What is a simile?
A simile is a figure of speech that expresses similarity. It uses the as-adjective-as comparative form, or with like.
What is a metaphor?
A metaphor says someone or something is something.
Similes and metaphors are as easy as pie
Most common metaphors combine or associate two unlike things and frequently use the verb to be.
It is often much more figurative language than a simile.
It describes someone or something by using an unrelated and often inanimate object to create a comparison.
Similes and metaphors help us to paint pictures with words.
They give more power and emphasis to a phrase or sentence in our speaking and writing.
Now let’s look in detail at the differences between these two literary terms and forms of figurative language.
Quick examples of a simile vs metaphor
Simile: Oh, he’s as solid as a rock. – He is very dependable.
Metaphor: Oh, he’s the rock of my life. – He is the steadying influence on my life.
Simile: He eats like a pig. He has terrible table manners.
Metaphor: He really is a pig. He is not polite.
Simile: She slept like an angel. – She slept soundly.
Metaphor: Oh, she’s such an angel. – She is wonderful.
A simile and metaphor can differ significantly in meaning. Even when they both use a similar object for an implied comparison.
There can also be differences in meaning when the same object is used with metaphors. The meaning is understood from the context of the phrase or sentence. Look at these two simple examples of everyday expressions.
The baby was as good as gold. – The baby didn’t cause any problem and probably slept the whole time.
All that glitters is not gold. (William Shakespeare) – Don’t be fooled by what you see.
He’s as cunning as a fox. He’s very sly and clever.
Oh, isn’t he a real fox! He’s very good looking.
When do we use similes and metaphors?
We use both forms in everyday language. But similes are more common in spoken English.
A metaphor is a figure of speech that is more likely to be used in literature, writing or poetry.
There are no hard and fast rules. There are many uses for a simile in literature. It depends on the word or phrase and the context.
But it is easy to get metaphors confused with similes.
In some ways, a simile is a type of metaphor.
But remember that similes use the words as or like to compare. Metaphors don’t compare. They state directly what something is, and often but not always use the verb to be.
Here are some examples to help you understand the difference between the various forms of a metaphor vs simile.
Common simile examples using as-adjective-as to describe similarity.
Without his glasses, Mark is as blind as a bat.
The governor always wins elections because he is as sly as a fox.
My puppy is as snug as a bug in a rug in my bed.
The guy next door is as nutty as a fruitcake.
She has been as busy as a bee preparing for the party on Saturday.
It rained all weekend, but our new tent kept us as dry as a bone.
I don’t like my new boss because he is as cold as ice. He never smiles.
After two hours of scrubbing, my kitchen is now as clean as a whistle.
My brother helped me move house. He lifted all the furniture into the van by himself. He’s as strong as an ox!
He went as white as a ghost when he heard the news.
My new phone is as light as a feather.
In a crisis, she’s always as cool as a cucumber.
The night was as black as the ace of spades.
Everyday simile examples with like for comparison.
I know he’ll get the promotion, He fights like a tiger when he wants something.
Sam never puts on any weight, but he eats a lot like a horse.
When anyone tells her a joke, she laughs like a hyena.
My two sisters always disagree. They fight like cats and dogs.
The movie was so boring. It was like watching grass grow.
It came like a bolt out of the blue.
He had no idea what he was doing. He was like a lamb to the slaughter.
I love it when things go like clockwork.
I slept like a log.
People rushed to the post-Christmas sales like crazy.
My new idea went down like a lead balloon with my boss.
List of metaphor examples with the verb to be.
Any politician who favours peace is a dove.
He is a sly fox. He tricked me and didn’t pay for the ticket.
Our teacher always shouts at us. She is an absolute dragon.
You are the apple of my eye.
She looks like a nice person, but it is not right. In fact, she is a snake in the grass.
He ignores all the problems with his kids. He’s such an ostrich.
He is only interested in money. He is a real pig.
My brother will never settle down. He is a butterfly.
My son’s room is a disaster area.
She is so successful because she is a cut above the rest.
There was a thick blanket of snow this morning.
My son is wonderful. He is the apple of my eye.
Time is money.
Well known examples of metaphors in literature.
All the world’s a stage, And all the men and women merely players. (William Shakespeare)
But, soft! What light through yonder window breaks? It is the East, and Juliet is the sun! (William Shakespeare)
I wandered lonely as a cloud, That floats on high o’er vales and hills. (William Wordsworth)
My love is like a red, red rose, That’s newly sprung in June. (Robert Burns)
The sun in the west was a drop of burning gold that slid near and nearer the sill of the world. (Lord of the Flies, William Golding)
If wits were pins, the man would be a veritable hedgehog. (Fly by Night, Frances Hardinge)
Delia was an overbearing cake with condescending frosting, and frankly, I was on a diet. (Lament: The Faerie Queen’s Deception, Maggie Stiefvater)
Her mouth was a fountain of delight. (The Storm, Kate Chopin)
My thoughts are stars I cannot fathom into constellations. (Fault In Our Stars, John Green)
My momma always said, “Life was like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.” (Forrest Gump)
What are mixed metaphors?
