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In rhetoric, antimetabole (/æntməˈtæbəl/ AN-ti-mə-TAB-ə-lee) is the repetition of words in successive clauses, but in transposed order (e.g., "I know what I like, and I like what I know"). It is identical to the modern sense of chiasmus, although the classical chiasmus did not necessarily use repetition, but only in some cases. An easier way of understanding what an antimetabole means is comparing it to the commutative property of addition and multiplication. This means that for example, a + b = b + a. In terms of applying this property to language, an example would be, dance to live, not live to dance. Also an antimetabole does not just have to be simple words switched around, they can also be clauses placed in the middle of sentences that are reversed. For example, “Some people say I am bad at mathematics because it is not my favorite subject, but in reality, mathematics is not my favorite subject because I am bad at it.” An antimetabole is also said to be a little too predictive because it is easy to reverse the key term, but it can pose questions that one usually would not think of if the phrase were just asked or said the initial way.[1]


  • "Unus pro omnibus, omnes pro uno"
  • "Eat to live, not live to eat." Attributed to Socrates
  • Latin: Miser ex potente fiat ex misero potens Seneca the Younger, Thyestes, Act I.10 (let it make misery from power and power from misery).
  • "Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country." John F. Kennedy, Inaugural Address, January 20, 1961.
  • "There is nothing wrong with America that cannot be cured by what is right with America." - Bill Clinton, First Inaugural Address, January 20, 1993.
  • "He who questions training only trains himself at asking questions." The Sphinx, Mystery Men (1999)
  • "Peace is not the absence of conflict, but the ability to cope with conflict by peaceful means." Ronald Reagan, in Eureka College Commencement (START Speech), May 9, 1982.
  • "You stood up for America, now America must stand up for you." Barack Obama - December 14, 2011.
  • "When the power of love overcomes the love of power, the world will know peace," - Jimi Hendrix paraphrasing William Gladstone who originally said " "We look forward to the time when the Power of Love will replace the Love of Power. Then will our world know the blessings of peace."
  • "When the going gets tough, the tough get going."
  • "With my mind on my money and my money on my mind."- Attributed to Snoop Dogg in the song Gin and Juice
  • "In America, you can always find a party. In Soviet Russia, Party always finds you!" - Yakov Smirnoff
  • "'Beauty is truth, truth beauty,'—that is all / Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know." John Keats, "Ode on a Grecian Urn"
  • "If you fail to plan, plan to fail."
  • "The further I get from the things that I care about, the less I care about how much further away I get." - Robert Smith of The Cure ("Fear of Ghosts")
  • "The great object of [Hamlet's] life is defeated by continually resolving to do, yet doing nothing but resolve." - Samuel Taylor Coleridge on Shakespeare's Hamlet
  • "There cannot first be external peace if there is not first internal peace, and once you figure that out then I promise you, the entire world will transform, will change; and as more people find themselves, mankind has the opportunity to become kind man" Prince Ea
  • "We do what we like and we like what we do." - Andrew W.K., "Party Hard"
  • "Failing to prepare is preparing to fail." - John Wooden
  • "We didn't land on Plymouth Rock. Plymouth Rock landed on us." - Malcolm X, Malcolm X
  • "If you can't be with the one you love, love the one you're with." - Stephen Stills, "Love the One You're With"
  • "I meant what I said, and I said what I meant." --Dr. Seuss, Horton Hatches the Egg
  • "I am what I am, and that's all that I am." --Popeye
  • "For we that live to please, must please to live." --Samuel Johnson
  • "A scattered dream that's like a far-off memory... a far-off memory that's like a scattered dream." - Shiro Amano, Kingdom Hearts II
  • "Stop him! He crowned me in th' knickers an' nicked me crown!" - Alternate Queen of England in Futurama episode, "All the Presidents' Heads" (2011)
  • "Giacomo, 'King of Jesters and Jester of Kings'" – A recurring phrase in the 1956 Danny Kaye film The Court Jester[2]
  • "I'm not a writer with a drinking problem - I'm a drinker with a writing problem." - Dorothy Parker
  • "A cat has claws at the end of its paws. A comma's a pause at the end of a clause." - Grammatical joke[3]


It is derived from the Greek ἀντιμεταβολή from ἀντί (antí), "against, opposite" and μεταβολή (metabolē), "turning about, change".

See also[edit]


  • Corbett, Edward P.J. Classical Rhetoric for the Modern Student. Oxford University Press, New York, 1971.
  1. ^ Fahnestock, Jeanne. Rhetorical Figures in Science. Oxford University Press, 1999, p. 123-134.
  2. ^ "The Court Jester". American Film Institute. Retrieved 9 February 2016. 
  3. ^ Truss, Lynne (24 October 2005). Eats Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation (Paperback ed.). Profile Books. p. 20. ISBN 978-1861976772. 

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