Home » Anaphora: What Is It and How Do You Use It?

Anaphora: What Is It and How Do You Use It?

Many of us have read or heard an anaphora each day without even noticing it. Anaphoras are the words of the songs we listen to. Our politicians use them in their speeches, and they appear in the poems and stories we love to read.

According to a recent study, people are more likely to trust speakers who employ anaphora in their speech. It’s perceived as more authentic.

Do you want your audience to trust you and your communication? Continue reading to find out what anaphora is and how you use it. How does it differ from repetition?

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What Is Anaphora?

Anaphora in the English language refers to using the same word or phrase to initiate a series of consecutive clauses or sentences.

As a stylistic technique, this repetition at the start of each sentence in a group of paragraphs or clauses can be highly effective in:

  • Literary works
  • Public speaking
  • Poetry
  • Everyday Speech
  • Advertising

When Was Anaphora First Used?

You can trace anaphora’s origins back to ancient times. It comes from the Greek words, “ana”, which means back or repeat, and “pherein”, which means to carry. The cool things is, eventually, we all begin to carry anaphoras around with us.

Did you know, Winston Churchill used anaphora when he delivered one of his most famous speeches in the House of Commons during World War II? It went something like this…

“We shall go on to the end,

We shall fight in France,

We shall fight on the seas and oceans…”

oof The words, “We shall” was the anaphora. That’s because an anaphora is when you use the same word or phrase at the start of multiple phrases or clauses. The cool thing about this anaphora example is when we hear it or read it, the sounds and meanings of some words are repeatedly brought to our attention.

When used effectively, particularly in public speaking, literary devices like anaphora allow people to make their points more clearly and effectively.

Why Do People Use Anaphora?

If anaphora is simply the repetition of a phrase, why is it used? In both speech and writing, anaphora entices the reader or listener into the flow of the message. It’s a powerful literary device.

Anaphoras can also arouse strong feelings in the audience. For example, politicians use anaphoras as rallying cries for people to take action. They emphasize a particular point and drive home the central message.

Here are reasons people use anaphoras explained.

Gives the Audience Emotional Overtones

One uses this technique to compel the audience to participate in the piece’s central theme or message. For the audience to become more invested in the message, anaphora allows them to anticipate what is to come. As a result, the message is more likely to elicit a strong emotional response.

There are many examples of this in Dr. Martin Luther King’s speeches, which we will discuss throughout the rest of this article.

The first example is King’s repetition of the phrase “I have a dream,” which evokes feelings of optimism.

Calls to Action

Anaphora is a literary device that, in addition to evoking emotion, can be utilized like a call to action. Dr. King’s work is undoubtedly one of the most incredible examples of anaphora used effectively. His “I Have a Dream” speech was nothing less than a rallying cry for all of those who were listening to effect genuine social transformation.

He used his forum and the powerful combination of anaphora to get his followers to take part in his call to action. How? Dr. King foresaw the emotional connection that tied his statement to a better future. This allowed him to convince his audience that they had a part to play in making the world a better place.

Repetitive Conceptualization

In many cases, a call to action will include a significant idea or message to help listeners feel more connected to it. The use of anaphora is a beautiful tool for subtly linking a recurring theory to an emotionally charged call to action.

Also, a good number of preachers and pastors use anaphora in the delivery of their sermons. As the audience members become aware of the anaphora, also known as the repeated phrase, the congregation starts to anticipate it in the speech. Some may even repeat it out loud before or with the speaker.

Each listener who takes part in the sermon receives the message or idea being conveyed in this way, and it becomes deeply ingrained in their minds.

Political Rallying

Anaphora is used in several contexts, one of which is political propaganda. It aims to increase the level of a concept’s acceptance among the general population.

Repetition is an effective tool in political rallying or propaganda. It allows a concept or statement to be communicated in the context of a sentimental call to action.

The speech that Winston Churchill gave to the House of Commons on June 4, 1940, which was delivered for the purposes of propaganda, is a prime example of the use of anaphora in these contexts. The message that the English people needed to unite to fight for England is crystal clear in his speech.

Anaphora in Public Speaking

Public speaking can represent a various things to different people. It can be a great way to connect, grow a business, spread a message, or give meaningfully back.

Let’s take Thought-Leader founder, Taylor Conroy. Taylor is a philanthropist, entrepreneur, and sociocultural innovator who has spoken at the United Nations, Disney, and Harvard University amongst others.

