Posted in Advanced C1, B2 First, Proficiency

Rhetorical Devices in Speech and Writing

This is a lesson plan designed to help students make their written and spoken English more emphatic and engaging. Students will learn various rhetorical devices, then put them to use in conversation. Download the handout and key below:

Rhetorical Devices in Speech and Writing – Student Handout

We can use the following rhetorical devices to make our speeches and writings more engaging.

  1. Rhetorical Questions

Ask a question that you don’t expect an answer to.

“How can we encourage more people to recycle? Well, one way would be to…”

“How much impact do one person’s habits really have on the environment? Surprisingly, ….

  1. Personification

Giving human actions or emotions to non-living/inanimate things.

“I could hear the pack of cookies calling to me from the cupboard.”

“The music industry chewed him up and spat him out.”

“The soft bed welcomed me with open arms.”

“The fear of failure chased him wherever he went.”

  1. Hyperbole

Using exaggeration to draw attention to the severity of the matter or to make a strong point. 

“I called her a thousand times.”

“I will literally die if they ask me to give a speech to the whole class.”

“I’m so hungry I could eat a horse.”

  1. Litotes

Ironic understatement in which an affirmative is expressed by the negative of its contrary

“How did Steve look when you visited him? Not great to be honest.”

“How was the film? Yeah, not bad.”

“Let’s just say he doesn’t have the best attendance record.”

  1. Anadiplosis

Repetition of the last word in a phrase at the beginning of the next phrase or sentence.

“Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate and hate leads to suffering.” –Yoda, Star Wars

“We ordered a pizza. A pizza that changed our lives.”

“She got on the bus, and on that bus she met a man. A man who would turn out to be the love of her life. A life that would be tragically cut short at only 25 years old.”

  1. Simile

A simile is a comparison in which something is said to figuratively be like something else. They usually contain “like” or “as”.

“It was as hot as a desert this morning.”

“His heart was beating like a broken clock.”

“My grandad is as blind as a bat and as deaf as a post.”


Identify the different rhetorical devices:

  1. It certainly wasn’t the worst school play I’ve ever been to.
  2. I’m absolutely starving, when can we stop for lunch? 
  3. My little brother is as thick as two short planks, he’s just not the academic type.
  4. The far-off lights of the city seemed to welcome us as we got closer.
  5. He spent the last of his money on an old bike. An old bike that he ended up riding for over 20 years.
  6. How can we convince more people to invest in electric cars? I’ll tell you how.
  7. The last episode was like watching paint dry, I couldn’t stand it.
  8. Her brain is the size of a pea, it’s like talking to a brick wall.
  9. It’s not the most useful application, so I’ll probably delete it.
  10. What can be done about the issue of short attention spans? Well, first of all, we could….
  11. The leg bone’s connected to the knee bone. The knee bone’s connected to the thigh bone.
  12. The car engine grumbled, coughed and burst into life.


Barcelona based English Teacher, blogger and sometime actor and director.

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