Metaphor - simile

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(This page forms part of a Course in Figures of Speech. You can find an introduction to it at Figures of Speech course. This page can stand on its own, as well. You may have accessed it from a page on a particular example.)

Metaphor and simile are the two most basic Figures of comparison. They both depend on a writer (or speaker) making an imaginative comparison between what is being described and something else. These are not literal comparisons.

Many of us were baffled at school by being told to remember the terms metaphor and simile – and not seeing the point of the distinction between them. (Because we didn’t see the point, of course, we failed to remember it, although it seemed to matter so much to the English teacher.) The lesson here is that it is only sensible for you to learn about figures of speech – or anything else – if you can see the point, or have a need to do so. Very briefly, a metaphor is a hidden comparison - one that does not say 'out front' that it is a comparison. A simile is open. It does say that it is making a comparison, by using such words as like and as.

For more, read metaphor and simile.