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Anastrophe (from the Greek: ἀναστροφή, anastrophē, "a turning back or about") is a figure of speech in which the syntactically correct order of subject, verb and object is changed. For example, the usual English order of subject, verb and object might be changed to object-subject-verb, as in saying "potatoes I like" to mean "I like potatoes."[1][2]



Obi-Wan Kenobi: Do you believe what Count Dooku said about Sidious controlling the Senate? It doesn't feel right.
Yoda: Joined the Dark Side, Dooku has. Lies, deceit, creating mistrust are his ways now.
Mace Windu: Nevertheless, I think we should keep a closer eye on the Senate.
Yoda: I agree.
Windu: Where is your apprentice?
Kenobi: On his way to Naboo, escorting Senator Amidala home. I must admit that without the clones, it would not have been victory.
Yoda: Victory? Victory, you say? Master Obi-Wan, not victory. The shroud of the Dark Side has fallen. Begun, the Clone War has!

Yoda, as a non-native English speaker, may be doing this accidentally, not for deliberate emphasis.

In English, because its natural word order is settled, anastrophe emphasizes the displaced word or phrase. For example, the name of the City Beautiful urbanist movement emphasizes "beautiful"; similarly, in the line "This is the forest primeval" (from Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's Evangeline), "primeval" comes to the fore. Where the emphasis that comes from anastrophe is not an issue, "inversion" is a perfectly suitable synonym.

Anastrophe is common in Greek and Latin poetry. For example, in the first line of the Aeneid:

Arma virumque cano, Troiæ qui primus ab oris
("I sing of arms and the man, who first from the shores of Troy")

the genitive case noun Troiæ ("of Troy") has been separated from the noun it governs (oris, "shores") in a way that would be rather unusual in Latin prose. In fact, given the liberty of Latin word order, "of Troy" might be taken to modify "arms" or "the man", but it is not the custom to interpret the word that way.

Anastrophe also occurs in English poetry. For example, in the third verse of Coleridge's The Rime of the Ancient Mariner:

He holds him with his skinny hand,
"There was a ship," quoth he.
"Hold off! unhand me, grey-beard loon!"
Eftsoons his hand dropt he.

the word order of "his hand dropt he" is not the customary word order in English, even in the archaic English that Coleridge seeks to imitate. However, excessive use of the device where the emphasis is unnecessary or even unintended, especially for the sake of rhyme or metre, is usually[citation needed] considered a flaw; consider the clumsy versification of Sternhold and Hopkins's metrical psalter:

The earth is all the Lord's, with all
her store and furniture;
Yea, his is all the work, and all
that therein doth endure:
For he hath fastly founded it
above the seas to stand,
And placed below the liquid floods,
to flow beneath the land.

However, some poets have a style that depends on heavy use of anastrophe. Gerard Manley Hopkins is particularly identified with the device, which renders his poetry susceptible to parody:

Hope holds to Christ the mind’s own mirror out
To take His lovely likeness more and more.

When anastrophe draws an adverb to the head of a thought, for emphasis, the verb is drawn along too, resulting in a verb-subject inversion:

"Never have I found the limits of the photographic potential. Every horizon, upon being reached, reveals another beckoning in the distance" (W. Eugene Smith).

Source: public domain 1913 Webster's Dictionary


  1. ^ Cioffi (2009). The Imaginative Argument: A Practical Manifesto for Writers. Princeton University Press. p. 137. ISBN 140082656X. 
  2. ^ - silva rhetoricae
  • Smyth, Herbert Weir (1920). Greek Grammar. Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press. pp. 673–674. ISBN 0-674-36250-0. 

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