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Anastrophe: A Literary Device That Inverts Word Order

Updated: Jun 1, 2023


a picture of a stack of books

This is the pilot post for a new series I'm writing called Grammar Gadgets. Every other week Grammar Gadgets will feature a different literary device. Focusing on one device at a time will allow us to take a deeper dive into each tool, and provide a clearer understanding of what they are and how they're used. Many rhetorical devices are very similar to one another, so hopefully, this will help us to differentiate between a simile and a metaphor.


Have you ever come across sentences that seem to be worded oddly, yet somehow, they still make sense? Chances are, you have encountered anastrophe, a literary device that inverts the typical word order in a sentence to create a poetic or rhetorical effect. Anastrophe is a powerful tool that can add depth and complexity to your writing, and it's worth exploring further. In this blog post, we'll explore the definition of anastrophe, its different types, and some examples of anastrophe used in literature and everyday speech. Whether you're a student, teacher, writer, or blogger, you'll find valuable insights on how to use anastrophe to enhance your writing style.

Anastrophe is a Greek word, derived from Ana, meaning "back", and strophe, which means "turn". Essentially, anastrophe is turning a sentence backward. This technique is often used to create a poetic or dramatic effect, to emphasize a particular word or phrase, or to evoke a certain emotion. In anastrophe, the usual word order is inverted, so that the subject, verb, and object are not in their typical positions. For example, instead of saying, "I love you," you can use anastrophe to say, "You I love."

Anastrophe can be used in a variety of ways, depending on the intended effect. In poetry, for instance, anastrophe helps create a specific rhythm or meter. In prose, anastrophe can create a sense of drama, surprise, or emphasis. It's important to note that anastrophe is not the same as an error in grammar or syntax. Rather, it's a conscious choice made by the writer or speaker to achieve a particular effect.

There are several different types of anastrophe, including:

  • Preposing: a word or phrase is moved to the beginning of a sentence for emphasis

  • Postposing: a word or phrase is moved to the end of a sentence for emphasis

  • Inversion: when the order of subject and verb is reversed

  • Splitting: a word or phrase is split apart and inserted into different parts of a sentence

Examples of Anastrophe as a Literary Device in Literature and Culture

statue of William Shakespeare

Anastrophe can be found in many works of literature, from Shakespeare and Martin Luther King Jr. to contemporary poetry and in dialogue. Dr. Seuss made widespread use of anastrophe in his children’s books. Let's take a look at a few examples:

We'll start with arguably the most famous writer ever, William Shakespeare, and his play Hamlet: "To be or not to be, that is the question." Here, the typical word order would be "The question is whether to be or not to be." However, by using anastrophe, Shakespeare creates a more powerful and memorable line that has become one of the most famous quotes in all of literature.

Yoda from Star Wars

Another famous example of anastrophe comes from Yoda in Star Wars: "Powerful you have become, the dark side I sense in you." In this sentence, the object "the dark side" comes before the verb "sense," and the subject "you" comes after it. This inversion creates a more memorable and impactful line. Anastrophe can also be used to create a sense of urgency or excitement. For example, in Edgar Allan Poe's poem "The Raven," he writes: "Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there wondering, fearing." By placing the adverbial phrase "deep into that darkness peering" at the beginning of the sentence, Poe creates a sense of suspense and anticipation that draws the reader in.

How to Use Anastrophe in Your Writing

If you're a student, a writer, or even an aspiring writer, anastrophe can be a powerful tool to add depth and complexity to your writing. Here are a few tips on how to use anastrophe effectively:

  • Use anastrophe sparingly: While anastrophe can be a powerful tool, it's important not to overuse it. Too much anastrophe can make your writing feel forced or contrived.

  • Consider your audience: Anastrophe can be more difficult to understand for readers who are not familiar with the device. Consider your audience and use anastrophe only when it adds value to your writing.

  • Experiment with different types of anastrophe: Try using preposing, postposing, inversion, and splitting to see which type of anastrophe works best for your writing style.

  • Read widely: One of the best ways to learn how to use anastrophe effectively is to read widely and pay attention to how other writers use the device. Take note of the different types of anastrophe used in different genres and writing styles.


Anastrophe is a powerful literary device that can add depth and complexity to your writing. By inverting word order, anastrophe can create a poetic or rhetorical effect that emphasizes certain words or phrases, creates a sense of drama or urgency, or evokes a particular emotion. Whether you're a student, teacher, writer, or blogger, anastrophe is a tool that is worth exploring further. By using anastrophe effectively, you can enhance your writing style and create more powerful and memorable prose and poetry.

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Don't miss the next Grammar Gadget: Zoomorphism- Turning People Into Animals.

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