Taylor uses language that is artfully arranged and rhythmically infused as he draws audiences to create a lasting impression. He uses rhetorical devices such as anaphora phrases, alliteration, and parallelism in his speeches.

Here are some of Taylor Conroy speech reviews:

“Taylor was gripping! He held the audience in emotional suspense through the entire talk!” Kyle Ingram, Executive Director TEDx RoyalRoadsU
“Taylor has mastered the art of storytelling and he has a story everyone should hear. He commanded the students’ attention and left the room inspired to see themselves as agents of change.” Jeremy Zullow, Organizer TEDxPrincetonU

Using anaphoras, Taylor regularly presents to corporate audiences as mentioned above as well as social events with over 10,000+ attendees!

Examples of Anaphora in Political Speeches

Anaphora is a standard tool leaders and political figures use to highlight their points in speeches. Similarly, Winston Churchill used anaphora in his speech “We Shall Fight on the Beaches” to arouse dedication and underline his faith in the conflict against Nazi Germany.

“We shall go on to the end,

we shall fight in France,

we shall fight on the seas and oceans,

we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air,

we shall defend our Island, whatever the cost may be,

we shall fight on the beaches,

we shall fight on the landing grounds,

we shall fight in the fields and in the streets,

we shall fight in the hills;

we shall never surrender.”

-Winston Churchill, “We Shall Fight on the Beaches”

Examples of Anaphora in Everyday Speech

As already discussed, anaphora occurs when a phrase or word is repeated in sentences to emphasize or give a more significant or different mood to the sentence of the words. The repeating of a phrase strengthens it.

Anaphora is also a typical trait of everyday conversation. People use them to express themselves. For example, “I don’t want to get out of bed” might be the whiny child’s protest. Similar phrases include:

  • “I don’t want to dress up.
  • “I don’t want to go to work today.”
  • “I just want to go back to bed!”

Usage of Anaphora In Parenting

In another case, a mother may be trying to deal with a defiant child who refuses to brush his teeth, go to bed or clean his room. When speaking to her child, the mother may use repetitive speech, also known as anaphora.

“You will brush your teeth, and you will go to bed,” she may say to him.” By repeating the phrase “you will” in her sentences, the mother makes herself sound more intimidating and powerful. Her child has no option but to listen because of the repetition.

Children’s Usage of Anaphora

We also frequently hear young children using anaphoras, particularly those who are starting to learn to talk and explore their surroundings. A young child may ask the same questions repeatedly. Some of which includet:

  • “Why do dogs bark?”
  • “Why do grown-ups work?”
  • “Why do we need to wear clothes?”
  • “Why do we have to sleep?”
  • “Why do I have to brush my teeth?”

These questions start with the same two words: “Why do.”

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It’s good to note, there is a distinction between the manner in which our mother used an anaphora and the the way the child used it.

The mother’s tone became more threatening when she used anaphora. Meanwhile, the repeated questions of the child portrayed curiosity. These examples are symbolic of how the repetition of a phrase can alter one’s mood or atmosphere, especially when speaking with others.

Anaphora in Children’s Songs and Rhymes

Another typical anaphora example is children’s songs and rhymes. The use of repetition is common in children’s poetry and music because it helps with recognition. For example, let’s look at the rhyme of “Mary Had a Little Lamb.”

“Mary had a little lamb, little lamb, little lamb,

Mary had a little lamb whose fleece was white as snow.

Everywhere that Mary went, Mary went, Mary went,

Everywhere that Mary went, that lamb was sure to go.”

This short song contains a lot of repetition. First, the phrase repeats itself, and then the words themselves.

Why does this song use repetition? It might use repetition to help the child remember the words or to focus on what’s important. The lamb is the focus of the first part of the song. Meanwhile, the second part of the rhyme shifts focus from the lamb to the fact that Mary took it “everywhere.”

We can use anaphora to show how we feel, give our inflection force and power, and show what is most important in what we are saying. It helps the listener pay attention and comprehend your mood and tone.

Anaphora in Poetry Examples

Anaphora in poems is similar to other writing and speaking pieces. It is the repetition of words at the start of successive sentences, phrases, or lines.

The sound and rhythmic effects of anaphoras make them a powerful literary tool for poets.
When you read a poem, do you notice that certain words keep repeating? Poets employ this writing technique to draw the person’s attention to something the poet considers important.

