Repetition is one of the most popular ways to emphasize an idea or make a point. There are several examples of repetition that can be found in speeches, songs and important documents that highlight key themes and emotions a speaker wants their audience to embrace.
10 Examples of Repetition in a Sentence
The Great Dictator speech by Charlie Chaplin
“You have the love of humanity in your hearts! You don’t hate! Only the unloved hate— the unloved, and the unnatural! Soldiers! Don’t fight for slavery! Fight for liberty!”
Charlie Chaplin’s famous speech from the movie The Great Dictator is one that stands out in the memories of viewers because of his passion and his repetition of key ideas. Chaplin’s rousing speech to his people as he is impersonating the satirical Adenoid Hynkel, dictator of the fictional Tomainia, inspires them to fight for justice, rather than hate. Chaplin’s repetition of the ideas to not fight for hate, but to fight for liberty instead, underscores the differentiation between a Fascist dictatorship and democracy.
I Have A Dream by Martin Luther King, Jr.
“I say to you today, my friends, though, even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream. I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up, live out the true meaning of its creed: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evidence, that all men are created equal.'”
Martin Luther King, Jr.’s repetition of the phrase “I have a dream” continues the theme throughout his speech that one day, true equality will be possible for people of all colors in America. He juxtaposes his own dream next to the ideal of the American Dream itself, which is the reason why the nation was established in the first place: to reward hard work and determination with a decent living and freedom from oppression.
We Shall Fight on the Beaches by Winston Churchill
“We shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender…”
Churchill is addressing the Parliament of Britain during the Battle of France on June 4, 1940. These particular words which Churchill chose were carefully calculated to prepare Britain for a possible Nazi invasion, and to steel the nation against the disheartening fact that France was likely to fall to the Nazis very soon. Despite this sense of impending doom, Winston’s repetition of what the British people would continue to do—defend, fight, never surrender—are key themes of resilience and national pride to bolster their morale and assure them that the Nazi regime would never win.
Inaugural Address by John F. Kennedy
“Ask not what your country can do for you– ask what you can do for your country.”
John F. Kennedy’s inauguration speech came at a time when the country was facing yet another threat: the spread of Communism and the arms race with Russia. President Kennedy uses repetition of the words “ask… your country” to remind the people that they don’t have to sit back and wait for progress; instead, they can contribute to both the success of the nation and the progress of peace in the world. Rather than continuing to focus on nuclear weapons, Americans should be using their combined experiences—honed through two world wars and the Great Depression—to improve international relations and spread the ideals of democracy to all nations.
Speech to the Second Virginia Convention by Patrick Henry
“Give me liberty, or give me death!”
This famous phrase ended Patrick Henry’s rousing speech to the Second Virginia Convention, rallying the members of the Convention to draft the resolution declaring the severing of the Colonies from England, and starting the Revolutionary War. The ultimatum Henry gives with his repetition of “give me” liberty, or “give me” death shows that for Henry and other Colonists who were tired of England’s oppression and unfair taxation, there was no alternative but to go to war.
The Declaration of Independence
“Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our British brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence.”
The Declaration of Independence outlined the Colonists’ reasons for declaring their separation from England, listing grievances against King George III and Parliament, and addressing the steps the Colonies had already taken to try to resolve these issues. In this section from the Declaration, the authors reiterate with repetition the attempts the Colonies have made: “we have” warned, reminded, appealed, and conjured our “British brethren.” The point of this repetition is to show not only that well-meaning steps have already been tried, but that they have failed, leaving the Colonies with no other choice than to declare their independence from an oppressive government, even if it means starting a war.
The Gettysburg Address by Abraham Lincoln
“But in a larger sense, we can not dedicate– we can not consecrate– we can not hallow– this ground.”
Abraham Lincoln’s speech at the dedication of the Soldier’s National Cemetery in Gettysburg is his most memorable speech, and for good reason. It was not very long, but it was powerful, honoring the men and their sacrifice on the battlefield during the Civil War. When Lincoln repeats the phrase “we can not” and then follows it with powerful words of honor like dedicate, consecrate and hallow, he is drawing attention to the fact that nothing the crowd or this national cemetery could do could make the ground more holy than the blood that was already spilled by the soldiers who gave their lives for a righteous cause.
Independence Day speech by Bill Pullman
“And should we win the day, the 4th of July will no longer be known as an American holiday, but as the day when the world declared in one voice: ‘We will not go quietly into the night! We will not vanish without a fight! We’re going to live on! We’re going to survive!’ Today, we celebrate our Independence Day!”
Often touted as one of the most famous speeches in a movie, Bill Pullman’s character, the President of the United States Thomas J. Whitmore, gives this speech to boost the morale of the men about to undertake a dangerous mission to save Earth from the invading alien forces once and for all. After several failed attempts before, everyone is apprehensive that this plan will not work, but President Whitmore assures the world and the pilots with his repetition of the words “we will not” and “we’re going to” of the human race’s resolve to defeat these aliens and take back the planet. The repetition of action verbs such as “we will” and “we’re going to” gives hope to a future beyond the crisis.
The Third Philippic by Demosthenes
“It is folly, and it is cowardice, to cherish hopes like these, to give way to evil counsels, to refuse to do anything that you should do, to listen to the advocates of the enemy’s cause, and to fancy that you dwell in so great a city that, whatever happens, you will not suffer any harm.”
This speech by Demosthenes to the Athenians warned of an impending invasion by Philip II, the Macedonian king, after an Athenian general thwarted a key city in Philip’s campaign to establish an empire. Demosthenes uses repetition to warn the Athenians that sitting back and doing nothing would spare them from Philip’s wrath. He tells them that to “cherish, give way, refuse, fancy,” and “listen” to the falsehood that their city was too great to be spared “is folly” and “is cowardice.” Philip would need to be challenged, or the Macedonians would overrun Athens.
I Corinthians 13:11
“When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me.”
This verse from I Corinthians, written by the Apostle Paul, highlights the differences between childlike thinking and adult mindsets. In the larger sense of the chapter, Paul is discussing the nature of love, and his repetition of “like a child” shows that a child’s understanding of love is not equal to that of an adult’s. By contrasting the thoughts of a child with that of a grown man’s, Paul shows the maturity that comes with understanding the true nature of love, and how that understanding is something to aspire to reach.