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Presuppositions language pattern: meaning & examples [NLP]

Presuppositions language pattern: meaning & examples [NLP]

What are ‘presuppositions‘ in our language? What is the meaning of presuppositions, how do they work and how can they be used as a weapon of influence? Read further and find out everything about this NLP technique…

The meaning of presuppositions

What are presuppositions? It boils down to something already pre-supposes through certain words in your message, while the focus on a different part of the message is located. As a result, the presupposition slips past the critical resistance.

This way you can bring things the way you want them to, while it seems as if it was established a long time ago or as if it is just a truth.

“That is of course the journalistic question: Mr. Rutte, when did you stop hitting your wife? And then the answer must be: never.”

– Mark Rutte who shows that he is aware of ambiguous presuppositions in language

What is the difference between a presupposition and an assumption?

These terms largely mean the same. Both mean: assume or accept something . You can also say: an assumption or a presupposition is a standard starting point that is being accepted.

There is, however, a small difference: for assumptions are also a way of implying things. It is therefore an active influencing technique.

With presuppositions, you influence someone’s internal representations in an indirect way.

Presuppositions are assumptions and implications in our language

presuppositions in our language

Making an assumption is very powerful as an influencing tool. So presuppositions are very powerful for your communication. Presuppositions are the linguistic versions of classical implications and assumptions .

You basically set a trap for your thoughts with presuppositions, for example towards a positive message. In this way, everything about the milton model is a presupposition.

The beauty of presuppositions? You get past a lot of bickering by presupposing things.

If you recognize presuppositions in the language, you listen very carefully to the assumptions in the language of the other: the assumptions in the sentences reveal a lot of information about the way in which the person structures his internal world of experience.

You can also use presuppositions to suggest change. The hearer accepts the assumptions through the power of presuppositions.

An example of presuppositions

In fact, presuppositions are in every sentence you say. Let’s take the following sentence:

If the cat meows again, I’ll have to put it outside.

From the above sentence you can derive the following implications:

  • There is a cat: ‘the cat’
  • The cat is inside: ‘have to put outside’
  • The cat has meowed before: ‘again’
  • It is a male: ‘he’
  • The cat can meow: ‘meow’

Dale Carnegie taught us the power of implication by asking questions


With questions you prevent an authoritarian attitude. You can easily use this effective coaching and leadership technique. “Do you feel this as something you understand?” “Would you like to tell me what’s going on?” “How do you like the cleanliness of your desk?” The implication is clear that someone has to tidy up his desk, while he himself comes up with the idea / conclusion See also the anecdote below by Dale Carnegie:

Instead of pushing his people to accelerate their work and rush the

order through, he called everybody together, explained the situation

to them, and told them how much it would mean to the company

and to them if they could make it possible to produce the order on

time. Then he started asking questions:

“Is there anything we can do to handle this order?”

“Can anyone think of different ways to process it through the shop

that will make it possible to take the order?”

“Is there any way to adjust our hours or personnel assignments that

would help?”

The employees came up with many ideas and insisted that he take

the order. They approached it with a “We can do it” attitude, and the

order was accepted, produced and delivered on time.

An effective leader will use …

Principle 4 – Ask questions instead of giving direct orders.[1]

Carnegie also taught us to subtly lead by example

For the first few days of the work, when Mrs. Jacob returned from

her job, she noticed that the yard was strewn with the cut ends of

lumber. She didn’t want to antagonize the builders, because they did

excellent work. So after the workers had gone home, she and her

children picked up and neatly piled all the lumber debris in a corner.

The following morning she called the foreman to one side and said,

“I’m really pleased with the way the front lawn was left last night; it

is nice and clean and does not offend the neighbors.” From that day

forward the workers picked up and piled the debris to one side, and

the foreman came in each day seeking approval of the condition the

lawn was left in after a day’s work.[2]

Other Classic Implications

  • “Is that door still open?” The implication is that you want someone to close the door.
  • Dressing implies that you are a good coach who has important business people as a client.
  • If you’ve just met someone, you can say “Hey, I can finally get out of the phone” to imply that you’re an important person whose time is precious.

