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How to Paraphrase a Sentence Effectively, With Examples

Updated on March 28, 2024StudentsWriting Tips

When you paraphrase a sentence, you rewrite another person’s idea to restate the meaning in your own words. Otherwise, you could be copying someone else’s work or using too many quotes. Keep in mind that even when you paraphrase, you still need to cite the original source.

Below, we explain all about how to paraphrase a sentence. We discuss paraphrasing techniques, citations, syntax, and what constitutes plagiarism, and we even share some examples of paraphrasing a sentence.

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What is paraphrasing a sentence?

Paraphrasing is a technique of saying someone else’s ideas in your own words so that you restate the meaning without copying. It’s a way to build on other people’s data or concepts, but it’s important to cite the original source, particularly in academic writing; otherwise, it’s considered plagiarizing.

Paraphrasing a sentence is applying this writing technique to a single sentence. While you can paraphrase an entire paragraph, research paper, or even book, paraphrasing a standalone sentence is quite useful for relaying an individual detail or piece of information from another source (that you must cite).

Examples of paraphrasing a sentence

Original Quote Paraphrased Sentence

The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.

—Franklin D. Roosevelt

The state of being afraid is all we have to be afraid of.

Our anxiety does not come from thinking about the future, but from wanting to control it.

—Khalil Gibran

People don’t get anxious because they wonder about the future; it’s the desire to control the future that causes anxiety.

Everything has beauty, but not everyone sees it.


Everything is beautiful in its own way, even if some people miss it.

How to paraphrase a sentence in 4 steps

1 Understand the meaning of the sentence you want to paraphrase

To restate a sentence’s meaning, you first need to understand that meaning. Take a close look at the sentence you want to rewrite and make sure you know what the original source is trying to say. If there are any unfamiliar words, phrases, or colloquialisms, look them up in a dictionary.

Also, consider how important the original wording is. If the word choice or phrasing of the source adds to its meaning, as in poetry or eloquent writing, you can opt to use a quote instead of a paraphrase. Quotations let you copy the original wording exactly by placing the text inside quotation marks, which lets the reader know you didn’t write it.

Quotations work better than paraphrasing if the wording of the original source is already perfect. However, if you fill a paper with too many quotes, it becomes difficult to read, so it’s best to alternate between paraphrasing and quoting for the sake of the reader.

2 Use paraphrasing techniques to rewrite the original sentence

Paraphrasing can be difficult—sometimes it’s easier to say something original than reword what someone else already said. If you’re having trouble, there are some tried-and-true techniques for paraphrasing that usually help.

You can read more details about these techniques in our main guide to paraphrasing. For a quick glance, we summarize those techniques here:

  • Use synonyms—One of the easiest paraphrasing techniques is to simply replace some of the original words with different words that mean the same thing.
  • Change the word class or part of speech—Changing nouns to verbs, adjectives to adverbs, and so on, is a smart way to rewrite a sentence without losing its meaning (although some words cannot be changed this way).
  • Rearrange the sentence structure—If changing the words is too difficult, you can also change the order of the sentence, such as by using a different subject or switching the clauses.
  • Adding or removing parts—One of the best ways to make a sentence original is to add some new original parts or take away some parts that aren’t relevant to what you’re writing.
  • Use a paraphrasing tool—AI rewrites can help if you’re struggling. Our free paraphrasing tool allows you to paste in any text up to 500 characters, and it will suggest a few different paraphrases for you to choose from.

Often it’s good to use more than one of these strategies simultaneously to further differentiate your paraphrased sentence from the original.

3 Double-check the syntax to make sure you restate the meaning

Syntax refers to the order that the words are arranged in, and it makes an enormous impact on meaning. Paraphrasing tends to mix words around, so it risks jumbling the meaning. After paraphrasing a sentence, read it again carefully to check that the original meaning is still intact.

For starters, make sure the paraphrased sentence is grammatically correct, following the standard rules. Additionally, confirm that all the components are in the right place, such as the subject, verb, objects, and any other phrases. (Running your paraphrased sentence through Grammarly is a quick way to validate it has no mistakes!)

Pay particular attention to the placement of adjectives, adverbs, and other modifiers—these should go next to the words they modify to avoid the common mistake of misplaced modifiers.

4 Add a citation

Even when paraphrasing a sentence, you still need citations for the original sources. These not only tell the reader that you’re using someone else’s ideas, but also give them the information they need to find that source if they want to check it out on their own.

Most citations for paraphrased text involve a parenthetical citation, which contains the author’s last name in parentheses, along with either the publication year or page number, depending on which formatting style you’re using. The citation is placed after the paraphrased passage but before the ending punctuation (such as a period or semicolon). You can learn more about citations in our guide on how to cite a paraphrase.

Common paraphrasing mistakes

Not changing enough to avoid plagiarism

One of the hardest parts about paraphrasing a sentence is changing enough to both avoid copying and not lose the original meaning. This can be a tricky balancing act, especially if you have to keep some of the wording.

To double-check whether you’ve changed enough, you can use our free plagiarism checker. Just paste your paraphrase, and our checker will tell you if it passes or if there’s still too much of the original.

Regardless, always include a citation of your original source.

Distorting the meaning

Likewise, changing up the words and sentence structure can accidentally change the meaning. That’s fine if you want to write an original sentence, but if you’re trying to convey someone else’s idea, you need to make sure your rewrite adequately describes it.

Review your paraphrase to confirm that all the words are used correctly and are placed in the right order for your intended meaning. If you’re unsure, you can ask someone to read it for you to see how they interpret the passage.

Forgetting the citation

Some people think that if you put an idea into your own words, you don’t need to cite where it came from—but that’s not true. Even if the wording is your own, the ideas are not. That means you need a citation.

If you have a bunch of paraphrased sentences together from the same location in a source, you need only one citation at the end of the passage. Otherwise, you need a citation for each paraphrased sentence from another source in your writing, without exception. Use our free citation generator to help you quickly create full or in-text citations.

Paraphrasing a sentence FAQs

How much should I change when paraphrasing a sentence?

Generally speaking, you want to change as much as possible without losing the original meaning. This can be difficult though, as some words are necessary and must be reused. In this case, you can rearrange the sentence structure or add something new to differentiate your paraphrase from the original.

What are some techniques I can use to help rewrite sentences?

Some of the most common paraphrasing techniques include using synonyms, changing the part of speech, rearranging the sentence structure, and adding or removing content. These techniques can also be used together to help set apart your paraphrase.

When do I add citations for paraphrasing sentences?

You need a citation after every sentence that uses someone else’s ideas. If you have a bunch of paraphrased sentences together from the same location in a source, you need only one citation at the end of the passage.

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