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Metaphor

Authors can use any variety of techniques to hold the attention of their readers. One such technique is the use of figures of speech, which are ways of saying something other than in the ordinary or literal way. There are many kinds of figures of speech. In this article, we'll look at the metaphor.

What is a metaphor?

A metaphor is a figure of speech in which two persons or things are compared without the use of like or as. Metaphors often use the verb be to make a comparison. In a metaphor of this kind, one thing is another. Let's look at some examples:

The sound of my husband cleaning the shower is music to my ears.

The sun was a ball of fire.

In the first example, the sound of someone cleaning the shower is compared to the pleasant sound of music. In the second example, the writer compares the sun to a ball of fire. In these examples, the two things being compared are connected by a form of the verb be (is, was).

Do all metaphors use the verb be?

Metaphors do not always take the form of nouns joined by the verb be. Sometimes they are disguised as verbs, adjectives or adverbs. In the following examples, notice how the verb be is absent:

The sun fired up the sky with dazzling colours. (verb)

After a heated argument with his roommates, he stormed out of the house. (adjective and verb)

The Red River loops snakily through the valley. (verb and adverb)

Why use metaphors?

Not only do metaphors make your writing more interesting, but they make it easier for readers to grasp the meaning of what you have written. By using metaphors, you provide readers with concrete images that help them form a clear picture in their minds. To demonstrate, let's see what happens when we remove the metaphors from some of the examples above.

I like the sound of my husband cleaning the shower.

Without the metaphor, the sentence produces no effect on the reader, no picture in the reader's mind. With the metaphor The sound...is music to my ears, the reader gets a clear picture of the smile of pleasure on the wife's face as her husband cleans the shower.

The sun was hot and bright.

With no metaphor, the effect of the writing is flat. In contrast, the metaphor The sun was a ball of fire makes the writing come alive: the reader can picture the sun burning intensely in the sky with a dazzling display of reds, oranges and yellows.

How is a metaphor different from a simile?

A simile is a figure of speech that uses like or as to create a comparison. A metaphor, on the other hand, creates an implied comparison without using like or as.

Simile Metaphor
The Red River loops through the valley like a snake. The Red River loops snakily through the valley.
The sun was like a ball of fire. The sun was a ball of fire.
After the audition, Alina felt as light as a feather. After the audition, Alina floated home, her feet barely touching the ground.

Test yourself with our Simile or Metaphor? quiz.