Figurative language makes writing – and even speaking – more expressive and easier to understand. When done well, it lends style to your writing.
More resources on figurative language:
- What is figurative language? The resource covers how figurative language improves writing, dos and don’ts while writing figuratively, and more.
(Note that key parts of each figure of speech have been underlined for you to easily follow them and that my comments accompanying examples are in square brackets.)
Examples of using different types of figurative language on a given topic
When writing on a topic, it’s convenient to first brainstorm and write variety of figures of speech on that topic, and then incorporate them in your piece. This is probably a better way to polish your figurative language. Here are multiple figures of speech on two topics. Give a try yourself first and see how many you can write.
1. Cold weather
Fetching grocery in the cold was a death sentence. [Metaphor]
The snowstorm left behind a thick blanket of snow in most parts of the state, government declaring emergency, people staying indoors, air traffic grounding, and power failing in some areas. [Metaphor/ Parallelism (absolute phrases)]
The predawn snowfall smothered our chances of having an outdoor game. [Personification/ Metaphor]
The cold wind pierced my bones. [Personification/ Metaphor]
Fetching grocery in the cold was like a death sentence. [Simile]
It was a frigid night, freezing blood in my veins. [Hyperbole/ Alliteration]
“When will the weather improve?” the old man moaned. [Onomatopoeia]
The dog yelped as the gust of cold wind struck his face. [Onomatopoeia]
2. Nervous while waiting for the result
My heart skipped few beats while waiting for the result. [Idiom]
My heart failed few times while waiting for the result. [Hyperbole/ Alliteration (2)]
In the moments before the result was declared, I was an undertrial moments away from the verdict. [Metaphor]
While waiting for the result, my heart requested me to take a stroll and stop thinking about the worst. [Personification/ Metaphor]
In the moments before the result was declared, I was like an undertrial moments away from the verdict. [Simile]
While waiting for the result, my heart pounded like a set of drums in a music event. [Onomatopoeia/ Simile]
Examples of each of 8 figurative languages
The dog sprinted across the field to fetch the ball.
The virulent virus has disrupted lives and deflated economies.
In these troubled times, travel has come down to a trickle.
The iguanas make deep dives in the ocean to feed on marine algae.
The shark surfaced to breathe.
The slow sloth inched up the tree trunk.
The business centre is buzzing with activity.
The deafening downpour has resulted in flash floods.
More resources on alliteration:
I felt as abandoned as a used Kleenex.
During probation period, I felt like a bug under the microscope.
The movie went on for what seemed like an eternity.
The leaping catch by the fielder took my breath away.
Your decrepit furniture seems to be from Jurassic era.
My new shoes, little bit tight, are killing me.
Kids are so overloaded these days. Just look at their bags; they weigh a ton.
The food was so delicious that I almost ate my fingers.
More resources on hyperbole:
The scandal proved to be the final nail in the coffin of the mayor.
Some of the bank employees have been allegedly working hand in glove with business owners to sanction loans without proper due diligence.
I jumped the gun by sending the proposal to the client without first showing it to my manager.
I’ve made the request few times in the past, but it has always fallen on deaf ears.
The boss cut that arrogant guy to size in no time.
I spent two hours cooling my heels in the waiting room while the CFO was busy in a meeting.
I was left out in the cold in the annual promotions in the company.
The IP for our key technology has been leaked, and many in my team, including the manager, are under a cloud.
More resources on idiom:
During the moments before the result was declared, I was a tax payer who had just received an audit notice from the IRA: extremely nervous.
My loans are a millstone around my neck, keeping me tied to my 9-to-5 job.
My night shift is a graveyard: not a soul in sight, complete silence, and an occasional howl from the street dogs.
Journalism is literature in hurry. Matthew Arnold
The world is a stage, but the play is badly cast. Oscar Wilde
Tears are the safety valve of the heart when too much pressure is laid on it. Albert Smith
Jonah Lomu, a rampaging bull with the ball, is widely recognized as one of the greatest of the game. [An appositive acting as a metaphor]
His fortress of a house was finally breached by the intelligence agencies. [Implied metaphor]
More resources on metaphor:
- More than 100 examples of metaphors
- Metaphor examples for kids
- What is metaphor and how to write one?
Nervous, I babbled my way through the first few minutes of the interview.
Finding the sheep at her mercy, the witch cackled before waving her wand.
I caught my head on the door and howled in pain.
The car screeched to a stop.
I was taken aback by the dog’s snarl; a moment earlier, he seemed so friendly.
I was chomping my chicken piece unconcerned by the reaction of others around.
Don’t slurp the soup! It’s bad manners.
The race car turned the curve and then vroomed on the home stretch.
More resources on onomatopoeia:
- Examples of 140+ onomatopoeic words (with meaning and use)
- What is onomatopoeia and its common errors?
Many accidents could be attributed to human errors, but faulty road design, absence of street lights, lack of dividers, and potholes on roads also contribute to such incidents. Source [Noun phrases in parallel]
Cheetah hunts impalas and rabbits, lives in coalition and singly, and communicates through variety of sounds. [Verb phrases in parallel]
Usain Bolt was quick off the blocks, fast in the middle, and exceptional at the finish. [Adjective phrases in parallel]
Located at the end of the street and protected by a sturdy fence, the house has had no occupants in nearly two years. [Past participial phrases in parallel]
Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap but by the seeds that you plant. Robert Louis Stevenson [Prepositional phrase in parallel]
Live in the sunshine, swim the sea, drink the wild air. Ralph Waldo Emerson [Clauses in parallel. Note that you don’t see a subject here because it’s an imperative sentence.]
