Figures of Speech 101: How To Use Metaphors

Updated Nov 23, 2022

Figures of Speech 101: How To Use Metaphors

Metaphors can be helpful in understanding complex situations. They can also be fun to use in everyday language. Moreover, they can help you add depth to your writing!

Whether you want to improve your writing to write effectively or better your English in general, you’ll need to be comfortable with using metaphors. So we’ve written this article to help you understand metaphors and how to use them.

Keep reading for a better understanding of using metaphors!

What Is a Metaphor?

A metaphor is a figure of speech that uses one thing to represent another. You can use metaphors to make a point more clearly, to add emotion to a situation, or to make an idea more relatable.

A metaphor is different from a simile, which uses the words “like” or “as” to compare two things. Metaphors are often used in poetry and literature to create vivid imagery and add depth to the meaning of a text.

An example of a metaphor is "asleep at the wheel." This phrase describes someone who is not paying attention or is not in control. It's a way of saying someone is not doing their job correctly.

Another example of a common metaphor is "the elephant in the room." This phrase describes a situation where something obviously needs to be addressed, but no one wants to talk about it.

Examples of Metaphors

She has a heart of stone.” This means that she is not very kind.

“He is a bear with a sore head.” This means that he is in a bad mood.

“She is a ray of sunshine.” This means that she is very happy and cheerful.

“He is a fish out of water.” This means that he is not comfortable in a new situation.

“She is an angel.” This means that she is very kind and sweet.

“She is the cat’s meow.” This means that she is very fashionable.

“He is a lion among men.” This means that he is very brave.

“He is a bull in a china shop.” This means that he is not very careful.

Types of Metaphors

Here are four types of metaphors:

The standard metaphor: A standard metaphor is a phrase or expression that uses a word or phrase from one context to describe something in another. For example, in the sentence, “The stock market is a roller coaster ride,” the phrase “roller coaster” is used to describe the ups and downs of the market. This is an example of a standard metaphor because it uses a word or phrase from one context (roller coasters) to describe something in another context (the stock market). Standard metaphors are common and can be found in everyday conversation, literature, and other art forms. They are often used to make something more relatable or interesting to the reader or viewer. Standard metaphors are also commonly used in rhetoric and advertising. They can be used to make a point or to persuade people to take some kind of action. For example, an advertisement for an insurance company might use the following metaphor: “Life is full of unexpected twists and turns. You never know when something bad might happen. That’s why it’s important to be prepared.” This metaphor is used to persuade people to purchase insurance from the company. It tries to make the idea of purchasing insurance seem like a “necessary precaution” by comparing it to being prepared for unforeseen events.

An implied metaphor: An implied metaphor is a metaphor that is implied through some aspects of a story. For example, if you were writing a story about a man who was afraid of spiders and you included the line “He shrank back as the hairy creature scuttled towards him,” you would be implying a metaphor about a man who is afraid of change. The hairy creature would represent change, and the man would shrink away from it. Implied metaphors are often more subtle than other forms, but they still serve the same purpose of connecting two seemingly unrelated things. They are a great way to add depth and meaning to your writing.

Visual metaphors: A visual metaphor is a comparison between two visually similar things. For example, in the famous movie "The Matrix,” the concept of "red pill, blue pill" (reality vs. illusion) is a visual metaphor. Another favorite visual metaphor is "a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.” There are many more examples of visual metaphors, such as "apple of my eye,” "elephant in the room,” and "pig in a poke" (you get the point). Visual metaphors are an effective way of expressing ideas and feelings creatively and memorably.

Extended metaphors: An extended metaphor is a literary device in which a comparison is made between two or more things wherein the comparison is drawn out over a longer period. Extended metaphors often take the form of a story and are often used in literature and poetry. They can also be found in speeches, sermons, and other forms of rhetoric. An extended metaphor is different from a simple one, which is a direct comparison between two things made without elaboration. Extended metaphors are often used to help the reader or listener better understand a complex idea or to create a sense of drama or suspense in a story. They can also be used to create a sense of irony or humor. Examples of extended metaphors can be found in the works of Shakespeare, who frequently used this device. One example is in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, in which the character of Mercutio uses an extended metaphor to compare the heat of the summer to the heat of passion. This allows him to create a humorous comparison between the two and a sense of dramatic irony, since Mercutio dies shortly after making this speech despite his apparent immunity to the heat of summer (as he says in the speech).

Why Should You Use Metaphors?

Using metaphors in your writing can help you explain complex ideas in a clear and relatable way. In addition, they allow you to get creative and add a new layer of meaning to your work.

Using metaphors can help you stand out from the crowd and capture your readers’ attention. If you’re looking for a way to spice up your writing and add depth, metaphors are great in your toolbox!

How To Write a Good Metaphor

There are many ways to write a good metaphor, but one way is to use an everyday object familiar to the reader. For example, you could compare a person’s personality to a box of chocolates because you never know what you’ll get.

The key to writing a good metaphor is to ensure that both concepts are clearly defined. This will help the reader understand what you are trying to say. It is also essential to use language that is easy to understand so that everyone can follow your point.

How Often Should You Use Metaphors in Writing?

Metaphors can strengthen your writing if used sparingly and are relevant and appropriate to the topic.

You don’t want to overdo it or use metaphors that don’t fit your writing or the topic at hand. Metaphors are great literary devices, but they’re best used when they’re not overused or overdone.

If you’re using many metaphors, consider cutting some of them out to strengthen your point. If your metaphors aren’t relevant to the topic, consider using another word or just keeping it straightforward.

What Is a Mixed Metaphor?

A mixed metaphor is when a person tries to describe something by combining two metaphors that don’t go together.

For example, “the business was a ship of fools, run by a captain who didn’t know how to steer.”

Using mixed metaphors is a prevalent mistake among English learners. The key to avoiding this mistake is remembering that each metaphor is a stand-alone idea. So if you’re trying to describe something, pick just one metaphor.

If you struggle to come up with one, try to think of a simpler way to describe it. Mixed metaphors are a common mistake, but they’re also easy to avoid!

The Conclusion on Using Metaphors

Metaphors are helpful in explaining something the audience may not understand otherwise. But don't overuse metaphors. Otherwise, they'll lose the meaning of the metaphor and its purpose. On the other hand, if used correctly, metaphors can be a great way to engage your audience and make your message stick. We hope you’ve enjoyed our introduction to using metaphors! Feel free to share this article with a fellow English student!

Works Cited:

How to improve your writing. Rephrasely. (n.d.). Retrieved November 23, 2022, from

20 important questions to consider when writing an essay. Rephrasely. (n.d.). Retrieved November 23, 2022, from

Merriam-Webster. (n.d.). Metaphor definition & meaning. Merriam-Webster. Retrieved November 23, 2022, from

YouTube. (2016, September 19). Types of metaphors. YouTube. Retrieved November 23, 2022, from

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