These can be silly attempts at an implied metaphor comparison, or just getting the metaphor wrong.
We kind of saw the writing on the wall Friday night. It’s just apples versus oranges, and it’s not a level playing field by any means.
I knew enough to realize that the alligators were in the swamp and that it was time to circle the wagons.
Well, once the bowling shoe is on the other foot, look who’s the good cop and look who’s the bad cop.
The examples above are from ThoughtCo. You can read the complete list in this article.
What are extended metaphors?
An extended metaphor is one where the object or action is mentioned later or repeatedly in a sentence or paragraph. It is used predominantly in literature.
I will start with William Shakespeare as an example again, from As You Like It. As you can see, he is referencing the stage with players, entrances and exits and plays many parts.
All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances; And one man in his time plays many parts.
Bobby Holloway says my imagination is a three-hundred-ring circus. Currently, I was in ring two hundred and ninety-nine, with elephants dancing and clowns cartwheeling and tigers leaping through rings of fire. The time had come to step back, leave the main tent, go buy some popcorn and a Coke, bliss out, cool down. – Seize the Night. Dean Koontz
He could hear Beatty’s voice. ‘Sit down, Montag. Watch. Delicately, like the petals of a flower. Light the first page, light the second page. Each becomes a black butterfly. Beautiful, eh? Light the third page from the second and so on, chainsmoking, chapter by chapter, all the silly things the words mean, all the false promises, all the second-hand notions and time-worn philosophies. – Fahrenheit 451. Ray Bradbury
What is a dead metaphor?
A metaphor is often called dead when it is overused or has become a cliché. It is worth avoiding using expressions like these in your writing.
We have to do something with our lives. Time is running out.
Did you hear that old Henry kicked the bucket?
Don’t argue with your boss. Just toe the line.
He was green with envy when he saw my new car.
The government said it would curb its spending next year.
She was fishing for a compliment.
What is an implied metaphor?
Most common implied metaphors refer to comparing two things but subtly mentioning only one. The sense or meaning is often described by using a verb to suggest a connection to a certain noun.
He was barking at his kids in the supermarket. (It implies a comparison to a barking dog.)
As soon as he heard about the big discount, he galloped off to buy a new phone. (It implies a comparison to a galloping horse.)
Oh, she sailed through her driving test. (It implies a comparison to a smooth sailing yacht.)
The new gadget isn’t selling, so they have slashed the price. (It implies a comparison to cutting with a knife.)
My boss erupted when he saw the awful sales figures for the last quarter. (It implies that he suddenly erupted like a volcano.)
Is an analogy also a simile or metaphor?
An analogy is similar, but it is often more of an idiom. The difference is that an analogy is a comparison of two things that can be different but have some degree of similarity.
In the same fashion as a simile, they often use as and like to connect the comparisons. They can also use the verb to be as in a metaphor.
Like similes and metaphors, analogies are literary devices that writers use to bring a vivid picture to a reader’s mind. We often hear the expression, to draw an analogy. It means to bring two things together in some way.
Here are some common examples of analogies.
Note that the words marked in blue show that the form is based on a simile, and in green, on a metaphor.
Just as a sword is the weapon of a warrior, a pen is the weapon of a writer.
It’s about as useful as rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic.
About as practical as an ashtray on a motorcycle.
It is as annoying as nails on a chalkboard.
Finding a good man is like finding a needle in a haystack.
That movie was a roller coaster ride of emotions.
The grass is always greener on the other side.
The moon is tonight as the sun is to day.
It was like men handling a fish which is still alive and may jump back into the water. (George Orwell, A Hanging)
How can you use these in your writing?
How can you use these parts of speech in your writing? The best advice is that similes, as well as metaphors, work best by using them sparingly.
Metaphors include a lot of old, redundant and hackneyed expressions so they can sometimes sound very old-fashioned or even clichéd.
Most similes are fixed expressions, which is hardly being creative when it comes to writing. Trying to create new expressions is not easy, and they can sometimes sound clumsy.
But everything in our language is subject to change. So try, but be careful.
You can use simple forms to add more colour to your writing. Here are simile and metaphor examples for the same sentence to describe temperature.
Jody arrived in Bangkok for the first time, direct from London. When he left the air-conditioned airport, the weather was hotter than he had ever felt in his life.
Simile – When he left the air-conditioned airport, the weather was as hot as hell.
Metaphor – When he left the air-conditioned airport, it was an oven outside.
Learn to identify the different variety of forms that can be classified as a good metaphor or simile. Then you will know how to use similes and metaphors for their high descriptive value.
If the grammar is right, you are halfway there.
It’s only the vocabulary and context that stands in your way of inventing an entirely new expression to add more descriptive value to your writing.
Similes and metaphors in modern music
Music lyrics are rich in the use of figurative expressions.
Take a look and listen to some that you might know in popular music.
I started my working life as a lithographer and spent over 30 years in the printing and publishing business.
Originally from Australia, I moved to Switzerland 20 years ago. My days are spent teaching English, writing and wrestling with technology while enjoying my glorious view of Lake Geneva and the Alps.
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