Studying what is tautology in sentences makes it easier to understand this technique. Once you can identify it, you avoid making this mistake in your writing.
It is tautology when a sentence says the same thing in two ways using different words and structures. This technique is usually one you want to avoid because it creates wordiness and redundancy in your writing. The best way to understand it is not to study the definition of tautology but rather to look at examples.
The word tautology comes from the late Latin tautologia, meaning “needless repetition of an idea, statement or word.” Its first known use was in 1566. As you look at the below examples of tautology in a sentence, you will see that you can easily say the same thing with fewer words. Since conciseness is always best in English language writing, when it is possible, learn to spot tautology in your writing so you can avoid each instance of such repetition.
To help you understand this distinction, look at these example sentences.
6 Types of Tautology
Here are six types of tautology and examples of them used in sentences. By studying these examples, you may be able to reduce the repetition in your writing by avoiding this standard syntax error.
1. Verbal Tautology
Verbal tautology has a few words that have duplicate meanings. Here is an example:
- I attended the meeting personally.
If you attended the meeting, then it is personal attendance. You do not need to say ”personally” to make the meeting clear. Here are some more examples:
- They introduced a new innovation at the science summit.
Innovation, by its very nature, is new. You don’t need this information in the sentence.
Here are some additional examples:
- He tends to over-exaggerate his symptoms. (Exaggeration tends to be over-the-top, so you don’t need to add the word “over” to this phrase.)
- The scorching hot summer weather made us stay inside. (This example tries to emphasize how hot the summer is, but it is redundant. So instead, say “scorching” or “hot,” but not both.)
- In my opinion, I think we should go home. (My opinion and I think mean the same thing.)
2. Logical Tautology
Logical tautology occurs when you state something true in all circumstances. This logical form often includes an either/or statement, but it is phrased so that it can’t be false. Here is an example:
- Either it will rain tomorrow, or it will not.
This summary of the weather is an example of tautology because it is unnecessary. You could say “It may rain tomorrow” and mean the same thing with fewer words. Here are more examples:
- Either the baby will be born today, or it will not.
- I will get hired, or I will not get hired.
- Samantha will be voted homecoming queen, or she will not.
3. Everyday Language Tautology
Sometimes phrases we use in everyday language end up being examples of tautology. These often use synonyms or adverbs that are necessarily repetitive. Here are some of these used in sentences;
- It was a necessary requirement to take the drug test before starting the job. (If something is a requirement, it is then necessary.)
- The evening sunset was beautiful. (Sunset always happens in the evening.)
- We saw the dilapidated ruins on our trip. (Ruins are, by their very nature, dilapidated.)
- She sat in close proximity to her crush. (Proximity means something close.)
- He heard it with his own ears. (If he heard it, he used his ears.)
- Please RSVP to this invitation. (RSVP means “Répondez s’il vous plait, which means in English, “please respond.” The addition of “please” is redundant.)
- First and foremost, we are going to need to budget carefully. (First and foremost, they mean the same thing, so they do not need to be repeated here.)
4. Tautology from Literature
Some famous works of literature have examples of intentional tautology in them. Here are some quotes that have become well-known that use this verbiage.
- “To be or not to be.” Hamlet, William Shakespeare.
- “I’m willing to tell you. I’m wanting to tell you. I’m waiting to tell you.” Pygmalion, George Bernard Shaw.
- “But the fact is I was napping, and so gently you came rapping, and so faintly you came tapping, tapping at my chamber door.” The Raven, Edgar Allan Poe.
5. Tautology in Abbreviations
Abbreviations often end up being tautology examples. This occurs when the last letter in the abbreviation gets repeated. Here is an example:
- Please input your PIN number. (PIN stands for a personal identification number; thus, adding “number” after this sentence is an example of tautology.)
- The GPS system got them on the right road. (The S in GPS stands for system.)
- She has RAS syndrome. (The S in RAS stands for syndrome, so it doesn’t need to be repeated.)
- Scan the UPC code to find the price. (C stands for code.)
6. Tautology in Music
Songs often have tautology in them, and this is one place where the repetition is not unnecessary. Still, it can allow you to identify tautology by looking at more famous examples. For example, here are some of the lyrics that contain tautology.
- Only the lucky ones get lucky. – Loverboy
- There’s nothing you can do that can’t be done. – The Beatles
- Que Sera, Sera, Whatever will be, will be. – Doris Day
- When old Santa gets into town, He’ll be coming down the chimney, down. – Andy Williams
- I am invincible as long as I’m alive. – John Mayer
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