According to Wikipedia, this is a hyperbaton:

"Whom god wishes to destroy, he first makes mad" — Euripides

Is that right, and if so, why? My native language is Swedish, but I speak English fluently. Anyway, why isn't the following considered hyperbaton too?

It's not that hard, I suppose.

It's very common in Swedish, which may be the reason why it sounds so natural to me, but still, it's rather common in English too.

  • 4
    It is hyperbaton, using the classical definition, 'any deliberate and dramatic departure from standard word order'. Most of English syntax would be classed as hyperbatonic (good word,that; I must remember to drop it into a conversation), since deliberate and variously dramatic departures from standard word order are what syntax is all about. This is probably why linguists (except possibly Greek linguists) don't use the term much. Commented Oct 11, 2013 at 15:06

3 Answers 3


The more traditional phrasing would be:

God first makes mad whom he wishes to destroy.

Flipping the order of "[he/God] first makes mad" and "whom [he/God] wishes to destroy" results in a hyperbaton.

Hyperbaton /haɪˈpɜrbətɒn/ is a figure of speech in which words are transposed.

I personally wouldn't consider "It's not that hard, I suppose." a hyperbaton because it is just conversational English. I don't know the appropriate term for the pattern but it is standard phrasing:

I just don't want to go to the movies, I guess.

If you wanted to turn this into a hyperbaton you would have to muck up the order of the first part:

To the movies, I just don't want to go, I guess.

Which is horribly awkward. You'd actually say:

To the movies, I guess I just don't want to go.

To turn your example into a hyperbaton:

Hard it is not, I suppose.

  • 1
    To make it even more of a hyperbaton: "Hard is it not, suppose I"
    – jocap
    Commented Oct 11, 2013 at 17:17
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    That is Yodaspeak
    – mplungjan
    Commented Oct 11, 2013 at 18:02
  • I haven't seen any of the Star Wars films, but I'm familiar with Yoda via references, and I don't think he talks exactly that way. Isn't it more "[verb], you will" instead of "you will [verb]?" Update: Well, actually, according to yodaspeak.co.uk, "Hard it is not, I suppose." is Yodaspeak.
    – jocap
    Commented Oct 11, 2013 at 19:53
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    Yoda speak is OSV: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yoda_speak, so it will be "(O)[(O)[not hard] (S)it (V)is)], (S)I (V)suppose."
    – MrHen
    Commented Oct 11, 2013 at 19:57
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    Terribly pedestrian thought I, when read I that @jocap had not seen any Star Wars films; but upon reflection pedestrian would I have not regarded myself, who has not seen any Twilight film. Commented Oct 11, 2013 at 22:39

Mark Thorin's answer, above, is good, and with him I agree. (The last part of the previous sentence is an example of hyperbaton, since the "normal" word order would be "Mark Thorin's answer, above, is good, and I agree with him.)

For a humorous take on the rhetorical figure called hyperbaton, you might want to explore Yoda-speak, which is a way of talking that makes frequent use of hyperbaton. Yoda is a lovable guru and mentor to Luke Skywalker's character in the movie Star Wars.

If you are interested in converting "normal" speech into Yoda-speak, see the following web site: http://www.yodaspeak.co.uk/. Here's an interesting example:

"You were wherever, not, you now are!"


In the first sentence, you can't cut the sentence at the comma : each part has no meaning by itself. It is an inversion bringing out the main idea, and then an hyperbaton.

In the second, you could : it is obvious for the first part ; the second part, although it is not "I suppose so", could stand alone as an answer to a remark.

The dialog : "It is not hard". - "I suppose". is correct, and is not an hyperbaton.

  • Is it, though, not an example of flipping the subordinate clause with the main clause ("I suppose it isn't hard" -> "It isn't hard, I suppose"), making it a hyperbaton, although a common one?
    – jocap
    Commented Oct 11, 2013 at 17:15
  • 1
    Nope, that's not hyperbaton, which by definition is a deliberate and dramatic type of word reordering. In spontaneous speech there's more variation in word order patterns simply because we utter words as they come to mind. "I suppose" is a downtoner, and one often doesn't anticipate the need to tone down one's statement. As there's no deliberation, there's no drama at play.
    – Talia Ford
    Commented Oct 11, 2013 at 18:19

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