Personification is a figure of speech that gives human characteristics to non-humans (plants, animals, and inanimate objects) and abstractions (sadness, anger, etc.) to create striking visual images for the readers. It makes your writing livelier and concrete.
Few examples of personification:
Empty streets during lockdowns missed the usual hustle & bustle.
The oasis said goodbye to the departing caravan and welcomed the next.
(Personifications have been underlined in all the examples for ease of following.)
In the first example, streets display a human characteristic: missing something. In the second example, oasis displays human characteristics: saying goodbye and welcoming.
Note that personification is a figure of speech and shouldn’t be taken literally. So, the streets actually didn’t miss anything and the oasis didn’t say goodbye to or welcomed anyone. In the given context, they’ve been given these human characteristics to make our writing livelier and concrete.
More resources on personification:
Let’s dive into examples, which have been arranged topically.
While going through these examples, note the key words that have been underlined. Think for a moment if these key words lend human characteristic to non-humans and abstractions. That’s the qualification for personification.
The monkeys brawled over the banana.
Chocolate frog, a new species of frog found, has been shying away from mankind for time immemorial.
Simba’s hair from the mane travelled for days before being found by Rafiki.
Salivating at the thought of evening feast, the cheetah looked far and wide from atop the mound for prey.
The hyena bullied the leopard and stole his kill.
2. Birds and insects
The peacock danced, mesmerizing the onlookers.
The birds welcomed the spring by singing melodious tunes.
The bee, trapped in the room, pleaded for the window to be opened.
The bees had fun and frolic while jaunting around from flower to flower.
The engine roared and the car went off like a bullet.
The car was bruised after brushing against the hedge.
The electric car decried the environment unfriendliness of the nearby petrol car.
The yellow Lamborghini beckoned me to take the driver’s seat and flee.
The new swanky model of the sports car was blissfully unaware of the admirers looking at it.
After the long journey, the car rested in the garage to get ready for the next day’s journey.
After six hours of drive, the car gasped for fuel.
After non-stop drive for six hours, the car begged the driver to stop.
Wheezing and coughing, the old car demanded rest and service.
The moody clouds came back unannounced, threatening a downpour.
The furious clouds brought a downpour that waterlogged the city and swept away vehicles.
It has rained more heavily this year. It seems clouds are sharing the grief humankind has suffered because of Covid-19.
The clouds clashed vigorously, producing rain and thunder.
Sometimes I wonder if the clouds have bladder control problem.
The clouds roared, threatening to wash out today’s match.
In our organization, we let different ideas jostle with each other, and the best find their way into products.
The company carpet-bombed television and digital media with advertisements.
The revenue growth has now stubbornly remained below 10% for the last six quarters.
The new product flew off the shelves.
Covid-19 stalked continent after continent with no remorse.
Delta variant drove away other variants to become the most dominant variant of Covid virus.
Empty streets during lockdowns missed the usual hustle & bustle.
Birds and animals living close to cities couldn’t believe the tranquility they got during the lockdowns.
The vaccine eagerly awaited people, but not everyone reciprocated the feeling.
In the initial months, the pandemic forced people to postpone their travel plans, grounding several flights.
Economies after economies screeched to a halt because of restrictions and unwillingness of people to spend.
Hospitals across the world were overwhelmed with flood of critical patients.
The virus proved wrong the theories such as its ineffectiveness in warmer climates and against certain populations.
The angry cactus stabbed anyone who touched it.
The tall cactus stood lonely, watching passersby every day.
The sand, fried by the sun, has been awaiting arrival of the elusive caravan.
The caravan ploughed through the desert, giving company to plants and animals wherever it passed through.
The parched shrubs looked expectantly toward the sky for slightest of rain but in vain.
The bald sand dunes stood tall and emphatic.
The oasis fought hard to preserve the precious water from evaporating.
The oasis said goodbye to the departing caravan and welcomed the next.
I couldn’t resist when the cake begged to be eaten.
Fennel seeds and chillies danced in the hot oil in the pan.
This coffee is so strong that it can get up and walk away.
The waffle sprang out of the toaster to startle me.
The ice cubes cackled when I poured soda in the glass.
The pizza looked forward to meet his friends, sauce and condiments.
Despite several requests from my stuffed stomach, my mouth didn’t stop eating.
The airtight container suffocated the dough I had put in there.
The forest welcomed the rain after a long dry summer that parched the region.
The Australian wildfire devoured thousands of hectares of forests, fields, and anything else that came its way.
After the sunset, the animals came out of their shelter, bringing the forest to life.
With the arrival of rains, the seeds on the forest floor sprang up to life.
The forest gave shelter and food to innumerable birds and animals without demanding much in return.
10. Gadgets and appliances
The kettle hissed and bellowed steam.
I had to finally switch off the fan which threatened to blow me away.
On restart, the modem blinked with red, followed by green, light.
The washing machine jolted and swirled the clothes vigorously.
