Anacoluto: Characteristics, Types, Examples

He anacoluthonit is an inconsistency in the structure of a proposition that is the product, in most cases, of a sudden change in discourse. These types of inconsistencies are very common in oral colloquial language, but they also occur in writing.

In itself, this failure in the syntax (rules for joining and relating words) is presented as a violation of the rules of the language, although generally it is not due to a lack of knowledge of these rules. Its practical effect is a discontinuity in the sequence of construction of an expression.

Etymologically, anacoluto comes from the Latin anakólouthon (‘not following’, ‘inconsequential’). In Spanish, from around 1900, it began to be used with the meaning: Inconsequence in the regime or in the construction of a sentence.

On the other hand, in literary writing it is used as a rhetorical device to imitate informal thought or conversation and to cause a certain impact on readers. This resource is used very especially within the style called flow of consciousness.

In addition, it occurs in casual speeches, especially those that take place within a colloquial context. This happens because, in general, colloquialism does not require syntactic perfection.


One of the most outstanding characteristics of anacoluto is that it occurs more frequently in speech than in writing. The reason for this is that written language is often more precise and deliberate.

On the other hand, in grammar it is considered a mistake. However, in rhetoric she is a figure that shows excitement, confusion or laziness. They can be found in poetry, drama, and prose to reflect informal human thinking.

Anacolutos are usually equated with one of the vices of language: solecism. The latter is defined as syntax errors or faults.

Now, although an anacoluto also represents a fault in the syntax, this is caused by a disruption in speech (intentional or accidental). For their part, solecisms are due to ignorance of grammar rules.

Types of anacoluto

Anapodoton is a very common type of anacoluto. This consists of the omission of the second part of a sentence sequence. Often times this is interrupted by a subsection, and then the second part is omitted.

For example: “You already know how things work here … Or you do what is asked of you, because it is to do that it should be … That way you won’t have a major problem.”

In the sentence sequence of this example, there is a disjunctive sentence interrupted by a subsection: “Or do what you are asked …”. But, the second part of the sequence is elided, thus producing an anacoluto.

Another typical case is the anapodoton, or repetition of part of a phrase (as a paraphrase ). It also causes a disruption in prayer.

Note this phenomenon in: “When you come, you come and then we talk.” In this case, “you come” is equivalent to “when you come.”

In addition, in the headlines and in the articles of the press journalistic anacoluto is very frequent. This occurs, on many occasions, due to the limited space available or the conciseness characteristic of this genre.


In Saramago

The following two extracts correspond to the work Memorial del convent (1982) by the writer José de Sousa Saramago. As can be seen in these excerpts, anacolutos are common in this author’s narrative.

“This is the bed that came from Holland when the queen came from Austria ordered to be made on purpose by the king, the bed, which cost 75,000 crusaders, that in Portugal there are no architects of such beauty …”.

In this fragment the phrase “the bed” is repeated in a paragraph. When the sentence is resumed, “who” follows, who seems to be the subject of “the bed” (although logically the subject is “the king”) and an anacoluto occurs.

“When the bed was put here and assembled there were still no bedbugs in it … but later, with use, the heat of the bodies … where does this stuffed with bugs come from is something that is not known …”

In this sentence the explanation is interrupted: there were no bed bugs, but later … Then various events are mentioned, but the author does not really finish the idea.

From “There is the detail”

The way of speaking of the character Cantinflas, played by the actor Mario Moreno, was very particular. In the following transcripts of his filmThere is the detail of 1940 the disruptions in the speech are evident.

“Well, there is the detail! What did he bring young – it turns out that at the moment he says that everything, who knows then … because that is not the case and where you see, the emancipation of himself but then, each one sees things according to him …

In this clip, the character is defending himself in a murder trial against him. Discourse disruptions are extreme to such an extent that it is incomprehensible.

“Look, you slimy hairy… Hold on! Total – but no, because yes, no way. Pray that you don’t realize it, but we have plenty of hesitations. Another day someone grabbed me on the phone, look how you will be… ”.

The character continues with his defense, however he cannot articulate the sentences completely. For example, for the expression “just because” a second part is expected, but it is not found.

“Because altogether when one finds oneself fighting for proletarian unification, what
was there any need for that? Because you and me, nope. But what you, total …

There are at least two anacolutos in this part of the transcript. The first is “because you and I, well no.” And the second is “But what you, total.” In both cases, the first and second part of the sentences do not correspond.


  1. Pérez Porto, J. and Merino, M. (2015). Definition of anacoluto. Taken from definition of.
  2. Literary devices. (s / f). Anacoluthon. Taken from
  3. Segura Munguía, S. (2014). Etymological and semantic lexicon of Latin and of the current voices that come from Latin or Greek roots. Bilbao: University of Deusto.
  4. Essays, UK. (2013, November). Oral Communication Grammar Mistakes. Taken from
  5. Balakrishnan, M. (2015). Practical manual for style correction. Madrid: Editorial Verbum.
  6. Marcos Álvarez, F. (2012). Basic dictionary of expressive resources. Bloomington: Xlibris.

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