How to use Adynaton to convince your spouse

Adynaton is one of the rhetorical devices you can choose to use to gain more influence over your stakeholders. There are various types of rhetorical devices and Adynaton is just one of them. In this article I will tell you what it is and how you can use it to get more influence. And as a bonus I will show an example of how to use this rhetorical device to convince your spouse, so read on:


Adynaton Rhetorical Devices - Dividerline

What is Adynaton?

Adynaton is a declaration of impossibility, often in an obviously exaggerated comparison.

  • some sort of hyperbole: an over-exaggeration of the situation.
  • used for rhetorical effect. Therefore it is also one of the rhetorical devices.
  • is a particular form of hyperbole. It is really an over-exaggeration to the extreme to the extent that it is ridiculous and literally impossible.
  • often also a fun way to give the other person in a light-hearted jokingly way your opinion of the situation.

Examples of Adynaton

To give you an idea of what Adynaton is, I give you a few examples:

  • He died laughing.
  • He is as old as the hills.
  • Rhetorical devices are the best thing ever.

History of the use of Adynaton as one of the rhetorical devices

Adynaton is one of the rhetorical devices that is already been used since the Classical Period. It was used to refer to a highly unlikely event to occur sooner than another.

An example would be like: “One can expect an agreement between philosophers sooner than between clocks" or "Fly like pigs". Adynaton is used to express some sort of over-exaggeration to really make a clear statement of impossibility.

In the literature of the Middle Ages, Adynaton was however found very little. But then since Renaissance it got a revival while romantic poets started to use it again.

Adynaton Rhetorical Devices - Dividerline

How to use Adynaton to get more influence?


You are a bit late home from work in the evening and your spouse tells you:


Your being late means you don’t care about me.

So how would you react?

In this case it would be helpful to try to correct the viewpoint of your spouse with some sort of joke-ish statement.​

So, instead of giving a serious answer you can say something like:

“Are you saying that the most fundamental aspect of our relationship is simple a matter of time?"

So what is happening here? The original message of your spouse has two dimensions:

  • relationship
  • and time

Then you explode the first frame (“you don’t care about me”), by exaggerating it into:

  • “the most fundamental aspect of our relationship”

And you make the the second frame (“your being late”) futile, by imploding it with the statement:

  • “simple a matter of time”

So, instead of the incorrect or impossible statement of your spouse, you put in place another impossible statement. By doing so, your spouse get the chance to see the ridiculity of your statement and therefore realising the ridiculity of her  own statement. Which helps her to see the whole situation in a light hearted manner. And after you have laughed both about it, you can have a very nice evening together!

This example of Adynaton used over-exaggeration in both ways: exploding and imploding the statements of your spouse into something which make your spouse think of what she herself had said.

Adynaton Rhetorical Devices - Dividerline

When not to use Adynaton?

As always you can only use rhetorical devices when you have rapport with the other person. So in the above example, if your spouse was really angry at you, you’d better not use Adynaton and first try to calm her down. So, use it when you have rapport and when it is appropriate with regards to the situation.


Adynaton is one of the rhetorical devices which you can use to give your stakeholders some different perspective on the situation. It is a light hearted and fun way to make your point without being too serious on the situation.

Adynaton can be a fun way to get more influence; even over your spouse!

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Be aware that you only use Adynaton, as well as any of the other rhetorical devices for that matter, when you already have established rapport with your stakeholders.

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Over to you

Please leave a comment below by telling us how you uses Adynaton in your communication arsenal.

Thank you already in advance for sharing your thoughts and insights!

About the Author

Harry Heijligers

Harry Heijligers has more than 25 years of experience as a Project Manager and more than 17 years of experience as an NLP Trainer. He has a Dutch blog about NLP here: If you'd like to know more about the Smart Leadership Hut, please check this: Smart Leadership Hut.


Adynaton, rhetorical devices, rhetorical triangle

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