Perhaps one of the most famous poems that use anaphora is this example from Rudyard Kipling’s poem “If”:

“If you can keep your head when all about you

Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;

If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,

But make allowance for their doubting too:

If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,

Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,

Or being hated don’t give way to hating,

And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise;

If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;

If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim,

If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster

And treat those two impostors just the same:

If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken

Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,

Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,

And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools;

If you can make one heap of all your winnings

And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,

And lose, and start again at your beginnings

⁠And never breathe a word about your loss:

If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew

To serve your turn long after they are gone,

And so hold on when there is nothing in you

⁠Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,

Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,

If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,

If all men count with you, but none too much:

If you can fill the unforgiving minute

With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,

Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,

⁠And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!”

Anaphora occurs when the word ‘if’ is used in this poem. This is because the word ‘if’ is repeated at the beginning of many of the poem’s lines, creating both a sonic effect and a listicle-style poem. Kipling makes a point to repeatedly say that. “if” you do all these things, you will be considered a man.

Anaphora in Films, Media, and Advertising

Anaphoras are frequently seen in advertisements and films. They, like writing, serve to emphasize, often providing significant clues about a product, character, or an encompassing message.

Some examples of anaphoras in advertising are:

kit kat anaphora example in advertising

The Kit Kat slogan:

Have a break, have a Kit Kat.”

kit kat anaphora example in advertising

The '90s, Bagel Bites jingle:

Pizza in the morning, pizza in the evening, pizza at suppertime”

Some examples of anaphora in films are:
examples of anaphora in film Robocop: I want a bigger office

The movie RoboCop when the person holding City Hall hostage wants his old job back,

And I want a bigger office! And I want a new car! And I want the city to pay for it all!”

At the end of Spider-Man, when spiderman Peter Parker says:

No matter what I do, no matter how hard I try, the ones I love will always be the ones who pay.”

Anaphora Examples in Literature

There are numerous examples of Anaphora used in literature. One author, Charles Dickens, uses it extensively in his novels. ‘A Tale of Two Cities is an excellent example of anaphora:

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.”

– Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities

Charles Dickens’ opening sentence is one of the most notable ones throughout literature. The repeat of the phrase “it was” provides many examples of comparison.

The sentence piques the reader’s interest by implying that these are both the “best and worst of times,” and so on. The anaphora helps push the reader forward toward Dickens’ story and the world he is creating.

Anaphora in Religion

Anaphora is one of the oldest language techniques, going all the way back to religious scripts such as the Bible’s Psalms. There are multiple occurrences of the phrases “Give unto the Lord” and “The voice of the Lord” contained within the King James Version of the twenty-ninth Psalm:

“A Psalm of David. Give unto the LORD, O ye mighty, give unto the LORD glory and strength.

2 Give unto the LORD the glory due unto his name; worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness.

3 The voice of the LORD is upon the waters: the God of glory thundereth: the LORD is upon many waters.

4 The voice of the LORD is powerful; the voice of the LORD is full of majesty.

5 The voice of the LORD breaketh the cedars; yea, the LORD breaketh the cedars of Lebanon.

6 He maketh them also to skip like a calf; Lebanon and Sirion like a young unicorn.

7 The voice of the LORD divideth the flames of fire.

8 The voice of the LORD shaketh the wilderness; the LORD shaketh the wilderness of Kadesh.

9 The voice of the LORD maketh the hinds to calve, and discovereth the forests; in his temple doth every one speak of his glory.

10 The LORD sitteth upon the flood; yea, the LORD sitteth King forever.

11 The LORD will give strength unto his people; the LORD will bless his people with peace.”

Another religious example is the usage of the words, “verily, along” in the Qu’ran. In Surah ash-Sharh we read:

Verily, along with every hardship is relief,

verily, along with every hardship is relief.” Surah ash-Sharh (The Opening Forth) 94: 5-6.

Anaphora: Use it Wisely, Use it Effectively, Use it!

Anaphora is a simple but effective literary device. For hundreds of years, it has been used in various areas. From religious texts to speeches, public figures use it to evoke a range of emotions while fostering cohesion and solidarity around a particular viewpoint.

Furthermore, anaphora avoids boring writing and brings the reader into the author’s world. You’ve seen anaphora’s influence in prominent cases from everyday life, political speeches, literature, lyrics of songs, and poetry.

How can you put it to use?


Joelle Cullimore
Marketing Content Manager

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