7 junio, 2024

Paraphrase: what it is, characteristics, structure, types, examples

We explain what paraphrases are, their characteristics, structure, types that exist, and we give several examples.

What is paraphrase?

The paraphrase It consists of explaining a text with one’s own words without changing the original meaning. That is, we communicate the idea read in a book or in any text with other words, but without altering what the author wanted to say.

For example: “The night was approaching, the darkness was filling all the corners of the room. She couldn’t turn on the light and after a while she couldn’t even see her hands when she put them in front of her eyes. The paraphrase of this text could be the following: “Night was falling, everything in the room was getting dark. He could not turn on the light and he could no longer see his hands in front of his face ”.

Paraphrasing is used as a way of showing that the information has been understood and a way of explaining, in a simpler way, the ideas raised in a statement. To carry them out, the use of synonyms is common, and when there is no equivalent word, it is replaced by a phrase or a phrase that expresses the same idea.

Professors and teachers paraphrase when “translating”, that is, explaining, complex ideas into a closer and simpler language, and students do it in the same way when they say in their own words what they have understood from a certain text.

Colloquially, paraphrasing is called paraphrasing. The word comes from the Latin paraphrasisand this in turn from the Greek παράφρασιςwhich means “additional way of expressing oneself”.

Paraphrasing Features

It is based on synonyms

In order to express the same idea with other words, it is necessary to resort to synonymy, in order to substitute words but not the general meaning of the text. Synonyms serve to avoid repetitions.

You must respect the original

The central idea must be maintained when constructing the paraphrase, respecting the original order and coherence.

must be objective

In the paraphrase, one’s own thoughts or opinions should not be added, since it is not exactly about an interpretation, but about explaining as objectively as possible, and in a simple and practical way, what is said in a text.


The paraphrase must be precise, both in tone and in the ideas expressed, reflecting the original ones.

Not necessarily a summary

Although the summary could be considered as part of a paraphrase, what the paraphrase strictly does is explain, with other words, the same ideas exposed; therefore, the new text is not always reduced, but the ideas already expressed are reorganized and clarified.

It is an alternative to dating

Certainly, with the paraphrase you avoid having to quote, however it is necessary that you say where what you are exposing comes from, because they are not your ideas. In academic writing, paraphrasing is usually introduced through phrases such as «according to X author…», or «following the guidelines of so-and-so…».

It will always be better to paraphrase as it indicates that you have understood the text, and in some way your work will be more original.

structure of a paraphrase

To make a paraphrase correctly you have to take into account several steps, without which you probably would not make a paraphrase but plagiarism. So that this does not happen, you must know the structure and how it is done.

Step 1: Read the original carefully

Before starting any paraphrase, you must first familiarize yourself with the subject to know what it is about. You can even go to other similar sources for more information.

This step is essential.

Step 2: Recognize main and supporting ideas

Remember that the main idea is the topic that will be discussed, and the secondary ones are the ones that help to develop the topic. Once you have identified them, it will be easier for you to paraphrase the text.

Step 3: Substitute words and ideas with your own

You can do it out loud first, before writing. Make sure that you use synonyms – for this you must know the meaning of the words – and that the ideas are the same as those stated in the original text.

You can also change the structure of sentences, for example, from active voice to passive voice.

Example: «He repeatedly read the same sentence until he finally understood: his parents divorced.»
Paraphrase: «The same sentence was read several times by the girl, until it was understood at the end: the separation of her parents.»

The first uses the active voice (read, understood), and in the second the passive voice (was read, be understood).

Step 4: Read and compare

When you already have the paraphrase, compare it with the original text and ask yourself the following question: does the new text maintain the meaning and coherence of the original? Remember that it is not about copying (which would be plagiarism) or summarizing, but about reworking what a text says in your own words.

Types of paraphrases

Essentially there are two types, mechanical and constructive, but there is also translation paraphrase, since when translating from one language to another one must necessarily translate the «idea» rather than the particular words.

mechanical paraphrase

The mechanical paraphrase is the simple replacement of the words or expressions enunciated by synonyms, meaning only syntactic changes.

Example: «The horse accelerated its pace and caused the boy to fall.»

Paraphrase: «The nag quickened his step and made the boy fall.»

constructive paraphrase

A constructive paraphrase is made when the text is reworked and a new one is produced, maintaining the same meaning of the original, although with different characteristics.

