Paradox: What is it?

First off, what is a paradox? The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines a paradox as one (such as a person, situation, or action) having seemingly contradictory qualities or phases, or a statement that is seemingly contradictory or opposed to common sense and yet is perhaps true

Paradoxes in the English language can be a bit difficult to understand for non-native speakers, and even fluent and native English speakers, due to their contradictory nature. The intent of paradoxes varies by situation and context, but most often times they are used to get the reader to provoke thought and think about the situation. Let’s jump into a couple of examples and provide a little context to help us understand the intent.

One example of a paradox is “if I know one thing, it’s that I know nothing.” This thought-provoking paradox is trying to get the point across that the writer knows nothing, but is also aware and knowing that he knows nothing. This back and forth statement logically seems to have no right answer as you cannot know something and also not know anything at the same time

Another example of a paradox is “this is the beginning of the end.” This paradox is a relatively common phrase that involves a great deal of contradiction and does not seem to logically make sense but for some reason, most English speakers can understand it. Beginning and end are two polar opposites, so how can you have a beginning to the end of something? With the correct context, it begins to make sense.

An example that helps to provide context is “the disagreement signified the beginning of the end of their business agreement.” With this context, it is more clear as to what the phrase means; the agreement is coming to an end in the future and this is the beginning stages of that termination. Without the context, the phrase seems to make no logical sense.

Paradoxes can be fun. We will leave you with this final one for you to think about and question. “The following sentence is true. The previous sentence is false.” Good luck!

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