The toaster spitted out the bread slices.
I could hear the saxophone playing a melodious tune from the other room.
My mobile phone awoke with a loud ring.
The mixer shrieked and whistled every time it mixed and chopped things.
The vacuum cleaner hummed a pleasant tune as it went around cleaning the floor.
The lawnmower, with an unending appetite for grass, trimmed the entire lawn in 30 minutes.
Slithering snakes, roaming mice, and creeping centipedes added flavor to the eerie atmosphere at the graveyard.
The winter fog settled on the graveyard, camouflaging spirits in its white hue.
Dark clouds and full moon looked down at the mist covering the graves.
Suddenly a hand emerged from one of the graves and stood straight pointing towards the moon.
At the howl of the dog, the skeleton turned in its grave.
Every day, death carried someone in its icy hands to the cemetery.
An eerie silence gripped the graveyard in the night.
The wind ran wild in the graveyard, carrying the stench of death and message of impermanence.
My father’s heart swelled at my podium finish.
My feet tap-danced in joy.
13. Haunted house
The high-mast light dutifully brightened the courtyard every night in an otherwise pitch-dark building.
Often found sitting in the courtyard, the street dog was the sole companion to the haunted house.
As I pushed open the door, it creaked, warning me of dangers awaiting.
The painting on the wall seemed to be telling a blood-stained story.
The man inside the haunted house froze as the spirit touched him with its icy hands.
The bats, hung upside down, seemed to be perfecting their gymnastic moves.
The cobwebs have been busy trapping the unsuspecting insects and flies.
With plenty of trapped insects, spiders have been partying around.
Sighing softly, the house settled for the night.
We bought this particular house because it is friendlier.
I can’t open the door because its hinges are uncooperative.
The house greeted me with a smile when I came back after the vacation.
With paint coming off and cobwebs gaining ground, the house was sad and withdrawn at its poor upkeep.
The house was clearly depressed when I said goodbye to move to a new place.
The house provided warm and cozy atmosphere to its new occupants.
15. Household items
The lock shrieked in pain as I rattled the wrong key in it.
I had become so overweight that even my slippers groaned in pain under my weight.
My alarm clock shouts at me every morning.
The broom swept the house clean.
The peas woke up from their hibernation when they were taken out of the freezer and thawed.
The laptop sprang to life with just a press of button.
The laptop was stressed due to fast-running-out storage space.
After four years of tireless work, my laptop now takes time to wake up and is ready to retire.
My laptop died before I could take backup.
The laptop was sick with viruses and requested the owner to install an anti-virus software.
The laptop was happy to be independent of charging cable for hours together, but the aging battery threatened this independence.
The mountain has been spitting smoke and rocks for the last three days, displacing the entire town.
With plenty of hiking trails and ski slopes, the mountain provided for the people.
The mountain was helpless in stopping the destructive landslides and avalanches. Shouldn’t we take responsibility for them?
Rocky Mountains boasted of their old lineage.
The volcano burped and spewed ash and rocks, signaling that more is to come.
With the night descending, the darkness swallowed the sunlight.
The night lured us to venture out and enjoy the pleasant weather.
The street lights fought hard to dispel the darkness.
After the sun said goodbye, the night gleefully filled the ceded space.
The night wasn’t happy that anti-social elements committed crimes under the cover of darkness.
The rain, in foul mood, submerged large parts of the city, stranding people and damaging public goods.
The first rain of the season released aroma from the soil, inviting me to join the revelry.
The generous rainfall rained aplenty this year to bring cheer to the crops.
The rain cleansed the city of its dust and waste.
The rain nudged creatures such as frogs out of their hibernation, buzzing the nights with a cocktail of sounds.
The tough exam paper first waited expectantly for me to make some headway, and when I didn’t, it challenged me.
As the teacher began the lesson, silence crept into the classroom.
My heart sank as I received my grades.
My watch warned me that I was left with just ten minutes to finish my test.
By 1 AM, even my book was tired, and it asked me to go to bed.
The crime scene spilled the beans about the perpetrator of the crime.
The bell announced the end of our class.
The iceberg demolished Titanic’s boast of infallibility, converting it into a watery grave.
The sea cared for from the tiniest of plankton to the mightiest of blue whales.
As it struggled against the high waves, the ship protested the non-stop voyage.
The cargo ship got stuck in the Suez Canal, refusing to budge an inch.
The ocean swallowed Titanic alive and digested it slowly over decades.
The rocks on the beach enjoyed the sun tan.
The ball, after being hit hard, sailed over the boundary line and landed in the third tier of the stadium.
The football flew over the wall of defenders to hit the left corner of the goal post.
Mac swung the base hard, sending the ball screaming.
The footballers’ shoes, with their long spikes, were stabbing the ground ceaselessly.
The kite danced in the wind, trying its best to break free.
After its string snapped, the kite lurched drunkenly towards the waiting hands of people on the ground.
The trees fought hard to stand their ground in the storm, but only few succeeded.
