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Simile vs. Metaphor: What’s the Distinction?


Have you ever ever heard somebody use the phrase “actually” and thought, “They will’t actually imply actually.” There weren’t actually one million folks on the live performance. That remaining examination didn’t actually kill them.

What they imply to say is that the live performance was so crowded it felt like there have been one million folks packed collectively, or that the check was so tough it drained their psychological vitality. These are excellent situations to make use of simile and metaphor, figures of speech that evaluate one factor to a different.

A simile makes a comparability utilizing the phrases “like” or “as.”

Instance: The live performance was so crowded, it felt like one million folks had been there.

A metaphor makes the comparability straight, substituting one factor for an additional.

Instance: That check was a killer.

A simile is a sort of metaphor, that means all similes are metaphors, nevertheless, not all metaphors are similes. Beneath we’ll break down the variations between them and clarify when to make use of one or the opposite.

What’s a simile?

A simile (pronounced SIM-i-lee) is figurative language that compares two issues utilizing the phrases “like” or “as.” Additionally it is often called an oblique comparability.

As a author, similes provide the energy to create vivid imagery and descriptions in your reader.

If you happen to write that somebody is . . .

as skinny as a rail.

as American as apple pie.

like an open ebook.

You then’re writing in similes. The particular person you’re writing about doesn’t actually have the identical width as a rail. The comparability between the character and a rail creates a greater picture in your reader than saying, “She’s skinny.”

How are similes structured?

Similes have a easy construction: X is like Y. The comparability makes use of “like,” “as,” or one other connector. And that’s just about it.

Nonetheless, it’s necessary to notice that simply because a phrase has the phrase “like” or “as” doesn’t robotically make it a simile. A simile is a literary system, which suggests it’s utilized in descriptive writing.

For instance, for those who write, “She acts similar to her father,” that’s not a simile if her habits is definitely just like that of her father. However for those who write, “She and her father are like two peas in a pod,” then you definitely’ve written a simile. She and her father usually are not greens; they’re related to one another in the way in which two peas in a pod are related to one another. Do you see the distinction right here?

When to keep away from similes

Similes are a good way to boost your writing’s imagery, however use them too usually and your reader could turn into confused and even bored.

Think about studying a passage the place three characters are described as “courageous as a lion, busy as a bee, and chilly as ice.” All three similes are descriptive on their very own, however when packed collectively, they lose their energy. Similes are like equipment—they’ll improve an outfit, or they’ll overwhelm it.

What’s a metaphor?

A metaphor is a direct comparability between two issues. Metaphors don’t recommend one factor is like one other; they declare that one factor is one other: Love is a battlefield. He’s the black sheep of the household. You’re my fortunate star.

Metaphors are ample in our language, and infrequently you received’t even know you’re utilizing them.

If somebody asks, “Do I make myself clear?”

And also you reply, “Crystal.”

You’ve replied utilizing a metaphor. Their request has the identical readability as a clear crystal.

How are metaphors structured?

The construction of a metaphor is predicated on 4 parts:

Automobile: The phrase that conveys the that means of the metaphor. Within the above instance, “Your reply is crystal clear,” the car is “crystal.

  • Tenor: What’s being conveyed—that the reply is well understood.
  • Floor: The connection between the issues being in contrast. The reply and the crystal each have the ingredient of transparency and readability. This readability is the bottom they’re being in contrast on.
  • Rigidity: The distinction between the issues. The reply itself is not a crystal, except you’re at a gem present—wherein case, you could be speaking a few pun.

Kinds of metaphors

Metaphor is a broader class of figurative language than simile. Not like similes, with their easy setup, metaphors can seem in lots of types. A metaphor will be commonplace, implied, sustained, useless, or blended. 

A commonplace metaphor succinctly states one factor is one other.

Instance: You’re my sunshine.

An implied metaphor creates an additional degree of depth by making a comparability that depends on prior data. 

Instance: You deliver light and heat into my life. 

The “you” on this sentence is being in comparison with the solar, a supply of light and heat, with out it being straight talked about.

A sustained metaphor carries on by means of a number of sentences, paragraphs, and even a complete work. These are additionally known as prolonged metaphors. 

Instance: Maya Angelou’s poem “Caged Chook” is an prolonged metaphor. The free chook is a metaphor for a free particular person; the caged chook is a metaphor for an oppressed particular person. These metaphors are expanded upon by means of the whole poem.

A useless metaphor is a metaphor that has been used so incessantly that it not has literary energy. 

