the second sentence; 'do a great right' and 'do a little wrong' in the third sentence; 'man proposes' and 'God disposes' are placed in a balanced form. So, these are examples of Antithesis.

In a epigram, there is a contradiction in the apparent meaning of the language used, but there is an inner meaning. For example-
No man teaches well, who wants to teach.
[Here, a contradiction exists in the apparent meaning of the expression.]

In an oxymoron, two contradictory words are placed side by side in order to achieve impressiveness or some significant sense. For example-
Life is bitter sweet.
In the above sentence, two contradictory words- 'bitter' and 'sweet' are placed side by side to achieve impressiveness.

in a climax words or ideas are arranged in ascending order of importance. For example:
I came, I saw and I conquered.

In the above sentence, three ideas- 'I came', 'I saw' and 'I conquered' are arranged together in an ascending order. In the sentence the first idea 'I came' is the least impressive; the second idea 'I saw' is more important than the first; and the last idea 'I conquered' is the most impressive. This is how one goes up in a ladder step by step.

Anti-climax is the opposite of the climax. There is, unlikely climax, a sudden fall of the highest thought to the mean thought. The purpose is to provoke laughter or fun to excite ridicule. For example:

I lost my wife, my children and my pen.

Explanation: In the above sentence, there is a sudden fall from the lofty to the mean thought with a view to provoke laughter. Here from 'wife' and 'children' is a sudden fall to 'pen' which evokes laughter. There is a sudden fall from the most important to the least impressive or important. So, it is an example of Anti-climax.

4. Based on Imagination:
(a) Personification
(b) Apostrophe
(c) Pathetic Fallacy
(d) Personal Metaphor
(e) Vision
(f) Hyperbole


5. Based on Indirectness:
(a) Innuendo
(b) Irony
(c) Periphrasis
(d) Euphemism

6. Based on Sound:
(a) Pun
(b) Onomatopeia
(c) Alliteration
(d) Assonance

7. Based on Construction:
(a) Interrogation
(b) Exclamation
(c) Chiasmus
(d) Zeugma
(e) Hendiadys
(f) Litotes
(g) Hyperbaton
(h) Asyndeton
(i) Polysyndeton
(j) Epanaphora
(k) Palilogia

In this figure, a question is raised, but the answer to the question is obviously suggested in the very question. That means a question is asked, and the answer to it is clearly implied in its very form. For example:
Hath not a Jew eye ?

In this figure, an expression of emotion or desire is made with some interjection words such as o, how, what, oh, in the beginning. There is certainly an exclamation mark at the end respectively.

In this figure, an idea or fact is emphatically expressed by inverting the order of words or phrases in the same sentence. For example:
Beauty is truth, truth beauty.

In the above sentence, there is an inversion in the order of words. The order of words, 'Beauty is truth' becomes inverse here, when repeated in the same sentence and turns into 'truth beauty'. So, it is an example of chiasmus.

More examples:

Fair is foul, and foul is fair.

Zeugma: In a zeugma, one verb is connected with two nouns and each of these nouns requires a separate verb. For example, 
The feast and noon grew high.
In the above sentence, two nouns - 'feast' and 'noon' are connected with one verb 'grew' though each of them requires a separate verb. So, it is an example of Zeugma.

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