Examples of Ethos, Pathos, and Logos in Persuasive Speeches
Ever fumbled for words while convincing someone to sign up for your club or buy something you're promoting on stage?
It happens. For this reason, Aristotle came up with three essential tools you can use in your everyday speech to persuade people for almost anything: ethos, pathos, and logos.
Here are some vivid examples of ethos, pathos, and logos to help you understand what they are and how to use them in your arguments.
The Three Tools That Guide Your Speech
Ethos, pathos, and logos are Greek words that make up the rhetorical triangle. Aristotle was the first to come up with them and wrote these concepts in his book, Rhetoric.
You can use them in any argument if you want to drive your point across or sell something: an idea, a product, or a brand.
Whether it is a sales pitch, a compelling argument, or a speech, these three modes of persuasion can sway your audience's perspective. Their presence since ancient times depicts their strength and significance.
Ethos is Greek for “character,” "credibility," or "authority." It refers to a person's character when they are presenting an argument.
The stronger the character or, the more influential the speaker is, the more they can change someone’s point of view regarding a particular subject.
You wouldn’t be enraptured, hanging on to her every word when J.K Rowling was giving a TED talk if she wasn’t a famous author, right?
Therefore, many brands and companies try to get celebrities to advertise for them. When people become fans, they religiously love what the celebrity loves and hates what the celebrity doesn't like.
This is the power of ethos. Here is how to establish ethos in a speech.
There are tons of examples of ethos in advertisements, movies, speeches, and daily life. Highlighted below are some of them.
Albus Dumbledor used ethos in the movie The Goblet of Fire when he went against the Ministry of Magic to tell his students how Cedric Diggory died. He knew they would believe him because he was Headmaster. He said:
"I think, therefore, you have the right to know exactly how he died. You see, Cedric Diggory was murdered by Lord Voldemort. The Ministry of Magic does not wish me to tell you this. But I think to do so would be an insult to his memory."
In a commercial, you’d see 4 out of 5 dentists recommending a particular toothpaste. That's how brands convince viewers to buy their products by backing them up with credible people.
As a physics student, you tune in to a TED talk by Brian Greene and believe everything he says because he’s a theoretical physicist and a string theorist.
Pathos is Greek for “emotion,” “suffering,” or “experience.” This rhetorical strategy appeals to people's feelings when used in an argument.
It invokes people’s senses, nostalgia, memory, and experiences. It is used in ads and videos to persuade people to follow a call to action.
When pathos is embedded in a message, it moves people, driving them to take action. Pathos can trigger any intended emotion in people, such as sympathy, pity, and empathy.
Why do you think romance sells so much, be it novels, movies, or stories? It pulls at the reader’s heartstrings, connects them to the characters, and makes them want something similar.
Below are some examples of pathos in everyday life, movies, and ads.
An excellent way to convince people to donate to a puppy shelter is to show them how brutally they'll die if they don't donate.
The Evian commercial in which adults look like toddlers when they look at their reflections depicts the "bandwagon effect." Light-heartedly, it uses feel-good emotion to convince people to buy their water.
In their ad, IKEA convinces people to opt for home delivery for £3.95 by showing a person stuck in traffic after buying from the brand. This appeals to people because we like comfort, right?
Unlike ethos and pathos, logos rely on logic. It is a Greek word that means “logic” or “reason.” It uses logical reasons to convince people about something.
When you use logos in your everyday speech or arguments, you try to mention facts or data to support your idea.
While ethos uses the speaker's credibility to persuade people about something, pathos uses emotion to trigger people. Logos simply relies on logic and cuts to the chase.
You can easily persuade an audience using reason and logic in your argument; however, emotions do get the best of us as humans. For this reason, there are three modes of persuasion.
The following are a few examples of Logos.
Al Gore, a renowned environmentalist, used logos in his speech “The Climate Crisis Is the Battle of Our Time, and We Can Win,” in 2019. He tells people what exactly is happening that is causing climate change and cites scientific research and experts in his speech as well:
"I often echo the point made by the climate scientist James Hansen: The accumulation of carbon dioxide, methane, and other greenhouse gases—some of which will envelop the planet for hundreds and possibly thousands of years—is now trapping as much extra energy daily as 500,000 Hiroshima-class atomic bombs would release every 24 hours. This is the crisis we face."
In the Versatile Stain Remover ad by OxiClean, you see Billy Mays use the stain remover to clean different products to showcase the product's ability as a stain remover.
An iPhone commercial shows the smartphone's different features that make it stand out from the rest.
Some More Examples of Ethos, Pathos, and Logos
Almost everyone uses these three modes of persuasion in one form or the other in their arguments. Let’s see how famous people have used them through time.
"During the next five years, I started a company named NeXT, another company named Pixar, and fell in love with an amazing woman who would become my wife.
Pixar went on to create the world's first computer-animated feature film, Toy Story and is now the most successful animation studio in the world.
In a remarkable turn of events, Apple bought NeXT, I returned to Apple, and the technology we developed at NeXT is at the heart of Apple's current renaissance."
—Steve Jobs, 2005
Steve Jobs, the co-founder of Apple, relies heavily on ethos here. He uses his authority as a founder of successful tech companies to show people why they should listen to him.
"I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulations.
Some of you have come fresh from narrow jail cells. Some of you have come from areas where your quest for freedom left you battered by the storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality."
—Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., 1963
Martin Luther King Jr. was famous for fighting for civil rights. In the above excerpt from his speech “I Have a Dream,” he uses pathos to empathize with his audience.
He informs them that he understands they have suffered a lot and have come out of a painful time. This evokes emotion in the audience, and they can connect with King easily.
"Let it be remembered how powerful the influence of a single introduced tree or mammal has been shown to be.
But in the case of an island, or of a country partly surrounded by barriers, into which new and better-adapted forms could not freely enter, we should then have places in the economy of nature that would assuredly be better filled up if some of the original inhabitants were in some manner modified; for, had the area been open to immigration, these same places would have been seized on by intruders.
In such a case, every slight modification, which in the course of ages chanced to arise, and which in any way favored the individuals of any of the species by better adapting them to their altered conditions, would tend to be preserved; and natural selection would have free scope for the work of improvement."
—Charles Darwin, On the Origin of the Species, 1859
Charles Darwin appeals to logic or logos in his book Origin of the Species by talking about the rationale of natural selection.
He talks about how species have evolved with time to better adapt to their environment, a.k.a survival of the fittest. You can see how he uses a logical argument to talk about natural selection.
Conclusion: Ethos, Pathos, Logos
Ethos, pathos, and logos have survived the test of time and are used almost everywhere today. You can find them embedded in commercials, movies, speeches, TED talks, and day-to-day arguments.
These three tools of persuasion appeal to different aspects of humanity: authority, emotion, and logic. When used together, they form a solid argument that can convince anyone of its gist.
Ethos uses the speaker’s authority or credibility to persuade the audience. Pathos uses emotion to trigger people to take action. On the other hand, logos rely on facts and logic to drive a point across.
All three are very important to use in any argument.