Examples: The palms of the clock; the foot of the mattress; the final leg of the journey. 

All these phrases include metaphors—a clock doesn’t have anatomical palms any greater than a mattress has an anatomical foot. These are such frequent phrases, nevertheless, that we barely consider them as metaphors. 

A blended metaphor happens whenever you layer two completely different metaphors on each other. Normally this occurs by chance, particularly for those who’re utilizing useless metaphors.

Instance: “Early chook gathers no moss. Rolling stone catches the worm, proper?” —The Truman Present

This instance is a bit facetious. It’s clear the author purposely blended these metaphors for comedic impact. However the level made is evident: The phrases “early chook catches the worm” and “a rolling stone gathers no moss” make sense on their very own, however they create ridiculous, nonsensical statements when mixed.

What are the similarities between simile and metaphor?

Similes and metaphors use language to realize the identical factor: Create an outline by utilizing comparability. There are even some situations wherein similes and metaphors are interchangeable. To return to the father-daughter instance, you possibly can say they’re like two peas in a pod (simile) or they’re two peas in a pod (metaphor). The message is identical in each situations.

What are the variations between simile and metaphor?

Whenever you begin to create extra complicated or elongated comparisons, it’s value considering by means of the variations between simile and metaphor. Two issues to think about when deciding which one to make use of are energy and scale.

Power: As a result of a metaphor is extra direct (one factor is one other factor), it’s a barely stronger comparability. It is best to use metaphors to emphasise the comparability between the 2 issues. A simile, alternatively, is extra like a suggestion. It crops the picture within the reader’s head, however then the writing continues. Similes are higher for descriptions you don’t desire a reader to dwell on for too lengthy.

Scale: Metaphors and similes additionally work on completely different scales. Similes are restricted to the sentence degree, whereas metaphors can stretch to incorporate a complete work. For instance, there are dozens of theories about what the film The Matrix is a metaphor for. You aren’t more likely to hear {that a} full work is a simile for one thing else. That may require plenty of “likes.”

Simile vs. metaphor examples

Probably the most well-known examples of a simile in popular culture is from the film Forrest Gump. Forrest, sitting on a park bench and consuming a field of sweets, tells a stranger:

“My momma all the time stated, ‘Life was like a field of sweets. You by no means know what you’re gonna get.’”

Did you notice the simile? In an earlier scene, Forrest’s mom tells him:

“Life is a field of sweets, Forrest. You by no means know what you’re gonna get.”

Did you notice the metaphor? The “field of sweets” phrase has a simile model and a metaphor model. Funnily sufficient, neither model is “Life is sort of a field of sweets,” the quote that most individuals bear in mind from the film.

Beneath are extra examples of similes and metaphors in literature.

Examples of simile in literature

“The café was like a battleship stripped for motion.”

The Solar Additionally Rises by Ernest Hemingway

“Time has not stood nonetheless. It has washed over me, washed me away, as if I’m nothing greater than a lady of sand, left by a careless youngster too close to the water.”

The Handmaid’s Story by Margaret Atwood

“I wandered lonely as a cloud that floats on excessive o’er vales and hills.”
—“Daffodils”

by William Wordsworth

Examples of metaphor in literature

“All of the world’s a stage,

And all of the women and men merely gamers.”
As You Like It by William Shakespeare

“Properly, son, I’ll let you know:

Life for me ain’t been no crystal stair.
It’s had tacks in it,
And splinters,
And boards torn up,
And locations with no carpet on the ground—
Naked.”
—“Mom to Son” by Langston Hughes (The whole poem is a sustained metaphor.)

“Behind him, sitting on piles of scrap and rubble, was the blue kite. My key to Baba’s coronary heart.”

The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini

Simile and metaphor FAQs

What’s a simile?

A simile is a comparability between two issues utilizing the phrase “like” or “as” to attach them. Instance: He smothers our enthusiasm like a moist blanket.

What’s a metaphor?

A metaphor is a comparability between two issues that declares one factor is one other.
Instance: He’s a moist blanket.

What are the important thing similarities between similes and metaphors?

Each similes and metaphors use comparisons between in contrast to issues to create vivid imagery and extra complicated descriptions for the reader.

How do similes and metaphors differ?

Similes are oblique comparisons that use the phrase “like” or “as.” Metaphors are direct comparisons that state one factor is one other. Metaphor is the broader of the 2 phrases—it encompasses a variety of comparisons, from sentences to total works. Similes are restricted to sentences.

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