Main Types of Figurative Language
The first type of figurative language that we're going to look at is the simile, which is defined as a comparison of two things using the words 'like' or 'as.'
For example, let's take a look at this sentence:
- After a long day at the beach, my skin was as red as a tomato.
Was the skin actually that red? No, it wasn't, but by comparing it to a tomato, the reader gets a strong visual image of the sunburn.
Here's another one:
- After not exercising for a couple weeks, the short jog was like a marathon.
What's the message here? Running a marathon is an incredibly challenging thing, even for trained athletes. So by comparing the short jog to a marathon, the message is that the jog was extremely difficult.
Another kind of figurative language is the metaphor, which is a comparison of two things without using the words 'like' or 'as.' Notice that while similes always use the words 'like' or 'as,' metaphors never do.
For example, take a look at the following sentence:
- The child is a ray of sunshine.
Of course, the child isn't actually a flaming ball of gas, so what could it mean? Since sunshine is always a treat, it warms us up and brightens our moods. If the child is being compared to the sun, the child makes us feel good and brightens days.
Another metaphor can be found in the sentence:
- My brother is the clown of the family.
Do you think the brother walks around in clown shoes? Probably not! By comparing the brother to a clown, it's saying that he is the silliest family member. Let's move on.
When someone give human qualities to non-human things, we call it personification. This one's pretty easy to recognize. If the thing is doing something that it wouldn't be able to do in real life, it's probably personification.
- The tall trees danced during the storm.
Did the trees do the cha-cha? No! This example gives a visual to the reader that the trees swayed, almost as if to a beat.
Another example is:
- The angry seas made the boat rescue nearly impossible.
Humans can get angry, but can the ocean? No. If you picture 'angry seas,' what do you see? Do you picture high seas and big waves? By comparing the seas to having an angry mood, the writer can create a strong visual.
Next, we have hyperbole, which is an extreme exaggeration.
Our first example sentence is:
- Susannah stayed up all night doing homework.
Is it likely that she worked on homework every minute of night? It's not. This hyperbole tells the reader that Susannah stayed up late doing homework, but not all night.
Another sample can be found in the sentence:
- My grandmother's apple pie is the best in the entire country.
Did it win an award making it the actual best pie in the country? Probably not, but by using a hyperbole, the reader is given the strong message that the pie is incredible.
Figurative Language in Songs
Can you find the figurative language in the following examples?
First, let's look at a lyric from Katy Perry's 'Roar:'
- 'I used to bite my tongue and hold my breath
Scared to rock the boat and make a mess.'
Was Katy Perry actually biting her tongue, holding her breath, and afraid to rock the boat? No, these are metaphors for being afraid to share her opinions.
There is figurative language in Taylor Swift's 'Mean,' too:
- 'You, with your words like knives
And swords and weapons that you use against me.'
What does it mean to have 'words like knives?' Taylor Swift's simile means that someone said hurtful things to her.
Figurative language is interesting comparisons to make readers think of things in a different way.
Examples of figurative language include:
- Similes, comparison of two things using the words 'like' or 'as'
- Metaphors, comparison of two things without using the words 'like' or 'as'
- Personification, which is giving human qualities to non-human things, and
- Hyperboles, extreme exaggerations