What Are Some Antimetabole Examples?

One example of antimetabole is the famous quote from Socrates who said, "Eat to live, not live to eat." Another example is from Malcolm X, who said, "We didn't land on Plymouth Rock, Plymouth Rock landed on us." Antimetabole is a literary device by which successive phrases are repeated in reverse grammatical order. A short example is "Fair is foul and foul is fair."

Other pertinent examples include, "When the going gets tough, the tough get going," and "It's not how old you are, but how you are old." Many famous people, such as William Shakespeare, John F. Kennedy, Malcolm X and Socrates, employed antimetabole to emphasize speeches.

For antimetabole to be effective, both sides of the phrase must be grammatically correct, and the entire sentence must make a logical progression. Simply saying "Cold is hot and hot is cold" is not enough to create this literary device. The context surrounding antimetabole must make sense.

The word antimetabole is from the Greek language meaning "turning about in the opposite direction." The literary device is also known as a chiasmus. However, a chiasmus is used just to make an author's point. Sometimes, a chiasmus seems like an antimetabole, but the word inversion is not precisely reversed.