Similes

Do you have hair that flows like a waterfall? Or hair that is as curly as a corkscrew? Are your eyes as blue as the ocean? Or are your eyes brown like chocolate?

These descriptions are all similes. Similes that may describe you! But what are similes, exactly? And how are they used?

Similes 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. Similes are a specific type of figurative language called imagery. There are several different types of imagery, but we’ll stick with similes for this video.

Similes use the word like or as to compare two unlike things. This comparison helps to bring out different qualities in the words, helping the audience to see the words in new ways.

Some examples of similes used in everyday speech are:

He is as strong as an ox!

She can swim like a fish!

The first simile uses the word as to compare a man to an ox. By comparing a man to an ox, you get the full impact of his strength. It would otherwise be flat and boring if you just said he was very strong.

The second simile uses the word like to compare a woman to a fish. By doing this, you can get a picture of how well she swims that a simple “she’s a good swimmer” would not quite convey.

Similes do not have to compare people to animals. There are many similes that compare a person to an object, or even one object to another:

The clean tablecloth was as white as snow.

The new car drove like a dream.

As you can see, these items are not people or animals, but instead objects. However, these similes still use the words like or as to compare two unlike items.

Having the word as appear twice in a simile can be confusing. It can be hard to tell what is being compared. Just remember to look for the noun in the sentence. What or who is being described? Comparing the tablecloth’s color to snow helps the audience to “see” how white and clean it really is.

Similes that use the word like are a bit easier. Driving the car is a positive experience, like a good dream. That comparison can evoke thoughts of a smooth ride, a fast drive, or even the wind blowing in your hair as you cruise along the beach. Such a simple simile can bring together so many new ideas!

Similes are not just used in speech, however. Songs often use similes as well to make comparisons and draw attention to images and ideas. Like in the song “Flying Trapeze” by Alfred Lee and George Leybourne:

“Once I was happy, but now I’m forlorn; like an old coat that is tattered and torn.”

The writer of the song used the word “like” to compare being forlorn to an old coat. As silly as the song is, the image of the tattered and torn coat really helps to bring the depression of the singer to life. Without similes, many songs would seem lifeless and dull!

Similes are also often used in poetry. In the poem “A Red, Red Rose,” Robert Burns uses a simile to describe his love:

O my love is like a red, red rose
That’s newly sprung in June;
My love is like the melody
That’s sweetly played in tune.

By comparing his love to both a rose, which is a symbol of love in many cultures and also to a sweet melody, you get much more out of the poem than just love. The rose gives you color (red) the sweet scent of a rose, the soft velvetiness of its petals, and maybe even the sting of the rose’s thorns. Like a rose, love can be complex and much more than just pretty. Melodies and music also have connotations of their own. “Played in tune” gives you an indication that things are going smoothly; that there are not out-of-tune parts to his love.

Novels also use similes to bring characters and settings to life. An example of this occurs in Jane Austen’s book, Pride and Prejudice. The main love interest, Darcy, says,

“I have been used to consider poetry as the food of love.”

By comparing poetry to food, you can see the importance he places on it. It is much more impactful to the reader than the character just stating that he finds poetry important in romance. This also helps to give us insight into his personality, making him a deeper, more well-rounded character.

As you can see, similes help to make language more colorful and easier to understand. Similes help bring new color and life into mundane objects. They are an important part of songs, poetry, and even everyday speech. What similes do you use in your day-to-day speech? Can you spot similes in the things you read or listen to?

I hope that this video has helped you understand more about similes.

Thanks so much for watching. See you next time!

Practice Questions

Question #1:

 
Which of the following contains a simile? (Select all that apply)

The water looked very cold.

The water looked as cold as ice.

The water looked colder than ice.

The water looked cold enough to be ice.

Answer:

Similes compare two things using like or as. In this case, the water is being compared to ice by using the word as.

Question #2:

 
Which of the following literary excerpts contains a simile? (Select all that apply)

The sun in the west was a drop of burning gold that slid near and nearer the sill of the world.

When he closed his eyes he saw myriads of lights dancing before them, like the meteors that play about the marshes.

Kate inched over her own thoughts like a measuring worm.

My thoughts are stars I cannot fathom into constellations.

Answer:

In this case, both of these examples use the word like to compare two things. Choice B compares lights to meteors, and Choice C compares Kate to a measuring worm. Choices A and D are both examples of metaphor, not simile.

Question #3:

 
Which of the following lyrics contains a simile? (Select all that apply)

Like a rock, I was strong as I could be.

To the heart and mind, ignorance is kind.

My heart is like an open highway.

You start to freeze as horror looks you right between the eyes.

Answer:

In this case, both of these examples use the word like to compare two things. Choice A compares the person’s strength to a rock, and Choice C compares the person’s heart to an open highway. Choices B and D are both examples of personification, not simile.

Question #4:

 
Which of the following contains a simile? (Select all that apply)

She launched into a long-winded spiel as we sat and tried to stay awake.

Her story, as long and drawn out as it was, was pretty entertaining.

As much as she tried to explain things clearly, we ended up not understanding the assignment.

Her long, drawn-out explanation was about as clear as mud.

Answer:

You probably noticed that all four answer choices use the word as, which is one of the words that can indicate a simile. In this case, only Choice D uses the word to compare two things (her explanation to mud).

Question #5:

 
Which of the following poem excerpts contains a simile? (Select all that apply)

Now we are as the deer
Who walk in single file
With heads high
With ears forward
With eyes watchful.

When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

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.

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

Answer:

Choice A uses the word as to compare “we” to the deer, Choice C uses the word like to compare Jerry’s mind to a balloon, and Choice D uses the word like to compare the star to a diamond. Choice B contains personification, giving the human characteristic of dancing to the daffodils.

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by Mometrix Test Preparation | Last Updated: September 15, 2021