Best Figurative Language Examples

Figurative Language
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Figurative Language

Figurative language is language that goes beyond the literal meaning of a word. Authors will use figurative language to enhance their writing. Some common examples of figurative language are: hyperbole, simile, metaphor, and personification. We’ll discuss each of those, and I’ll give you some examples for each. Hyperbole is exaggeration. People will say something and you aren’t meant to take it literally. You’re meant to know it’s an exaggeration, but it’s there just to emphasize how strongly the author is trying to convey something.


For instance, “I’ve told you a million times.” I bet some of you have probably heard that one. Probably, you haven’t heard whatever your parent or teacher has said they’ve told you a million times. It’s an exaggeration. It’s hyperbole. It’s meant to emphasize that they’ve already told you this a lot more times before now. Another example would be, “I had a ton of homework.” You did not literally go home with 2,000lbs. of homework, but you’re telling people that you had a lot of homework. It was way more than the normal amount. It was “a ton”. It was that much homework. That’s what hyperbole is, exaggeration.


Next, we have got simile, which is comparing two things using “like” or “as”. This is very important, you have to use those words “like” or “as”, or it’s not going to be a simile anymore. “The child howled like a coyote.” We see our word “like”. You’re comparing two things in this sentence. “The child howled like a coyote” compares the child’s howling to a coyote using the word “like”. This example is letting you know that the child is loud. It’s crying sounds like a howl, much like a coyote. This figurative language is used to bring a coyote to mind to help you picture and hear in your mind how this child is screaming or crying.


Next, let’s look at this example. “She ran as fast as lightning.” That’s going to compare two things here, and we see the word “as”. What is being compared in this sentence? “She ran as fast as lightning.” Usually, when you have one “as” you’ve got two. It’s comparing “she”, or a girl, to lightning. That is being done by using the word “as”. When you’re comparing a girl to lightning, you’re saying she’s that fast. It was so fast, you barely got to see her before she got past you or got to the finish line. It’s just letting you know that she’s really, really fast. That’s what a simile is; comparing two things using “like” or “as”. Again, these are the important words to look for to make it actually be a simile.


It could be a metaphor, which compares two things without using “like” or “as”. That is really the big difference between a simile and a metaphor. Simile uses “like” or “as”, and a metaphor does not use “like” or “as”. Let’s look at some metaphor examples. “She was lightning running down the track.” This sentence is very similar to the previous one. They’re both comparing “she”, or a girl, to lightning. They’re both saying that this girl is really fast, but the second one just says she was lightning. “She was lightning running down the track.” It doesn’t say that she ran as fast as lightning. It doesn’t use “like” or “as”; it just says that she was lightning. It’s a different way to use the same kind of figurative language.


That’s one example of a metaphor. Let’s look at this excerpt from Edgar Allen Poe’s poem “The Raven”. “…And his eyes have all the seeming of the demon’s that is dreaming.” This one’s a little trickier, because it doesn’t just come out and say “this was this” or “this is this” Before, it said “she was lightning”. It says that his eyes have all of the seeming of a demon’s that is dreaming. We’re comparing his eyes to a demon’s eyes, which is basically comparing him, or a man, to a demon. His eyes are like a demon’s eyes. This man is being compared to a demon, which is to maybe say that the man is evil. It doesn’t mean he’s literally a demon. It means he’s got some characteristic of demon. He’s maybe an evil person. In poetry, your figurative language may not always pop out at you if it’s a metaphor. A simile is pretty easy to spot, because you’ll see “like” or “as”, but a metaphor might be a little trickier. Just look for what two things are being compared in that sentence or that phrase of a poem.


The last piece of figurative language we’re going to discuss is personification, which is when an inanimate object is given human qualities. You are personifying it; you are making it do something a person would do, even though it’s not something that can do these things. Remember, inanimate objects are going to be things that are not alive: a chair, a teapot, the wind, water, etc. Those are inanimate objects. Let’s look at our example: “The water slapped the side of the boat.” Can water actually slap like a person would slap? No, but it makes you think of the action of slapping and the sound you might hear with the slap whenever you picture this water slapping the side of the boat. That’s why they’re using this particular word and personifying the water. Depending on what the story is about and where this sentence appears, it could be that the water is being made as an evil character. If someone drowns in this story, then the water would be seen as an enemy. Its slapping the side of the boat would give it that negative feeling.


Another example: “The teapot shrieked.” Shrieking, screaming that loud sound, you can hear it in your head when you think about the noise a teapot makes. A teapot isn’t actually shrieking like a person would. It’s simply making that noise because the air is hot enough that it’s trying to get out. “The wind howled” Wind can’t howl like a wolf would howl, but wind makes that same kind of sound sometimes. So, the author is trying to put that sound of howling in your mind when they’re describing the wind. Figurative language can be a lot of different things: Hyperbole, where you’re exaggerating; Simile, where you’re comparing two things using “like” or “as” (very important markers for a simile); Metaphor, where you’re comparing two things without using “like” or “as”; and Personification, when an object is given human qualities (whenever it’s personified).


All of these techniques are used so the words will go beyond the literal meaning of them and give you a deeper understanding of the poem or the work that you’re reading. The author is trying to go beyond the words and make you really think about their meaning and put certain connotations in your head whenever you’re reading.



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Last updated: 04/18/2018
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