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The hypophora consists of two parts: the first is the question asked by the speaker, and the second is the speaker's response to his own question. The hypophora is thus different from a rhetorical question, because it actually is meant to be answered. The main purpose of the hypophora is to enable the speaker to anticipate the listeners' concerns and then address them within the context of his own speech. 

Definition of hypophora

Hypophora is a figure of speech wherein a writer raises a question and then immediately answers it. Usually, the question is asked in the first paragraph of the written work and then second paragraph is used to answer the question. Synonyms for hypophora are antipophora and anthypophora. There is a slight but marked difference between a rhetorical question and hypophora.  Anthypophora was a word used in ancient Greek as a device to verify the truth of something, as defined by Quintilian in Institutio Oratio. The three terms have come to mean similar and different types of writing today, and are often confused.


The difference between hypophora and a rhetorical question is that hypophora requires the writer to provide an answer, whereas the rhetorical question does not. Examples follow for clarification:

Example 1: “Why should you buy research paper samples? To give you a better understanding an example of what your assignment should look like.”

This is an example of hypophora.

Example 2: “For if we cannot understand the ideas a language is based on, what is the use of learning it?

This is an example of a rhetorical question.

In literature, hypophora is used to simulate the problem-solving process of thinking about a situation, and then the answer is provided to guide the reader’s thinking to the appropriate place. For instance, the following example is from a short story by Truman Capote entitled A Christmas Memory.

“Thirty-one cakes, dampened with whiskey, bask on window wills and shelves. Who are they for Friends. Not necessarily neighbor friends: indeed, the larger share is intended for persons we’ve met maybe once, perhaps not at all. People who’ve struck our fancy.”

Here Capote is using hypophora to emphasize the larger message of Christmas, which is to share with those not like us and make new connections through gift giving and social occasions.

How to use hypophoras

The purpose of hypophora is for the essay writer or speaker to put him or herself into the shoes of the listener, and think of questions that reader or listener might have when confronting the written or spoken words. Through this literary device, the writer can step into the reader’s mind and pre-empt and questions or thoughts that should be answered in a text.

The Greek word for hypophora is ipofora, meaning “carrying under” or “putting under.” With the use of hypophora, there is a general sense that the speaker or writer is attempting to have a direct dialogue with the reader or listener. In this manner, hypophora serves to further engage the reader or listener, drawing him or her into the plot or purpose of the writing or speech. Asking poignant and rhetorical questions that the reader might not have thought of yet, but may think of in the future, serves to allow the writer or speaker to answer those questions before they arise.

Hypophora is also an effective marketing materials method, putting questions the marketer or company prefers to answer into the observer or marketing target’s mind in order to crowd out others which might result in no purchasing of the product.

In direct translation, the word “hypophora” means question, and the word “anthypophora” means answer, but “hypophora” is often used to mean both when referring to the literary device.

Here is a final example from a Winston Churchill speech:

“You ask, what is our policy? I will say: It is to wage war, by sea, land, and air, with all our ight and with all the strength that God can give us.”


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