Let’s use the example above to paraphrase:

Paraphrase: «The horse sped up the trot and the boy who was riding it fell because he couldn’t keep his balance.»

translation paraphrase

Paraphrases are used when translating from one language to another. Literal translations are impossible to understand, so you have to change idioms, syntax and words to be understood when translated.

Example of a sentence in English: “Words are flowing out like endless rain into a paper cup” (The Beatles, “Across the Universe”).

Translation/paraphrase: «Words flow like endless rain into a paper cup.»

Examples of paraphrasing

Example 1

Original: “Once upon a time / a good little wolf / who was mistreated / by all the lambs. / And there was also / a bad prince, / a beautiful witch / and an honest pirate. / All these things / once upon a time / when I dreamed / a world turned upside down” (“El little wolf”, José Agustín Goytisolo).

Paraphrase: In a world upside down, different from the one we know, wolves are good, lambs annoy them, witches are beautiful, pirates are honest people, and princes are to be feared. It is a utopian world where traditional values ​​are disrupted (constructive paraphrase).

Example 2

Original: “Yesterday all my troubles seemed so far away, now it looks as thoug they’re here to stay, oh, I believe in yesterday” (“Yesterday”, the Beatles).

Paraphrase: “Yesterday all my troubles seemed far away, now they seem to be here to stay, oh I believe in yesterday” (translation paraphrase).

Example 3

Original: «God helps those who get up early.»

Paraphrase: Whoever makes an effort will see good results sooner rather than later (constructive paraphrase).

Example 4

Original: «That circle is a temple that ancient fires devoured, that the malarial jungle has desecrated and whose god receives no honor from men» («The circular ruins», Jorge Luis Borges).

Paraphrase: «That circle is an ancient temple destroyed by ancestral fires and invaded by the tropical jungle, where the god to whom it was elevated no longer receives tributes from humans» (mechanical paraphrase).

Example 5

Original: “There are many. They come on foot, they come laughing. They went down Melchor Ocampo, La Reforma, Juárez, Cinco de Mayo, boys and girls students who go arm in arm in the demonstration with the same joy with which just a few days ago they went to the fair…” (“The night of Tlatelolco”, Elena Poniatowska).

Paraphrase: «Many are those who come walking and laughing, the students who went down the various streets arm in arm, girls and boys, who walk in the demonstration just as happy as days before, when they went to the fair» (mechanical paraphrase).

Example 6

Original: “I see a red door / and I want it painted black / No colors anymore / I want them to turn black” (“Paint it Black”, the Rolling Stones).

Paraphrase: «I see a red door and I want it painted black, there are no more colors, I want them to turn black» (translation paraphrase).

Example 7

Original: «Slumped back in his favorite chair, with his back to the door that would have bothered him as an irritating possibility of intrusions, he let his left hand caress the green velvet over and over again and began to read the last chapters» («Continuity of the parks”, Julio Cortázar).

Paraphrase: «Sitting comfortably in his favorite chair, he turned his back to the door to avoid seeing it and feeling that he might be interrupted, with his left hand he caressed the velvet armrest several times and began to read the last chapters of the novel» (paraphrase constructive).

Example 8

Original: «Actually, the readings of youth can be unprofitable due to impatience, distraction, inexperience in terms of instructions for use, inexperience of life» (Why read the ClassicsItalo Calvino).

Paraphrase: «When the classics are read in youth, they can be unprofitable due to age-related impatience, distraction, inexperience in how to read an ancient text or due to lack of experience» (mechanical paraphrase).

Example 9

Original: «The girl sped across the finish line, winning the gold medal.»

Paraphrase: “The speedy girl won a gold medal by crossing the finish line” (mechanical paraphrase).

Example 10

Original: “Walker, they are your footprints / the path and nothing else; / Walker, there is no path, the path is made by walking. / When walking, the path is made, / and when looking back / one sees the path that will never / be trodden again. / Walker, there is no road / but wakes in the sea” (“Proverbs and Songs XXIX”, Antonio Machado).

Paraphrase: “For Machado, the road is made to the extent that it is walked, it is a metaphor of present life and of the journey. It can never be traversed again because you can’t go back to the past. Each one has a different path, that of their own footsteps” (constructive paraphrase).


The paraphrase. Taken from linkage.ucsh.cl.
How to Paraphrase Sources. Taken from scribbr.com.

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