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Updated Jun 9, 2023

Understanding the Rhetorical Device of Contencion: An Intriguing Persuasive Technique


In the realm of rhetoric, various techniques are employed to captivate audiences and convey messages effectively. One such technique is contencion, a rhetorical device that seeks to convince through the use of opposition and contrast. In this article, we will explore the concept of contencion, understand its purpose, and examine some accurate examples of this persuasive technique.

What is Contencion?

Contencion, a Spanish word meaning "containment" or "restraint," is a rhetorical device used to present contrasting viewpoints or arguments side by side. By juxtaposing opposing ideas, contencion aims to persuade the audience by emphasizing the strengths of one argument while highlighting the weaknesses or flaws of the opposing viewpoint. This technique is commonly utilized in debates, speeches, persuasive essays, and even advertising campaigns.

Purpose of Contencion

Contencion serves two primary purposes in persuasive communication:

  1. Highlighting the strength of an argument: By presenting a persuasive argument alongside a contrasting viewpoint, contencion allows the speaker or writer to emphasize the superiority of their stance by showcasing its logical coherence, evidence, or emotional appeal.

  2. Rebutting opposing arguments: Contencion provides an opportunity to address counterarguments and refute them effectively. By identifying and addressing potential objections, contencion strengthens the overall argument and increases its credibility.

Examples of Contencion

To better grasp the concept of contencion, let's explore a few examples where this rhetorical device is employed:

Example 1: Political Speech

"While my opponent claims that increasing taxes will cripple the economy, let us consider the alternative. By investing in our infrastructure, we not only create jobs but also enhance our transportation systems, which ultimately fuels economic growth. The choice is clear: stagnation or progress."

In this political speech, contencion is used to contrast the speaker's position on increasing taxes with the opposing argument that it would harm the economy. By presenting the alternative of investing in infrastructure, the speaker highlights the potential benefits and argues that this approach leads to progress rather than stagnation.

Example 2: Product Advertisement

“Unlike traditional cleaning products that merely mask odors, our revolutionary air freshener not only eliminates unpleasant smells but also purifies the air, leaving your home fresh and healthy. Don't settle for temporary solutions; choose a product that truly enhances your living environment."

This advertisement utilizes contencion by comparing the advertised air freshener to traditional cleaning products. By emphasizing the limitations of competing products that mask odors, the advertisement positions their air freshener as a superior choice that not only eliminates unpleasant smells but also purifies the air, providing lasting freshness and a healthier living environment.

Example 3: Academic Essay

"While critics argue that social media isolates individuals and hinders face-to-face communication, it is important to consider the positive impact it has on fostering global connections. Social media platforms allow people from diverse backgrounds to exchange ideas, support causes, and form communities, transcending geographical boundaries. Thus, social media serves as a powerful tool for promoting social activism and fostering a sense of global unity."

In this academic essay, contencion is employed to counter the argument that social media isolates individuals. By highlighting the positive impact of social media in fostering global connections, the essay argues that the benefits of social media, such as facilitating the exchange of ideas and promoting social activism, outweigh the potential drawbacks.


Contencion is a persuasive rhetorical device that effectively engages audiences by presenting contrasting arguments and viewpoints. By emphasizing the strength of one argument while countering opposing viewpoints, contencion allows speakers and writers to convey their message convincingly. By understanding and recognizing contencion in various forms of communication, we can become more discerning consumers of information and better equipped to make informed decisions.

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