Figures of Speech

Figurative Language:

One meaning of “figure” is “drawing” or “image” or “picture”. Figurative language creates figures (pictures) in the mind of the reader or listener. These pictures help convey the meaning faster and more vividly than words alone.

Figurative language is the opposite of literal language. Literal language means exactly what it says. Figurative language means something different to (and usually more than) what it says on the surface:

·         He ran fast. (literal)

·         He ran like the wind. (figurative)

In the above example “like the wind” is a figure of speech (in this case, a simile). It is important to recognize the difference between literal and figurative language. There are many figures of speech that are commonly used and which you can learn by heart. At other times, writes and speakers may invent their own figures of speech. If you do not recognize them as figures of speech and think that they are literal, you will find it difficult to understand the language.

In general, there are four types of figure of speech:

        I.            Simile

A simile is a figure of speech that says that one thing is like another different thing. We can use similes to make descriptions more emphatic or vivid.

We often use the words as…as and like with similes.

Common patterns for similes, with example sentences, are:

·         Something [is*] AS adjective AS something

His skin was as cold as ice.

She looked as gentle as a lamb.

·         Something [is*] LIKE something

These cookies taste like garbage.

He has a temper like a volcano.

·         Something [does*] LIKE something

He eats like a pig.

He smokes like a chimney.

They fought like cats and dogs.

      II.            Metaphor

A metaphor is a figure of speech that sys that one thing is another different thing. This allows us to use fewer words and forces that reader or listener to find the similarities.

The simplest form of metaphor is: “The [first thing] is a [second thing].”

Examples of metaphor are:

·         Her home was a prison.

·         George is a sheep.

·         John is a real pig when he eats.

·         America is a melting pot.

·         The policeman let him off with a yellow card.

    III.            Hyperbole

A hyperbole is a figure of speech that uses an exaggerated or extravagant statement to create a strong emotional response. As a figure of speech it is not intended to be taken literally. Hyperbole is frequently used for humor.

Examples of hyperbole are:

·         He’s got tons of money.

·         Her brain is the size of a pea.

·         I will die if she asks me to dance.

·         I’m so hungry I could eat a horse.

·         Have told you a million times not to lie!

    IV.            Oxymoron

An oxymoron is a figure of speech that deliberately used two contradictory ideas. This contradiction creates a paradoxical image in the reader or listener’s mind that generates a new concept or meaning for the whole.

Some typical oxymorons are:

·         A deafening silence

·         Bitter-sweet

·         Open secret

·         Irregular pattern