Rhetorical Device: Antimetabole

Antimetabole is a powerful rhetorical device that is used to emphasize a point by repeating a phrase or clause, but in reverse order. It is often used in speeches, poetry, and even everyday conversation, as it can help to emphasize an idea or phrase. By repeating words, but in reverse order, the speaker can create a more memorable statement that drives the point home more effectively. Antimetabole is also often used to create humour or wit with its clever use of language. It is closely related to another rhetorical device called chiasmus.


We do not stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.Benjamin Franklin

In America, you can always finds a party. In Soviet Russia, Party always finds you! Yakov Smirnoff

Fair is foul and foul is fair! William Shakespeare, "Macbeth, Act 1, Scene 1"

Then, if you speak, you must not show your face; Or if you show your face, you must not speak. William Shakespeare, "Measure for Measure, Act 1, Scene 4"

All for one and one for all! Alexandre Dumas, "The Three Musketeers"
WWS rhetorical device explainer card on parallelism

Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country! John F. Kennedy "Inaugural Address" (20 January 1963)

Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning. Winston Churchill "Mansion House" (20 November 1942)

But we must remember a crucial fact: East and West do not mistrust each other because we are armed; we are armed because we mistrust each other. Ronald Reagan "Remarks at the Brandenburg Gate" (12 June 1987)

It is time for us to say here in Beijing, and for the world to hear, that it is no longer acceptable to discuss women’s rights as separate from human rights. If there is one message that echoes forth from this conference, let it be that human rights are women’s rights and women’s rights are human rights once and for all. Hillary Rodham Clinton"Women's Rights Are Human Rights" (5 September 1995)

Further reading

  • American Rhetoric: Antimetabole Visit
  • Silva Rhetoricæ: The Forest of Rhetoric Visit
  • Masterclass - Writing 101: What Is Antimetabole? Visit
  • Manner of Speaking: Antimetabole Visit
  • Wikipedia: Antimetabole Visit