Instead of asking for a signature, put a book and pen on the table. “Is the implication clear?”
– Milton Erickson

The power of presuppositions: you draw attention to an irrelevant part or detail

The point to argue or resist is diverted to something unimportant thanks to these presuppositions. Let’s look at some examples:

  • “The man is running fast”. The bit to resist is now about running fast instead of running or not, because that is presented as a given.
  • “How many pieces of each kind did Moses take in the ark?” In this sense, attention is drawn to the question of how many animals were taken on the ark. Thus, it is no longer noticed that it was actually Noah’s ark, and not Moses.
  • When you order something from a restaurant they ask, “What would you like to drink?” Most people’s eyes then immediately go to the menu to order something. Compare that with “Would you like something to drink?” Or even worse: “No drink?”
  • “Do you want me to read you a story after you put on your pajamas?” The only choice for the child is whether or not he wants a story. Putting on the pajamas is certain.
  • In therapy with a child who is afraid of monsters under his bed, “What color are the monsters?”
    Instead of, “Are there any monsters? Can you see them? Are you sad? What’s the problem? Etc.”
  • Are you curious about your now developing trance state?
  • Are you DEEP in a trance?
  • Shall I tell you something cool about your dreaming arm?
  • I don’t need to know the details of how to get {desired outcome}.
  • “Before we embark on this new and exciting journey, we should pay attention …”
    Implies that the (new and exciting) journey is taking place at all and that it is new and exciting.
  • A mother who is bragging in the kitchen and wants her child to eat: “Grab the plate with 2 hands.” In this sentence, you put a lot of detail and emphasis on the last part of the sentence. As a result, the other person is very consciously processing the command to take the plate with two hands. Additionally, if this person declines the command to use two hands, he must make another effort to also decline accepting the board at all. If the sentence consisted only of “Grab the plate” all conscious attention was focused on that and could be rejected. Precise instructions also have the effect of turning off the other person’s mind. You no longer have to think about it yourself thanks to the extensive guidance.

Ask yourself: What is the question I can ask that, by the nature of the premise in the question, will cause the client to go through the greatest amount of change by having to accept the premise inherent in the question? For example: “What is the emotion you feel that makes you more yourself now?”

The flashlight effect: what do you emphasize so that other things are ignored?

If you shine light on a certain aspect with a flashlight, other aspects will no longer receive attention. So there will be no resistance to those other aspects that will no longer receive attention.

Take the sentence: ‘Pete drove home quickly’. By emphasizing different words in this sentence, you change the presuppositions you communicate. It just depends on what you shine your flashlight on:

  • “Piet drove home quickly.” Now it’s about who went home. All other information is taken as a given.
  • “Piet drove home quickly.” Now it is about how Piet went home. All other information is taken as a given.
  • “Piet drove home quickly .” Now it is about how Piet drove home. All other information is taken as a given.
  • Piet drove quickly home . ” Now it is about where Piet went. All other information is taken as a given.

Below you will find practical examples of this, applied to ‘I do my administration without pleasure and ease …’

  • Will it be at home where you will be enjoying your administration, or will it be in a different location where this will happen?
  • What do you think will be the first result of enjoying doing your administration simply?
  • I would be really surprised if there were someone in this room who has as many capabilities as you do to do administration with pleasure and simplicity.
  • Do you expect that you will experience just as much pleasure and ease with other tasks  as with doing your administration?
  • Will you recognize that you do your administration with pleasure and ease, or do you think it will happen unconsciously?
  • Do you think that you will only do your administration with more pleasure and ease? Do you think that alone will shift, or do you think it will also improve your efficiency?
  • Would you like to continue doing your administration simply?
  • I wonder … is that easy that you ‘ll be experiencing when doing your paperwork, something you already previously have experienced? “
  • After you have experienced ease and pleasure in doing your administration, will you feel surprised or proud?
  • If you were in someone change those records can not easily do, would not that be weird? (This implies that he / she currently does  someone already can do with ease and pleasure administration).
  • It is pretty good in that you are the capabilities have  to do your administration easy, is not it? (Whether or not he / she thinks it works out is not important … as long as it presupposes the outcome, which has now flown under the radar!)
  • If you didn’t have the capacity to do your administration easily, you wouldn’t have had the capacity to get out of bed in the morning. (If the other were to say that it has nothing to do with it, then the premise is successful: that the other already has the capabilities. There is a discussion about an ‘irrelevant’ part of that statement.)

Questions also help:

  • Do you think that you will be the first to notice that you are going to do your administration easily, or that you will be the first to notice that you are going to enjoy your administration? Or both at the same time?
  • Marie, were you not aware of the strategy you (currently) have for simple tasks such as administration?
  • Marie, I wonder if you don’t already feel a sense of ease and pleasure with your administration that you are not aware of yet?
  • I wonder if you are still not good at simple administration. (I wonder if he still is not a smart person ‘presupposes that I think he’s a smart person.)

