Simile and Metaphor
are the two most common types of figurative
in the English language.
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both compare two different things that do not usually go
together. The difference between them is that a
simile uses the words "like" or "as" and a metaphor does not.
with like/as => simile
without like/as => metaphor
Similes and metaphors are very common in speaking, singing, and
writing. Similes and metaphors are often used in stories, music, and
poetry to create good descriptions.
Reasons to use similes
- for comparison
- for emphasis or stress
- for humor
- to make something clear or easy to understand
- to say something in a new way
- to help the reader/listener form a picture in their mind
- to make something interesting and descriptive
A simile is a word or phrase that compares something to something else.
It uses the words like
Examples of similes:
- eat like a pig
- sleep like a baby
- as cute as a kitten
- as white as snow
The word "simile
comes from the Latin root similes
The word "similar" also uses the same root word.
Similes are the most common
type of figurative
in the English language.
two different things that do not usually go together.
using the words "like" or "as."
How to form a simile
There are two ways to form a simile.
This is a list of some common similes. Add a subject to the beginning of each simile
to make the sentence complete.
There are some examples
1: as +
+ as + noun
+ like + noun
- as cold as ice.
- as white as snow
- as gentle as a lamb
- as funny as a clown
- as light as a feather
- as colorful as a rainbow
The crayons are as colorful as a rainbow.
- as slow as a turtle
- as pretty as a flower
- as tall as a giant
- as quiet as a mouse
- as fluffy as cotton candy
The sheep was as fluffy as cotton candy.
- as wise as an owl
- as hungry as a bear
- as tough as nails
- smells like a rose
- eats like a pig
- sings like an angel
- runs like a cheetah
- slept like a baby
like a baby
- crying like a baby
- jumps like a frog
- howls like a dog
- sparkles like a diamond
- roared like a lion
A metaphor is a comparison of two different things, without "like" or
"as." It makes a description more interesting or powerful.
The word "metaphor
comes from the Latin word metaphoria
Greek word metapherin
Both of these words mean "to
metaphor gives (transfers) qualities from one noun
to another noun.
Examples of metaphors:
are like similes, but they do not use the words "like" or
metaphor compares things by stating something IS something
- wooden face (= a face as stiff as wood)
- army of letters (= letters as great in amount and as
powerful as an army)
- sea of sadness (= sadness as huge and endless as the sea)
- My plan was a house of cards (= as fragile and
unstable as a house of cards)
How to form a metaphor
There are a few ways to make a metaphor.
The simplest way to make a metaphor is to use this pattern:
- She is an angel.
(She is a nice.)
- My hands are ice.
(My hands feel very cold.)
- He is a pig.
(He is messy.)
- Her eyes were diamonds.
(Her eyes were beautiful.)
- The shark's
teeth are daggers.
(The shark's teeth are sharp.)
- The stars were a blanket over the earth.
(The stars filled the night
sky above the earth.)
- The wind was a piercing arrow.
(It was windy and very cold.)
- The jet was a bolt of lightning shooting across the sky.
(The jet flew fast across the sky.)
- The classroom
was a zoo.
(The classroom was noisy and the kids are not in their seats.)
Not all metaphors are written in the simple pattern like
Here are a few more examples of metaphors. Even though they
written in the same pattern, they do compare two different nouns.
In addition, you can form
a metaphor with verbs
- My boss fired the snake.
(The employee is being compared to a snake. The boss fired an employee
who was sneaky and not trustworthy.)
- He has a heart
(His heart is being compared to a stone. He is angry and mean.)
- The bride wore a dress of snow.
(The dress is being compared to snow.
The dress is soft and white.)
- A flock
of children went to the circus.
(A flock is a group of birds. Children are being compared to
- The investigator digs up
evidence about the crime.
(The investigator is
looking for evidence. He is being compared to a dog who digs up bones.)
People often confuse similes and metaphors. They are very similar
because they both compare two different things.
With similes, the comparison is easy to understand.
eats like a pig.
This simile compares the way Sam eats to the way
a pig eats. Sam is very messy when he eats. He does not have good
house is as dirty as a pigsty.
This simile compares Sam's
home to a pigsty (where pigs live). It means that Sam's home is very
messy. He probably does not clean often and leaves dirty clothes on the
A metaphor is not always as easy to understand and can sometimes be
in different ways by different people or in different situations.
is a pig.
This metaphor does not mean Sam is actually a pig.
This sentence can have
different meanings depending on the context. We can usually figure out
the meaning based on a
picture or context of the paragraph or story.
In our example, "Sam is a pig" it could mean different things, since
pigs can have different qualities. For example, they can be dirty or
greedy (eating everything).
"Sam is a pig" could mean
- Sam is a messy
eater. He does not have good manners.
- Sam is a sloppy
dresser. His clothes are dirty.
- Sam has a messy
house. He does not clean his house.
- Sam acts
very rude. He is not polite.
- Sam is greedy.
He takes everything.
Similes and metaphors in poetry
Here is a great example of
similes and metaphors being used in classic poetry. Read this short
poem to see if you can spot the similes or metaphors. Then scroll past
the picture for the answers.
very hard gray stone used to make fire
emerald = a
beautiful green stone
ruby = a beautiful dark red stone
sapphire = a beautiful blue stone
heaven = sky
beautiful stone that shows changing colors
hold = have or
fiery = of
emerald is as green as grass,
ruby red as blood;
sapphire shines as blue as heaven;
flint lies in the mud.
diamond is a brilliant stone,
catch the world's desire;
opal holds a fiery spark;
a flint holds a fire.
is as green as grass,
(an emerald is green and grass is
A ruby red as blood;
(a ruby is red
and blood is red)
sapphire shines as
blue as heaven;
(a sapphire is
blue and the sky, or heaven, is blue)
lies in the mud.
A diamond is a brilliant stone,
To catch the world's desire;
(the diamond is
being compared to something that can catch something, such as
An opal holds a fiery spark;
(the opal looks
like a spark of fire)
a flint holds a fire.
(the flint is
compared to an object that can contain something else)
This was an overview of similes and metaphors. Now that you understand,
time to practice! Get
our ESL Books.