Metaphors in Writing

Metaphors in Writing Video

“All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players.” Shakespeare’s words have a ring of truth, even though they might not be literally true. Metaphors like this one help bring ideas to life.

What is a Metaphor?

Metaphors are a type of figurative language. Figurative language uses figures of speech to make written and verbal communication more effective, easier to understand, and more striking. Metaphors are a specific type of figurative language called imagery.

There are seven types of imagery in figurative language. Similes, metaphors, and allusions use non-literal comparisons that illuminate ideas. Personification uses a non-literal comparison exclusively to a person: as in “The leaf danced across the lawn.” Alliteration, assonance, and onomatopoeia use sounds to create different feelings in the audience than the literal words would normally convey.

Getting back to our specific topic, metaphors are words or phrases that compare two things. Unlike a simile, they do not use the words like or as to compare the words. Instead, they state that one thing IS another thing. Like in the quote from Shakespeare, the world IS a stage.

Metaphors are used in literature, movies, plays, and even in day-to-day speech. You might even find yourself using metaphors without realizing it! Some commonly used metaphors include:

Love is a battlefield.

There is a blanket of clouds.

Time is a thief.

He is a night owl.

All these examples compare two things directly. Love is compared to a battle, clouds are compared to blankets, time is compared to a thief, and a man is compared to an owl. Of course, we know that a man is not literally an owl, but the comparison helps us to visualize things in a much more vibrant way. How boring would it be to say “He likes to stay up late at night on a consistent basis.”

Other types of metaphors use indirect comparisons. A couple of examples include:

Work has dried up.

Their ideas are difficult to swallow.

In these metaphors, you have two steps in the comparison. In the first example, work is not being compared to dried up but rather to something that can be dried up. You can use your imagination to fill in the comparison. Maybe an empty swimming pool or a dry desert oasis.

Similarly, ideas are not being swallowed. Ideas are being compared to something you eat that is hard to swallow. Maybe a dry cracker or a peanut butter sandwich.

This type of indirect comparison allows someone to fill in an image with personal experiences. Maybe you have never been to a desert, but you have gone through a hot, dry summer. Maybe you have never eaten a peanut butter sandwich but you have had to swallow a big pill. Making images personal helps draw you into the story and makes it that much more visceral.

Here are some examples of metaphors outside of everyday speech:

In the poem “The Tiger” by William Blake, he expounds on the beauty and danger of the wild tiger.

Tiger, tiger, burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?

The first line of the poem says the tiger is “burning bright.” Of course, the tiger is not literally on fire, but this comparison is used as a metaphor to illustrate the tiger’s bright color and even the tiger’s dangerous nature. Like getting burned by a fire, the tiger can be a dangerous beast.

In the novel A Little Princess, the author Frances Hodgson Burnett wrote:

She looked as if she had never had quite enough to eat. Her very eyes were hungry.

As you can see, metaphors help make language more colorful and easier to understand by bringing new color and life into common objects and ideas.

I hope that this video has helped you understand more about metaphors. Thanks so much for watching. See you guys next time and, as always, happy studying!

Frequently Asked Questions


What is a metaphor?


A metaphor is a figure of speech that describes one thing as being another thing in literal terms in order to better explain a characteristic or idea. Take a look at this example:

“Tina’s eyes were stars twinkling in the night.”

Tina’s eyes are not literally stars. The author uses the metaphor of stars to imply that Tina’s eyes were twinkling in a way similar to stars.


What is an extended metaphor?


An extended metaphor is a metaphor that stretches over several lines or paragraphs of a poem or story.


What is the difference between a simile and a metaphor?


Simply put, a simile describes something as being like or as something else, while a metaphor describes one thing as literally being another thing.

Metaphor Practice Questions

Question #1:

Which of the following is a metaphor?

Life is like a box of chocolates.

Her eyes are as blue as the sky.

My friend Kaden is a night owl.

It was as light as a feather.


The other three choices are examples of similes, which use the words like or as to compare things. Choice C is directly comparing two things by stating that one thing is another thing, even if that isn’t literally true. In this case, it is stating that Kaden is a night owl, even though it is not literally true that he is an owl.

Question #2:

Which of the following is a metaphor?

Ellie was only a Band-Aid for the problem at hand.

The cat’s tongue felt as rough as sandpaper.

I never thought lemons were as sour as everyone says they are.

Is this set of oil paints like the first set I had?


Choice A is the only choice that is comparing two things by stating that the first thing is the second thing. Again, the clue here is that the comparison is not a literal one; Ellie is not literally a Band-Aid.

Question #3:

Which of the following literary excerpts contains a metaphor?

There was a yellow patch of sun like a rug laid for the feet of the coming sun.

Past him flung the Seattle Express like a flying volcano.

Exhaustion is like a thin blanket tattered with bullet holes.

It is the east, and Juliet is the sun.


Notice that choices A, B, and C all use the word like to compare things. This indicates the use of a simile, not a metaphor. Choice D states that Juliet is the sun. This comparison is a literal one, which should clue you in that it is a metaphor.

Question #4:

Which of the following literary excerpts contains a metaphor?

The sun was a toddler insistently refusing to go to bed.

They listed toward me like towers of Pisa.

The water made a sound like kittens lapping.

To follow her thought was like following a voice which speaks too quickly to be taken down by one’s pencil.


Choice A is the only one that compares two things in a non-literal way using a form of the verb is. The other three choices all include examples of simile.

Question #5:

Which of the following poem excerpts contain a metaphor?

Twinkle, twinkle little star,
How I wonder what you are
Up above the world so high,
Like a diamond in the sky.

For an eagle was not meant
To be locked in a cage,
Its life to be spent
Like a picture on a page.

Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune without the words,
And never stops at all.

Jerry’s mind wandered during class
Like a balloon floating up in the air.
While he daydreamed about eating lunch
His stomach growled loud like a bear.


This poem compares hope to a bird in a non-literal way using the verb is, which makes it a metaphor. All of the other excerpts contain similes, which use the word like to compare things.


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by Mometrix Test Preparation | This Page Last Updated: December 27, 2023