How are the above examples structured? There are specific techniques for this. Let’s take a look at these techniques one by one below …

Presupposition by implying existence

  • “The chair is in the room.”
    The chair and the room exist.
  • “I have an appointment with my boyfriend at 19:00.”
    I have a friend. He exists. It is a boy.
  • “I don’t know if I can practice all this at home.”
    I have a house.
  • “You just have to write down your best examples.”
    You have a lot of examples!
  • “I know you want to tell so many but you only have to / are allowed to tell 1.”
    You have a lot to say.
  • “HSP doesn’t just have advantages.”
    There are advantages to HSP.

Also, the existence of something or someone can be implied through tonality:

  • The armed robber took the money (so there is also an unarmed robber somewhere …).

Presuppose by telling things as fact

  • “In a moment I’m going to touch your hand, and then your hand is slowly moving up towards your face.”

Presuppose by the word ‘more’: an already positive starting point ‘improve’

This implies that something is already there.

  • As you discover that you are becoming even more enthusiastic (suppose you are already learning) about what I am saying, there is no need to  discover / notice / find  that you are growing even more in your strong desire to learn more.
  • You can feel more and more peaceful.

In the example above, a loop has also been created: the more you discover the value of what I say, and the more you discover how enthusiastic it makes you, the more enthusiastic you can become that you know that, and it keeps going listen, or watch, or read.

  • “Burger King unique? You could even say it is delicious! ” The premise here is that Burger King is unique.
  • You can do this even better.
  • Tomorrow you will be able to learn even more.
  • How can I help you make your experience a little better today? (Instead of: problem solving).
  • Do you know someone who learns even faster than you?
  • Do you want to gain even more confidence?

Presuppose by taking action

  • Just do one part of an activity so that the other half remains for the other person. Instead of telling. For example, if you want the other person to close the left window, then you already close the right window.
  • I always apply this when I’ve met someone somewhere, an hour has passed and I actually want to go home. I know the other has come by train and I say, “Let’s walk to the station already.”  Either I already grab my coat or I already shake the hand of the other person. Because of this there is a kind of ‘knowing’ that the agreement is coming to an end, without me having made it explicit. I skipped that effort to communicate that!

Instead of asking for a signature, put a book and pen on the table. “Is the implication clear?”
– Milton Erickson

The ‘we’ premise

  • Let’s together …
    Here “we” is implying it’s not you against them.

Leadership premise

This implies that you are the leader / the one in power, between the two of you.

  • Follow me.
  • Join the group.
  • Join me.

Implicit privilege (presuppose privilege) instead of ‘selling’ something


Do you hope someone will do something for you or buy something from you? Then change the frame so that it has nothing to do with ‘selling’ anymore, but that it is a privilege to be allowed to do it.

So use the words below instead of: Sell, buy …

  • You may.
  • Perhaps.
  • If you are lucky.
  • If you are lucky you may be allowed to volunteer.
  • You may have the pleasure / pleasure of helping me.
  • Perhaps you will get the honor of being interviewed briefly.
  • Carlo, I would like to offer you a question.
  • Don’t be mad at me if you don’t get elected …
  • Happy.
  • You may even
  • To discover.
  • To learn.
  • Share.
  • Secret.
  • Tell a story.
  • Opportunity. “Now you all get the chance to make such beautiful sentences with presuppositions.”
  • Trip.
  • Breakthrough.
  • Discovery.
  • I’m going to share something with you.
  • I share a discovery.
  • Trip.
  • Breakthrough.

I thank you

  • I thank you (good reputation they are going to live up to) for allowing me to discover this for you.
  • Thank you for giving me the bottle, how sweet!
  • Thank you for wanting to stay another half hour!
  • Is your audience quiet and do you want to make them clap? Presume their enthusiasm with a ‘thank you’: ‘Thank you for being so enthusiastic!’ Then the audience starts to clap.


  • Why are you {positive outcome}?
  • Why are you so assertive?
  • Why are you so good at running your business?
  • What is your reason for participating?

I think it is… that you are going to do {desired result}

  • I like that you do another dance with me!
  • Nice that you announced that you are now going to recite a sonnet!
  • I think it is very noble of you that you are going to return that found wallet to its owner.
  • How nice that you are also coming out with us!
  • It’s great that you can change!

Do you like it … that {desired outcome}

  • Do you mind that you have learned so much in your life?
  • Do you think it’s cool that you are so good at being on time?
  •  “Are you enjoying it?” In response to, “Are you flirting with me?”

