Part to Whole Analogies: Definition & Types

Instructor: Kaitlin Oglesby
Analogies are often a cause of concern for many students, with part to whole analogies being among the most common. This lesson teaches the steps to solve a part to whole analogy.

What is a Part to Whole Analogy?

Analogies are a popular way to make sure that people understand the connections between words or ideas. One of the most common forms of analogies is the Part to Whole analogy, in which a part of something is compared to the whole in a way similar to another part of something is compared to the whole. For example, Fin:Fish::Wing:Bird is a part to whole analogy, and works because it demonstrates that just as a fish uses a fin to move, so too does a bird use a wing to move. Clearly, there can be quite a bit of meaning packed into one of those analogies.

How to solve them

Oftentimes, you'll be asked to solve analogies that are missing either the part or the whole. To do so, you'll have to follow a number of steps. First of all, establish whether or not it is the part or the whole that is missing on the side of the analogy that you are trying to solve. Keep in mind that there is no rule that says the part has to come before the whole, so instead of Fin:Fish, you could have Fish:Fin. To do this, you'll have to see how it mirrors on the other side.

Second, look to the completed side of the analogy to figure out the relationship. In our earlier example, the relationship between wing to bird is that a bird uses a wing to move. It is a big help if you can write a sentence that is as detailed as possible to help with this stage. It is not enough to say that a bird has a wing, but instead try to find the deeper meaning of the analogy. From there, it is simply a matter of asking yourself what term would complete the analogy on the other side.

Example missing the part

Let's try an example in which the part is missing. Here's our analogy:_____:Dining Table::Sheet:Made Bed. First of all, what is missing? Look to the completed side - a sheet is a part of a made bed, right? In fact, you could say that a sheet is a covering for a made bed. Now go back to the problem side. Since dining table came at the same point as the term 'made bed', we can assume that it is the whole, so we are solving for the part. What is a part of a dining table that is covers it? A tablecloth, which happens to be the right answer.

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