My umbrella gave in to the winds, losing its shape and failing to protect me from the rain.
The stormy wind entered through the open window and ransacked the house.
The merciless hurricane uprooted trees and pummeled city’s infrastructure.
The hurricane’s fury took even the met department by surprise.
With sun-tanning in the park, cycling, surfing, hiking, and many other outdoor activities open, the summer bought several bounties for people.
After the long winter, the summer blessed us with its warmth.
The unforgiving summer heat sickened thousands of people.
Swimming pools across the city welcomed the summer as they looked forward to few months of prime time.
Soft drink ads bombarded all media in the weeks leading up to summer.
The sun got up early to drive the moon away.
The sun played hide-and-seek with the clouds.
The sun, peeking from behind the mountains, greeted me wholeheartedly as I stepped out of my resort.
The sun finished its day’s work, going under the horizon with a majestic twilight all around.
The animals were ecstatic when the sun finally embraced the arctic after months.
26. Trees and plants
The wilting plant begged for water.
The flower turned its face to the sun.
The flowers dressed in resplendent colors as they wanted to make the most of few months of good weather.
The marigold flowers danced merrily in the gentle breeze.
The banyan tree has stood patiently outside the village for decades, providing shelter to hundreds of birds and shade to passers-by.
With some of its leaves shorn and branches snapped in the storm, the mango tree looked as if it had a haircut.
As spring approached, the trees changed their brown clothes to green.
The generous tree dropped mangoes for the people resting under its shade.
I surfed so smoothly. It seemed as if the waves laid down a path for me to walk.
Waves carried the surfers safely to the beach.
The waves calmed down, making it easy for the vacationers to venture deeper into the sea.
The furious wave lashed out at the boat, tossing it like a toy.
The wind howled at high speed, causing extensive damage to trees and dwellings.
The wind raced through the fields, flattening the crops.
The wind, blowing at high speed, bullied the kids into staying indoors.
The wind whistled through the city, bringing relief from the oppressive heat.
The wind’s soft touch on the warm summer day sent me dozing in no time.
You need more protection. It’s biting cold out there.
Cold stabbed me like a knife.
The chilly wind pierced our bodies like hundred needles.
The snow on the branches whispered to the leaves.
The accumulated ice ran down the sloping roof and fell with a thud on my car.
Winter swept the region, dipping the temperature to below freezing point.
The winter continued its relentless march and soon embraced the entire region.
The cars danced on the sleet-covered road.
The wintry blast sneaked through my clothes and chilled me to the bone.
My coat hugged me tight to protect me from cold.
By November, the winter had gripped the entire region with its icy hands.
Exercises on personification
In each of the following exercises, find out if the sentence uses personification. If yes, then also identify the key words that depict personification. Give the exercises a try before looking at the answers.
1. My first novel was crucified.
2. I met Martha on a blind date.
3. The loose paper broke free into air, enjoying its flight while it lasted.
4. The horse refused mounting of saddle on its back.
5. Long arm of the law finally caught up with the criminal.
1. Yes. Crucified
2. Yes. Blind
3. Yes. Enjoying
4. No. Animals can refuse in their own way. Inanimate objects can’t.
5. Yes. Long arm
1. My faith in my friend evaporated after he failed to help me in time of need.
2. When I reached the office on Monday, the building looked no less dreaded than a haunted fort.
3. Grand Canyon stood emphatically over hundreds of miles.
4. The uncomfortable, pointed questions from journalists hit the CEO like spears.
5. Lions were hoodwinked by a group of people who stole their kill.
1. Yes. Evaporated
2. No. The building isn’t showing any human characteristic. Looked here refers to how I’m seeing the building.
3. Yes. Stood emphatically
4. Yes. Hit
5. No. Lions aren’t showing any human characteristic. Here, people have hoodwinked, not lions.
1. The ground shook.
2. As the weather cleared, the squirrels danced in joy.
3. After disintegrating and digesting the wooden almirah, the termites eyed the chair.
4. The new rocket couldn’t believe its luck on getting a free trip to space.
5. Our soldiers’ blood beckons us to support them in our own little way.
1. No. Ground can shake during an earthquake. It’s not an exclusively human characteristic.
2. Yes. Danced
3. Yes. Eyed. Disintegrating and digesting aren’t personifying here. Termites do disintegrate wood and, like any living creature, they do digest.
4. Yes. Believe its luck
5. Yes. Beckons
1. A team from University of Toronto recently discovered water in a Canadian mine that was waiting to be collected for 1.6 billion years.
2. Jewellery is a girl’s best friend.
3. The carved pumpkin sat on the table, smiling and observing Halloween preparations.
4. Her outfit was bold and daring.
5. The metro door opened in its inimitable style and welcomed the travelers.
1. Yes. Waiting
2. Yes. Friend
3. Yes. Sat, smiling, and observing
4. Yes. Bold and daring
5. Yes. Inimitable style and welcomed