Ordinal Presuppositions (Time)

Several things are going to happen and it mainly implies the order of what is going to happen:
Before, after, while, before, when, first, before, as soon as, start, end, yet, no more, round, stop, start, all , next one…

  • After we…
  • Before we…
  • Before sharing that bottle with me, it’s very important that you shake it a bit. That tastes better.
  • Would you like a drink before we start?
  • “Call us tomorrow to tell us what the next step is / how you want to proceed.” Instead of: “Call us tomorrow to tell us if you agree with the offer.”
  • “The fifth result you got is …”
  • “What’s the next thing you are going to learn?” Presupposed: You have already learned at least something.
  • “What do you want to do after you are motivated?”
  • “After you have experienced ease and pleasure doing your administration, will you feel surprised or proud?
  • Swapping ‘is’ and ‘was’: what was your problem (instead of what is your problem) presupposes that the problem is gone.
  • A very powerful one is “already”: You are already doing it. Your confidence is already growing. It has already been set in motion. Note that things are already changing.
  • “The first thing we’re going to do is …”
  • “Get rid of all the last traces of that feeling.” This implies that it is almost gone.
  • “At the end of the performance, you can turn on your cell phones again.” This implies that the mobile phones must be turned off before the performance.
  • “I will never go to Burger King again!” The premise is that I’ve been to Burger King before.
  • “You are still listening to me.”
  • “The first thing I’ll tell you before we’re done  and you start using those learned things in your daily life is that…” (implies we’re going to finish it and she’s going to use her skills).
  • You are not a member yet.
  • Before you gently focus on …
  • Let’s discuss something before you finish your project.
  • Have you noticed that your subconscious has already begun to learn?
  • Have you noticed the wonderful effect this painting has on your living room?
  • A lawyer could say in court. “Have you already stopped beating your wife?”
  • Stop …
  • Not anymore…
  • You can continue to relax.
  • Are you still interested in NLP?
  • Before we go …
  • Before you realize how powerful that is …
  • Before you quickly discover how much you enjoy learning with me …
  • After we do / your xyz …
  • After you have signed the contract in the way that is best for you …
  • After you’ve decided to hire me, we can talk about the soccer game.
  • “Have you already started coaching?” “Do you want me to stop?”
  • You are already growing.
  • “Are you going to flirt with me?” “Have already started.”
  • They lived in a large house by the sea. How lucky they are now.
  • If the cat goes sleeves again, I have to take him outside.
  • Ever since you got so good at this sport, everyone looked up to you.

To mix up time

  • It was a terrible problem, wasn’t it?
  • You want to change and you already have, haven’t you?
  • What would it be like if you made these choices now?
  • Go in and try to have the same problem in vain.
  • You can change your mind … Haven’t you already?
  • So you had a hard time saying no, which exhausted yourself and in the long run you couldn’t take care of all the people and your family and have no impact on them. Is not that what you always have done?
  • Yes, really annoying problem you had .

Adjectives and adverbs

  • “Would you like a nice cup of coffee?” Herein ‘tasty’ is the premise.
  • Can I ask a business question?
  • May I give you a special compliment?
  • Can I have a sweet cup of tea?
  • Fortunately, quickly, soon, only. “Fortunately the chairs are in the back of the room today.” All words here are presuppositions. “Happy” also implies privilege.
  • Will you suddenly gain confidence tomorrow?
  • Fortunately you can learn well, aren’t you?
  • Don’t you think your confidence is exceptional?


‘How’ implies that something is going to happen. The only question is how that will happen, and no longer whether it will happen.

  • How / in what way is it different now?
  • How glad are you to see me?
  • And how will you learn all of these NLP skills?
  • How do you know that {the suggestion you want to sneak in}?
  • How will you use your new skills in the future?
  • How soon will success be visible?
  • How often do you go to the hairdresser?
  • How else would you go into a trance?
  • I wonder how easily you can do this …
  • How surprised will you be when you find yourself using these tips tomorrow?
  • How is it different now?
  • How do you like it? That it no longer works?
  • How high is your self-confidence?
  • What I was always curious about: how heavy is such a bottle that you are about to share with me?
  • Ask a question assuming that the goal has been achieved: how much better is {situation}? (You can find more such questions in the article on future pacing and coaching questions.

Suggestions with open ends

  • We all have potential that we are unaware of, and we don’t normally know how that will be expressed.
  • It’s not right for me to tell him what to learn. Let him learn what he wants, and the way he wants it.

It’s good that you …

  • It’s good that you’re so open and learning a lot of new skills, and that’s how you keep moving forward.
  • Isn’t it nice to know that your confidence will be available to you in the future?
  • Not happy that you can show self-confidence?


