Similes: What Are Similes? Exploring their Role in English Language (Examples)

By Carly Forsaith, updated on June 28, 2023

If you want to know more about similes, this article is for you. You'll learn everything you need to know about them and how to use them in your writing.

In short:

  • Similes are literary devices used to describe something by comparison with words such as 'like' and 'as.' 

This guide is part of our free online Grammar Book.

What Are Similes?

You can use similes in your writing when describing something by comparing it to another. So they're a bit like a metaphor in that sense, although later, we'll learn how they differ from metaphors.

Here's an example of a simile:

When I received the news, it hit me like a ton of bricks.

  • As you can see, these comparisons can't be taken literally.
  • Of course, you don't actually get hit by a ton of bricks; it just feels like it when you receive the news.
  • This implies the news was shocking or very surprising.

Since similes use figurative language instead of being literal, they are a lot more fun than straightforward descriptions.

Think about it—rather, you could just say:

When I recevied the news, I was surprised.

But where's the fun in that? That's why similes are a great literary device for adding some color to your writing and engaging your readers by invoking powerful images in their minds.

  • Having said that, make sure your reader will get the reference.
  • If you use a too obscure comparison, they might not know what you mean and just be left confused.

Similes vs Metaphors

What's the difference between similes and metaphors? At first glance, they appear to be very similar. And they are!

  • In fact, similes are a type of metaphor.

But while similes make comparisons to describe something, metaphors outright state that something is another thing. Plus, the former is a bit more obvious and to the point.

As Donald Davidson, philosopher of language, says:

"[A] simile tells us, in part, what a metaphor merely nudges us into thinking."

A defining characteristic of similes is that they use words such as 'like,' 'as,' and 'than,' which makes sense as these are the words you'll use when making comparisons. You can also find the words 'compare' and 'resemble,' albeit less often.

Here's an example of a simile and a metaphor to say the same thing—run fast:

He runs like the wind. (simile)

He could outrun a cheetah. (metaphor)

See how the metaphor directly states that something is something, while the simile says that something is like something.

Simile Examples

Now that we've covered the meaning and purpose of similes let's take a look at some examples of some in a sentence:

My kids do not get on, they fight like cats and dogs.

I love this dress! It fits like a glove.

She's as happy as a clam that you're here.

The baby's asleep, as snug as a bug in a rug.

You'd better wrap up, it's colder than a dog's nose out there.

When he saw me standing there he was more confused than a chameleon in a bag of Skittles.

And, just for fun, here are some examples found in popular culture:

"It's been a hard days night/ And I've been working like a dog"—A Hard Day's Night, The Beatles

"You're as cold as ice."—Cold As Ice, Foreigner

“I compare you to a kiss from a rose on the grave”—Kiss From a Rose, Seal

“Life is like a box of chocolate”—Forrest Gump

Concluding Thoughts

That concludes this article on the use of similes, what they are, and how to apply them in your writing.

Let's summarize what we've learned:

  • Similes are literary devices used to describe.
  • They describe using metaphors and adding color to your writing.
  • They are a type of metaphor.
  • A particular characteristic is that they often contain the words 'like,' 'as' and 'than.'

If you enjoyed this article, check out our Grammar Book. It's a free online database full of grammar articles just like this one. I'm sure you'll love it!

We encourage you to share this article on Twitter and Facebook. Just click those two links - you'll see why.

It's important to share the news to spread the truth. Most people won't.

Written By:
Carly Forsaith
Carly Forsaith is one of the lead freelance writers for Carly is a copywriter who has been writing about the English language for over 3 years. Before that, she was a teacher in Thailand, helping people learn English as a second language. She is a total grammar nerd and spends her time spotting language errors on signs and on the internet.

Add new comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked * Newsletter
Receive information on
new articles posted, important topics, and tips.
Join Now
We won't send you spam. Unsubscribe at any time.