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Similes and Metaphors

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Figures of Speech

In this lesson, we are going to learn about some different figures of speech and expressions in the English language.

A figure of speech is when we use words creatively-in a way that is a little different from what the words mean normally.

Expressions like metaphors and similes are used to add rhetorical force to the spoken or written language.

What Is a Metaphor?

A metaphor compares words in a sentence. It says that one thing is another different thing.

For example:

  • Love is a rose.
  • This sentence compares love to a rose.
  • Her messy room was a swamp where toys disappeared.
  • This sentence compares a messy room to a swamp.
  • The book was his time machine, carrying him to a land of pirates.
  • This sentence compares a book to a time machine.

What Is a Simile?

A simile also compares one thing to another, but it uses the words "like" or "as."

For example:

  • He eats like a horse.
  • This sentence compares the way the boy eats to the way a horse eats.
  • Her hair was like a bird's nest.
  • This sentence compares hair to a bird's nest.
  • Her smile was as bright as a summer day.
  • This sentence compares a smile to a summer day.

Difference between a Simile and a Metaphor

Remember that both metaphors and similes compare things. The difference between them is that a metaphor says that one thing is another, while a simile says that one thing is like another.

Also, a metaphor never uses words - like or as to compare things.

Not Always a Simile or Metaphor Is Used to Compare Things

We don't always use a metaphor or simile to compare things.

For example, these are not metaphors or similes:

  • Love is beautiful - here, love is not being compared to anything. It simply means that love is an aesthetic aspect of life.
  • Her hair was messy - here, the girl's hair is not being compared to anything. The sentence states that her hair was untidy in appearance.

Decoding Similes and Metaphors

When you see metaphors and similes, you should do two things:

  • Figure out what two things are being compared.
  • Then, think about why they are being compared-what does the comparison tell you?

For example:

  • If someone says, "My brother is a rock." What does that mean? It means that the person is very strong or reliable by nature.
  • If someone says, "Sam is a real pig when he eats." It means that the person (being spoken of) is of a greedy nature.

Similes and Metaphors

  • Metaphor

    Comparison of two unlike things; says that one thing is the other.

    Some Metaphors
    • Life is a song.
    • The race was a breeze.
    • You are a candle in the dark.
    • The moon is a diamond in the sky.

    Simile (must use "like" or "as")

    Comparison of two unlike things; says that one is like the other.

    Some Similes
    • A dream is like a river.
    • His voice was like thunder.
    • She is as pretty as a picture.
    • The moon is as green as a piece of cheese.
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