  • What will change? (This implies that something is going to change.)
  • What do you want to drink? (This is used in restaurants.)
  • What fun activity will we do today?

Which (and double binds)

  • What beautiful thoughts do you have? (Instead of, what are you thinking now?)
  • In therapy with a child who is afraid of monsters under his bed, “What color are the monsters?”
    Instead of, “Are there any monsters? Can you see them? Are you sad? What’s the problem? Etc.”
  • Which is the easiest to learn? Verbal or non-verbal skills?
  • What results have you gotten?
  • What wonderful thoughts do you all have?
  • Is it your skills that you feel most confident about, or is it something else?

Read more about double bonds here.

Draw attention to an explanation for what is presupposed

  • “It’s probably because of your intelligence that makes you so good at learning.” Presupposed: You can learn well. And something takes care of that.
  • “It’s probably the sophistication of NLP that gives it such good results.” Presupposed: Something about NLP produces results.

Implicating consciousness (through unspecified verbs)

‘Notice’ is one of the unspecified verbs that also presuppose something. It implies that the experience is going to happen in any case, and that it only needs to be noticed. You bring the focus to something.

  • Note that …
  • Notice what happens as that picture comes out more.
  • Notice how welcome that is.
  • Notice how the situation is already transforming. Notice how it is different now.
  • Notice the changes in your internal experience …
  • Notice the difference.
  • Notice how inclined you are to move to your seat … be it fast or at a more relaxed pace … now …
  • Did you notice the difference from yesterday?
  • If you want a group to stop just an exercise during a workout: “You notice that the exercise is being completed.”
  • Are you aware that you are already doing this? Naturally…
  • You can feel the love.
  • Can you see that I am thinking it all up spontaneously?
  • Realize how badly you want it.
  • Do you realize that too?
  • Have you realized that yet?
  • Chris, do you realize you’re working against me?
  • In a moment you’re going to realize / You realize you’ve always done this naturally, and now it’s just about figuring out how.
  • You don’t have to acknowledge it … It will just keep developing itself within you.
  • I wonder … is the ease you will experience doing your administration something you have experienced before?
  • I’m not sure you’re aware of the temperature in your feet right now …
  • Enjoy the fact that …
  • Do you enjoy the results you got?
  • Feel …
  • Hear…
  • See… Can you see that… See that?
  • Smell…
  • Taste …
  • Other unspecified verbs: I know that, I understand that, notice that.
  • You can be aware that you can relax … Now …
  • While you allow your ‘threshold of perception’ to lower ( sensory acumen ) (meanwhile lowering it with your hands too), and you can look above it … what does the world look like now?
  • “Since you’re seeing this as a limitation now, I wonder …” (He / she sees it as a limitation only).

You can also frame all sensory perceptible things as presupposition. It’s already there – just see, hear or feel it:

  • “Do you hear him?”
  • If you indirectly want to make it clear to a DJ that the music can be turned on: “I think I can already hear the music …”

Implicating repetition

This implies that it once happened.

  • Her-
  • We are going to rediscover how you develop focus.

Exclusive / inclusive

  • Of…
  • And…

Who / that / who

  • “The results which you get with NLP, are impressive.” Presupposed: NLP delivers results.
  • “If the confidence which you experience as a surprise to you?” Presupposed: You experience self-confidence.
  • “I can’t help it that the burnout will soon disappear.”

Presuppose gender

  • The new president will have to do her very best to …

Implicit premise

A sentence does not literally have to be a presupposition. In the example below, the focus is simply shifted to the second part of the sentence, causing the first part of the sentence to slip in between.

  • He can play football very well, but he can hide that very well.

Practicing with assumptions

  1. A presents a simple result that he / she wants to achieve, with few words. For example, “Be confident in giving presentations.” Or “Eat healthier.”
  2. B uses different assumption patterns to presuppose the result.
  3. B & C pay close attention to the following:
    – Did B use the intended pattern?
    – Did B presume the result with that pattern?
    – B & C calibrate non-verbally to note: Did the premise invite A to process or re-sort things from within? Did A step into the result or did A experience some other kind of shift? Did A accept or reject the premise?

These were the finest examples and techniques of presuppositions

These were all possible variations of presuppositions.

[1] (Carnegie, 1931)

Read this next:  Reverse Psychology: 32 Examples (Sneaky Techniques!)

[2] (Carnegie, 1931)

About The Author


Hello! Thanks for reading these articles. My intention is to make happiness as simple and clear as posssible. By the way, excuse my English. I am not a native English speaker since I live in Amsterdam. Much appreciated if you use the comments to make suggestions on my grammar. See ya in another blogpost!