anthypophora (rhetoric)

Glossary of Grammatical and Rhetorical Terms

Sterling Hayden as Johnny Guitar in the movie Johnny Guitar (1954). Republic Pictures


Anthypophora is a rhetorical term for the practice of asking oneself a question and then immediately answering it. Also called (or at least closely related to) the figure of response (Puttenham) and hypophora.

"The relationship between anthypophora and hypophora is confusing," says Gregory Howard. "Hypophora is seen as the statement or question. Anthypophora as the immediate reply" (Dictionary Of Rhetorical Terms, 2010).

In Dictionary of Poetic Terms (2003), Jack Myers and Don Charles Wukasch define anthypophora as a "figure of argumentation in which the speaker acts as his own foil by arguing with himself."

In Garner's Modern American Usage (2009), Bryan A. Garner defines anthypophora as a "rhetorical tactic of refuting an objection with a contrary inference or allegation."

See Examples and Observations below. Also see:

From the Greek, "against" + "allegation"

Examples and Observations

  • "What makes a king out of a slave? Courage! What makes the flag on the mast to wave? Courage! What makes the elephant charge his tusk in the misty mist, or the dusky dusk? What makes the muskrat guard his musk? Courage!"
    (The Cowardly Lion in The Wizard of Oz, 1939)
  • "Is our species crazy?

    "Plenty of evidence."
    (Saul Bellow, Mr. Sammler's Planet. Viking Press, 1970)
  • "In Switzerland, they had brotherly love, five hundred years of democracy and peace, and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock."
    (Orson Welles as Harry Lime in The Third Man, 1949)
  • Sir Winston Churchill's Use of Anthypophora
    "You ask, what is our policy? I will say it is to wage war, by sea, land, and air, with all our might and all the strength that God can give us; to wage war against a monstrous tyranny, never surpassed in the dark, lamentable catalog of human crime. That is our policy.

    "You ask, what is our aim? I can answer in one word: Victory. Victory at all costs, victory in spite of all terror; victory, however long and hard the road may be, for without victory, there is no survival."
    (Winston Churchill, address to Parliament, May 13, 1940)
  • President Barack Obama's Use of Anthypophora
    "This is our first task, caring for our children. It’s our first job. If we don’t get that right, we don’t get anything right. That’s how, as a society, we will be judged.

    "And by that measure, can we truly say, as a nation, that we’re meeting our obligations?

    "Can we honestly say that we’re doing enough to keep our children, all of them, safe from harm?

    "Can we claim, as a nation, that we’re all together there, letting them know they are loved and teaching them to love in return?

    "Can we say that we’re truly doing enough to give all the children of this country the chance they deserve to live out their lives in happiness and with purpose?

    "I’ve been reflecting on this the last few days, and if we’re honest with ourselves, the answer’s no. We’re not doing enough. And we will have to change."
    (U.S. President Barack Obama, speech at a memorial service in Newtown, Connecticut, on December 16, 2012, two days after the massacre of 26 children and adults in an elementary school)
  • Governor Andrew Cuomo's Use of Anthypophora
    "During his two years in office, [New York Governor Andrew] Cuomo has developed a habit of answering reporters' queries by asking his own questions. He sometimes engages in a lengthy back-and-forth, asking four or five questions and replying in a single response.

    "For instance, at a news conference in October, Mr. Cuomo was asked about the plight of financially strapped upstate cities. The Democratic governor reframed the question to show how he had set a budgetary example that others could follow.

    "'The days of wine and roses are over? No,' Mr. Cuomo said about upstate cities before a segue into his own accomplishments. 'Can you close a $10 billion deficit? Yes. Does the place operate? I think better than before. Did the walls crumble? No. Was it hard? Yes. Was it unsettling? Yes. But did we do it? Yes. I think you can bring costs in line with revenue.'

    "It was an expansive example of Mr. Cuomo's frequent Socratic soliloquies, which he has employed to make points on issues ranging from overhauling Medicaid to changing how teacher performance is judged to passing new gun-control laws. Sometimes they take the form of question-and-answer sessions, while other times Mr. Cuomo holds a mock debate, taking both sides of an issue.

    "It is a classic rhetorical tactic known as 'anthypophora,' a device found in Shakespeare, the Bible and the speeches of former presidents, linguistic scholars say. . . .

    "Philip Dalton, an assistant political communications professor at Hofstra University, called Mr. Cuomo's approach 'smart rhetorically.' 'Sometimes questions are posed to you with built-in assumptions that you don't want to affirm by answering them,' Prof. Dalton said. 'You can bypass the whole question by asking the question yourself, and it allows you to frame the answer in way that's advantageous to yourself.'"
    (Laura Nahmias, "Got Questions for Cuomo? So Does He." The Wall Street Journal, February 18, 2013)
  • Falstaff's Use of Anthypophora
    "What is honor? A word. What is in that word 'honor'? What is that 'honor'? Air. A trim reckoning! Who hath it? He that died o’ Wednesday. Doth he feel it? No. Doth he hear it? No. ‘Tis insensible, then? Yea, to the dead. But will it not live with the living? No. Why? Detraction will not suffer it. Therefore, I’ll none of it. Honor is a mere scutcheon. And so ends my catechism."
    (Falstaff in Act V, scene 1 of Henry IV, Part 1 by William Shakespeare)
  • Guillaume Budé in Defense of Anthypophora
    "Another most unfair attack I had almost forgotten to mention: in quoting the words of my letter, you make out that I put 'you say' in the present tense instead of 'you will say,' as though I had actually invented words from some earlier letter of yours. This is what you complain of, although in fact I was using the figure anthypophora, maintaining not that you did but that you might have said so; for everywhere in my draft it has the future tense 'you will say.' So you have begun to attack me not merely with rhetorical subtleties, as your custom was, but with fabrications."
    (Letter from Guillaume Budé to Desiderius Erasmus, 1519. Correspondence of Erasmus: Letters 842-992, 1518-1519. University of Toronto Press, 1982)
  • The Lighter Side of Anthypophora
    "Do I get annoyed when people ask themselves their own questions and answer them (rendering the interviewer irrelevant)? Yes I do. Should we allow this virus in the paper? No we shouldn't."
    (Kevin Mitchell, quoted by David Marsh and Amelia Hodsdon in Guardian Style, 3rd ed. Guardian Books, 2010)


Pronunciation: ant-hi-POF-era or an-thi-PO-for-a

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Nordquist, Richard. "anthypophora (rhetoric)." ThoughtCo, Mar. 8, 2016, Nordquist, Richard. (2016, March 8). anthypophora (rhetoric). Retrieved from Nordquist, Richard. "anthypophora (rhetoric)." ThoughtCo. (accessed March 23, 2018).