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Speaking Better English - The Metaphor and how to use it

The Metaphor

Speaking Better English - The Metaphor
Speaking Better English - The Metaphor

Similes and Metaphors are often confused as they do the same sort of thing.


He was like a lion in battle


He was a lion in battle

A simile compares one thing with another. The Metaphor say that one thing IS another.

A metaphor is a figure of speech that is used to make a comparison between two things that are not necessarily alike but they do have something in common with one another. A metaphor's comparison is more indirect than the simile, and is usually made by stating something is something else. The describes an object or action in a way that is not literally true, but helps explain an idea or make a comparison.

Here are some examples;

The snow is a white blanket.

He is a shining star.

Her long hair was a flowing golden river.

Paul’s eyes were ice as he stared at her.

The children were flowers grown in concrete gardens.

Kisses are the flowers of affection.

The falling snowflakes are dancers.

The calm lake was a mirror.

When you we use Metaphors in spoken English? The use of metaphors makes English more colourful and natural. Many people use metaphors naturally when they speak English. They crop up in nearly every conversation.

Kinds of metaphors In Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, Romeo famously compares Juliet to the sun, so that the qualities of the sun (radiance and warmth) are carried over to Juliet. For example, there are many fixed expressions found in dictionaries which can only be understood metaphorically, such as:

· 'a step in the right direction' or

· to 'sell like hot cakes'

There are also many words which can have both literal and metaphorical meanings:

· verbs such as to 'hammer' or 'to stream'

· adjectives such as 'infectious' or 'lukewarm'

· nouns such as 'ingredients' and 'foundation'.

Metaphors provide a handy and memorable way of organising new vocabulary to be learned. We can create 'metaphorical sets', where we group together the words and expressions that have a metaphorical, rather than a literal, meaning.

Here are some examples:

· Body vocabulary

  • the heart of the city

  • the foot of the mountain/bed/stairs

  • to give a hand

  • to break somebody's heart

· Weather vocabulary

  • a warm welcome

  • to freeze somebody out

  • to be snowed under

  • to storm out

  • a hail of abuse

· Colour vocabulary

  • to see red

  • a grey area

  • a white lie

  • to give somebody the green light.

· Weather metaphors

  • A sunny smile

  • An icy look

  • A stormy relationship

· People metaphors

  • A chip off the old block

  • A rough diamond

  • A shoulder to cry on

  • An ugly duckling

  • A fairy god-mother

· Parts of proverbs

  • A new broom

  • Early birds

  • Birds of a feather

  • Silver linings

  • A rolling stone

So as you see these phrases pop up in Spoken English all the time - so go and practice some of these for yourself.

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