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.
This guide is part of our free online Grammar Book.
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.
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.
What's the difference between similes and metaphors? At first glance, they appear to be very similar. And they are!
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.
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
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:
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