What is a Paraphrase?

Updated Jun 6, 2021

Paraphrase Definition

By Matthew

A paraphrase is a rewording of an original text, such as a document, essay, paragraph, or sentence, that retains the meaning of the original text while rephrasing its surface structure.

There are three many types of paraphrases:

  1. Phrase Variation refers to altering one phrase to another by changing the grammar or placement of elements in the sentence.

    • Example: There must be a new way of rewriting content if we are to succeed in our paraphrasing effort.

    • Paraphrase: If we are to be successful at paraphrasing, we need to have a new way of rewriting content.

    • Notice that in this paraphrase example, the grammar is changed substantially, with some verbs shifting to adjectives, and the subject shifting from ‘way’ to ‘we,’ making the sentence clearer.

  2. Using Synonyms refers to substituting some words with other words that mean the same thing.

    • Example: The essay rewriter needed to paraphrase the documents.

    • Paraphrase: The essay rewriter needed to rephrase the documents.

    • Note that in the above example of paraphrase, only one word changes, paraphrase -> rephrase. Although there are good synonyms and synonyms are often important, their use represents the most superficial changes to a text.

    For more on this point, check out our article on our sentence thesaurus.

  3. Figurative to Literal Rephrasing is when you take a phrase that is in some sense metaphorical and reword it into something literal.

    • Example: He didn’t want to boil the ocean.

    • Paraphrase: He didn’t want to attempt to achieve more than was possible.

  4. Literal to Figurative Rephrasing is when you take a phrase that is literal and rephrase it as something metaphorical.

    • Example: The character in the film passed away.

    • Paraphrase: The character in the film kicked the bucket.

    • These categories come from The Art of Paraphrase, written by the rhetorical scholar and professor, Frank D’Angelo.

To get the most out of your writing, try our paraphrasing tool.

To learn more, check out this paraphrase how to guide; it's always good to see examples of paraphrase, so you know what to expect.