Paraphrase Tool


Updated Jun 11, 2023

The Rhetorical Device of Enallage: A Powerful Tool for Expression


In the realm of rhetoric, where language is harnessed to persuade, captivate, and convey emotions, the use of rhetorical devices plays a vital role. One such device that adds depth and creativity to our language is enallage. Derived from the Greek word meaning "exchange," enallage involves altering the grammatical structure or replacing one part of speech with another to achieve a desired effect. In this blog article, we will explore the fascinating world of enallage and examine its usage through various examples.

The Power of Enallage in Literature

Enallage, as a rhetorical device, is frequently employed in literary works to evoke specific emotions, create vivid imagery, or emphasize certain ideas. By intentionally altering the standard grammatical structure, writers can add a unique flair to their writing that captivates readers and leaves a lasting impact.

Example 1: Shifting Tenses

In his renowned novel "The Great Gatsby," F. Scott Fitzgerald masterfully utilizes enallage to transport readers into the past and heighten the nostalgic tone of the story. Consider the following passage:

"Gatsby turned out all right at the end; it is what preyed on Gatsby, what foul dust floated in the wake of his dreams that temporarily closed out my interest in the abortive sorrows and short-winded elations of men."

Here, Fitzgerald deliberately shifts the tense from present to past in the phrase "it is what preyed on Gatsby." This enallage not only emphasizes the lasting impact of Gatsby's internal struggles but also creates a sense of timelessness, drawing readers further into the story's atmosphere.

Example 2: Changing Pronouns

Another way enallage is employed is through the replacement of pronouns, allowing writers to establish a distinct narrative voice or shift perspectives within a text. William Faulkner, a master of narrative experimentation, skillfully employs this technique in his novel "As I Lay Dying." Let's examine this passage:

"My mother is a fish."

In this enallage, Faulkner uses the first-person pronoun "my" instead of "his" or "her," creating a jarring and unconventional statement. This unusual choice gives a unique voice to the character, emphasizing their detachment from reality and offering readers a glimpse into their fragmented state of mind.

Enallage in Everyday Speech

While enallage is frequently encountered in literature, it is not limited to the realm of fiction. This rhetorical device also finds its way into everyday speech, lending color and expressiveness to our conversations.

Example 1: Regional Dialects

One common form of enallage in spoken language is the alteration of grammatical structures based on regional dialects or colloquial speech. For instance, in certain English-speaking regions, individuals may use the phrase:

"The car needs washed" instead of "The car needs to be washed."

By omitting the auxiliary verb "to be" and using the past participle "washed" without the infinitive "to," speakers employ enallage to convey a specific regional flavor or informal tone.

Example 2: Slang and Idiomatic Expressions

Enallage is also present in various slang and idiomatic expressions that have become part of our everyday conversations. Consider the phrase:

"I'm so broke, I can't even afford a cup of joe."

Here, the phrase "cup of joe" is a colloquialism for a cup of coffee. By using the term "joe" instead of "coffee," enallage adds a touch of informality and familiarity, infusing the sentence with a lighthearted tone.


Enallage, with its ability to alter grammatical structure and replace parts of speech, serves as a powerful tool for expression in both literature and everyday speech. Through intentional deviations from standard language conventions, enallage adds depth, emotion, and creativity to our communication. Whether in the pages of a novel or in casual conversations, this rhetorical device continues to captivate and engage audiences, leaving a lasting impression on those who encounter it.


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