Rhetorical Devices: Hypophora

This post is part of a series on rhetoric and rhetorical devices. For other posts in the series, please click this link.

Device: Hypophora

Origin: From the Greek ὑπόϕορά (hypofora), meaning “carrying under” or “putting under”.

In plain English: Asking a question and immediately answering it.


  • There is a sense that the speaker is having a dialogue with the audience. The speaker asks a question (usually one that is on the minds of his listeners) and then answers it.
  • Asking the question arouses the curiosity of the audience about the answer. Thus, a well-timed pause between the question and answer can heighten the effect.
  • The speaker appears confident and in control.


  • Technically, hypophora is the question; anthyphophora is the answer. However, hypophora is frequently used to mean both question and answer.
  • Hyphora is similar to a rhetorical question. The difference is that when a speaker poses a rhetorical question, he does not answer it. The answer to a rhetorical question is implied by the way and context in which the question is asked.
  • The question or questions in a hypophora will often be used to set up a long answer, which is point that the speaker wishes to make.


You ask, what is our policy? I will say: It is to wage war, by sea, land, and air, with all our might and with all the strength that God can give us; to wage war against a monstrous tyranny never surpassed in the dark, lamentable catalogue of human crime. That is our policy. You ask, what is our aim? I can answer in one word: It is victory, victory at all costs, victory in spite of all terror, victory, however long and hard the road may be.”

— Winston Churchill, 4 June 1940


There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, ‘When will you be satisfied?’ We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality. We can never be satisfied, as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities. We cannot be satisfied as long as the Negro’s basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one. We can never be satisfied as long as our children are stripped of their selfhood and robbed of their dignity by signs stating “For Whites Only”. We cannot be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote. No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.”

— Martin Luther King, Jr., 28 August 1963


And how’d you get that [becoming King], eh? By exploiting the workers! By hanging on to outdated imperialist dogma which perpetuates the economic and social differences in our society.”

— Monty Python, Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975)


What is George Bush doing about our economic problems? He has raised taxes on the people driving pickup trucks and lowered taxes on the people riding in limousines.”

— Bill Clinton, Democratic National Convention, 16 July 1992


Are they meeting and having discussions on these things? Yes. Have they been meeting for some weeks and months? Yes. Does that imply a certain amount of understanding that that process might be useful? Yes.”

— Donald Rumsfeld, 26 October 2006

About John Zimmer

International speaker, presentation skills expert, lawyer, improv performer
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14 Responses to Rhetorical Devices: Hypophora

  1. Pingback: Questions | amy shiach

  2. Your transliteration of the Greek requires an initial ‘h’ and the following vowel should be ‘y’, not ‘i’.

    Otherwise, thanks.


    • John Zimmer says:

      Thank you for pointing that out. I cannot remember, but I might have been trying to go for the sound effect. But I have taken your suggestion and made the change.


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  5. Bob says:

    Do you know why most dictionaries don’t contain an entry for hypophora? I looked in a webster’s dictionary and an online app dictionary for the entry to no avail.


    • John Zimmer says:

      Hi Bob,

      I suppose it’s because the word is so rarely used. I recall having this experience with other words in the past although I cannot remember which words they were. However, I did come across this reference in Wikipedia that mentions that there is a definition for “hypophora” in the Century Dictionary.




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  7. cheryl says:

    For my communication ethics class, we are asked to comment on a blog pertaining to our discussions and readings of the week. This week is rhetoric. We have read The Plenary Address by Dave Zarefsky discussing the 3 responsibilities of rhetoric: promote public reason, unite the audience, and inspire a direction in the audience (Smith and Warnick, 2010, p. 13-17).

    The speakers you have mentioned in this blog all use these three responsibilities. “Rhetoric is there to help human beings deliberate about the certainty of their uncertain existence (Cheney, et al. 2011, p. 30). Aristotle searched for a balance between saying what the audience wants to hear, much like what President Clinton was accused of, to the communicators that make little or no connection to their audience (Johannesen et al. 2008, p. 3). Your blog post discusses Hypophora as a uniquely used tool, that when used correctly, can connect the audience and the communicator.

    You have posted the best example of Monty Python’s Holy Grail. Who cannot connect with that? Noone.


    • John Zimmer says:

      Thank you for the comprehensive and instructive comment, Cheryl. It even came with citations – Wow! (And nice one on your own hypophora at the end.)

      Best wishes for the rest of your communication ethics class.



  8. How can one not love this post – with a Holy Grail clip? Loved it, John.



    • John Zimmer says:

      Thanks, Dave. Much appreciated. And a great example of a rhetorical question on your part! As for the Pythons, without a doubt they have a deserved place in the Pantheon of Comedy. Witty, wacky, intellectual – they had it all and they delivered it in a truly unique style.



  9. cuchullainn says:

    And you ask how has John done with this blog post? He has done well. He has been clear. He has provided practical tips.


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