Metaphors, Similes and Idioms

View Worksheet

What do they do?

Metaphors, similes and idioms are all types figurative language used to create imagery. These figures of speech are not taken for their literal meanings; instead, you use them to create more vivid and life-like qualities in your words. All three are used in many forms of writing, but they work extremely well in any type of descriptive writing. Metaphors and similes are used frequently in literature and poetry. All three of these ways to use figurative language make describing or personifying actions, events, feelings, inanimate objects and ideas easier to do in colorful, expressive and descriptive language.


Metaphors link two unrelated things that are not normally linked. This linking does not create an open, or simple, comparison. Instead, it creates a hidden one where you are saying something is equal to something else, even though the two are clearly not the same thing. Consider the following example:

Example: Her presence is the shining rays of the summer sunshine caressing my face.


Like metaphors, similes connect two unrelated things. Unlike metaphors, a simile connection is not the equivalent of an equal sign. Instead, it is meant to highlight a similarity and suggest that one thing is like another. This connect is an open, simple one. Similes are normally identified by the word “like” or “as.” See the below examples:

Example 1: Her father is like a bear with his fierce protectiveness.

Example 2: Life is like a box of chocolates. (So says Forrest Gump.)


Idioms have no defining rules. They are, however, phrases that mean something other than the words that create them. Phrases that are common in everyday language and have figurative meanings that are widely understood are idioms. The literal meanings make no sense. Many idioms are also considered cliches because they are used so frequently. If you are using idioms in a written piece, try to avoid those that are overused unless you feel one is absolutely necessary to the purpose of your words. Consider the following example:

Example: She wants to play it by ear. (The idiom is “play it by ear,” and the figurative meaning is to improvise instead of making set plans.)