Definition of Paraphrase

When we hear news stories and watch television shows, we want to tell the story to our families, friends and colleagues about what, how and why something happened. In fact, we recount the story, its main characters and events in our own words. This technique is called paraphrase, which is to express an idea or somebody’s message in our own words by maintaining the meaning of original material. Paraphrase is a Greek word, paraphrasis, means “to tell in other words.” Simply, it is to restate a statement in different words rather than the original text while keeping the meaning and sense of original source the same.

Paraphrase and Summary

Both summarizing and paraphrasing use similar actions by involving almost the same processes. However, their objectives are different. Summary aims at condensing the original source into a shorter form than it is whereas, paraphrase has no concern with length; rather it is rewording or restating the original source in different words, keeping the length or word count almost the same.

Examples of Paraphrase from Literature

Example 1

But soft, what light through yonder window breaks?
It is the east, and Juliet is the sun.
Arise, fair sun, and kill the envious moon,
Who is already sick and pale with grief
That thou, her maid, art far more fair than she. . . .
The brightness of her cheek would shame those stars
As daylight doth a lamp; her eye in heaven
Would through the airy region stream so bright
That birds would sing and think it were not night.

(From Romeo & Juliet by Robert Burns)

Paraphrase: But please wait and see the light from that window? It is the east, and my love Juliet is the sun. Come up beautiful sun, kill the jealous moon that is already sick and pale due to grief, as Juliet is more beautiful than moon… The brightness of Juliet’s cheeks would surpass the brightness of stars as the sun’s light outshines the light of a lamp. If her eyes were in the sky, they would be so bright through the spaces that birds might start singing, considering it was day light.

Example 2

Busy old fool, unruly sun,
Why dost thou thus,
Through windows and through curtains call on us?…
Shine here to us, and thou art everywhere;
This bed thy center is, these walls, thy sphere.

(From the Sun Rising by John Donne)

Paraphrase: You nosy old stupid busybody! the sun, you obey no normal rules —  why you are waking up us like this, interfering with our personal life by entering through the windows and bedroom’s curtains?… Go ahead, and shine on us, while doing so you would shine everywhere. This bed is the center of entire universe around which you revolve, and walls of our room are like sphere, which hold you in the heaven.

Example 3

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.

(From Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen)

Paraphrase: Everyone agrees on this point that a prosperous man needs to have a wife.

Example 4

Whence is that knocking?—
How is’t with me, when every noise appals me?
What hands are here! Ha, they pluck out mine eyes.
Will all great Neptune’s ocean wash this blood
Clean from my hand? No, this my hand will rather
The multitudinous seas incarnadine,
Making the green one red.

(From Macbeth by Willaim Shakespeare)

Paraphrase: Where is this knocking coming from? Why am I having this experience that every noise frightens me? Whose hands are these? Ha! These are pulling out my eyes. Will ocean’s water wash the blood and clear my hands from blood? No, instead these hands will change the color of the water from green to red.

Function of Paraphrase

The paraphrasing technique allows the writers to change the original text, so that it does not look like original source, yet without changing its meaning. Effective paraphrasing could help avoid the risk of plagiarism. There are many functions of this literary technique; first, it helps the readers to understand what they have read, especially when the syntax and diction of a writer looks foreign and complex to the readers. Secondly, it could direct the attention of the readers towards the tone of the text and its significant details. Finally, since it clears the meaning of the texts, it means it helps the readers to generate different questions from the paraphrasing texts like when, what and why something occurred.

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