Author: Sydney Bauer
This lesson introduces zeugma and goes over how it is used in writing.
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Introduction to Psychology

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Zeugma (a.k.a. syllepsis)

Zeugma is a figure of speech where one word (usually a verb) applies to, or governs, at least two objects or other words, each in different ways. Remember, objects receive the action of the sentence; they usually answer the questions who or what. 


Let’s look at an example: 

In this example, the verb phrase “could see through” is applied to both the fog and Amanda’s husband, but in different ways. Amanda can physically see through the fog, but she can only figuratively see through her husband (unless he’s a ghost).


The term zeugma comes from the Greek word meaning “to yoke,” which is an appropriate origin for this figure of speech. The governing word yokes or joins together the other words or objects, just as a harness would yoke together two different horses. 



Let’s look at three more examples: 


Remember that the governing word needs to apply to the objects in different ways. That means that the following would Not be an example of zeugma: She likes candy and hopscotch. Although there is only one verb that applies to two objects, it applies to each of them in the same way.