Joe’s dress was better than that of Mac. [Parallelism when comparing]
Whether you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re right. Henry Ford [Parallelism with correlative conjunction]
More resources on parallelism:
Covid-19 stalked continent after continent with no remorse.
My first novel got crucified.
Chocolate frog, a new species of frog found, has been shying away from mankind for time immemorial.
The kettle hissed and bellowed steam.
Saying they were last polished two weeks back, the shoes begged for a polish.
The lock shrieked in pain as I rattled the wrong key in it.
The carved pumpkin sat on the table, smiling and observing Halloween preparations.
The ball, after being hit hard, sailed over the boundary line and landed in the third tier of the stadium
More resources on personification:
- More than 180 examples of personification
- What is personification and how to write one step-by-step?
Investing in such junk bonds is like carrying water in a sieve.
I had grand dreams, but, when faced with reality, they went down, much like how Titanic went down after colliding with the iceberg.
The vagabond roamed the streets like a tin can swept by wind.
Playing polo is like trying to play golf during an earthquake. Sylvester Stallone
The hackers made off with millions of dollars from the bank, taking advantage of their lax security which was as strong as the one provided by our street dog drunk on a liter of beer.
Public speaking is as easy for me as putting toothpaste back in tube.
The seal couldn’t escape from the shark’s vice-like grip. [An adjective acting as simile]
His concern for building a career was no more than the concern of well-fed lions for the next meal. [Similes formed through comparison words other than like and as]
More resources on simile:
Exercises on figurative language
Each sentence below contains one of the four figures of speech, namely simile, metaphor, personification, and hyperbole. Identify which sentence contains which figure of speech. Few sentences may contain more than one figure of speech. Give the exercises a try before looking at the answers.
1. The forest welcomed the rain after a long dry summer that parched the region.
2. I was as desperate to get off the roller coaster as a flopping fish on the line.
3. The volcano burped ash and rocks, signaling that more is to come.
4. In 80s a clay-court player’s chance of winning Wimbledon title was no more than winning a lottery.
5. His joke was as gross as a cockroach in soup.
6. Amazon is a 1000-pound gorilla in retail.
7. The journalists swooped in as the celebrity actor emerged from the airport.
8. This coffee is so strong that it can get up and walk away.
9. This cake can feed the entire village.
10. In the 80s, the ravines, buzzing with dacoits, were as lawless as stormy wind.
Key part of the sentence that converts it into figurative language has been underlined.
1. The forest welcomed the rain after a long dry summer that parched the region. [Personification]
2. I was as desperate to get off the roller coaster as a flopping fish on the line. [Simile]
3. The volcano burped ash and rocks, signaling that more is to come. [Metaphor and Personification]
4. In 80s a clay-court player’s chance of winning Wimbledon title was no more than winning a lottery. [Simile]
5. His joke was as gross as a cockroach in soup. [Hyperbole and Simile]
6. Amazon is a 1000-pound gorilla in retail. [Metaphor]
7. The journalists swooped in as the celebrity actor emerged from the airport. [Metaphor]
8. This coffee is so strong that it can get up and walk away. [Personification]
9. This cake can feed the entire village. [Hyperbole]
10. In the 80s, the ravines, buzzing with dacoits, were as lawless as stormy wind. [Simile]
Each sentence below contains one of the five figures of speech, namely personification, onomatopoeia, parallelism, idiom, and alliteration. Identify which sentence contains which figure of speech. Few sentences may contain more than one figure of speech.
1. Considering their dismal past record, the win in the last match seems to be a flash in the pan.
2. The guffaws stopped when the warden, known as a strict disciplinarian, entered the mess.
3. The company carpet-bombed television and digital media with advertisements.
4. The surfers struggled against the waves.
5. I came, I saw, I conquered. Julius Caesar
6. When rebuffed, the man muttered few expletives and left.
7. A grocer’s daughter with a steely resolve, she was loved and loathed in equal measure as she crushed the unions, privatized vast swathes of British industry, clashed with the European Union and fought a war to recover the Falkland Islands from Argentine invaders. Source
8. The business has started to gain momentum after months of struggle. We finally see light at the end of tunnel.
9. The students in the last row stopped giggling the moment teacher stared at them.
10. The woodpecker banged its beak against the bark of the tree.
Key part of the sentence that converts it into figurative language has been underlined.
1. Considering their dismal past record, the win in the last match seems to be a flash in the pan. [Idiom]
2. The guffaws stopped when the warden, known as a strict disciplinarian, entered the mess. [Onomatopoeia]
3. The company carpet-bombed television and digital media with advertisements. [Personification]
4. The surfers struggled against the waves. [Alliteration]
5. I came, I saw, I conquered. Julius Caesar [Parallelism]
6. When rebuffed, the man muttered few expletives and left. [Onomatopoeia]
7. A grocer’s daughter with a steely resolve, she was loved and loathed in equal measure as she crushed the unions, privatized vast swathes of British industry, clashed with the European Union, and fought a war to recover the Falkland Islands from Argentine invaders. [Parallelism]
8. The business has started to gain momentum after months of struggle. We finally see light at the end of tunnel. [Idiom]
9. The students in the last row stopped giggling the moment teacher stared at them. [Onomatopoeia]
10. The woodpecker banged its beak against the bark of the tree. [Alliteration]