How to Write Metaphors and Similes

He is a busy bee. (metaphor)

He is as busy as a bee. (simile)

Learn how to write metaphors and similes, it will help you become fluent in English. Our last lesson focused on similes so today we will study metaphors.

In this lesson, we will identify metaphors and study some examples. You’ll learn the difference between a simile and a metaphor. I also want to warn you about the dangers of using clichés. Finally, I’ll teach you how to write your own metaphor or recycle a dead one.

A metaphor states that something IS something else.

Metaphors compare two things to entertain or explain. They allow you to
give sensational meaning to ordinary things. Metaphors can make complex ideas appear very simple.

Examples of Metaphor

“Time is money,” don’t waste your time, it’s valuable.

“Teacher is a busy bee,” the teacher is hard working.

“Books are keys to your imagination,” reading books improve (unlock) your creativity.

“My big brother is a couch potato,” he’s not very active, he sits on his sofa all day.

“He’s a walking, talking dictionary,” he has a large vocabulary and knows the meaning of many words.

“The classroom was a zoo,” students were acting like animals.

“It’s music to my ears,” a friend’s voice brings comfort or joy.

Metaphors paint pictures in your reader’s mind so that your message is easy to understand and remember. Metaphors work best when you keep them simple and on topic.

Boost dull blogs with lively metaphors.

Turn a Simile into a Metaphor.

Example: He’s as brave as a lion. (simile)

He’s a brave lion. (metaphor)

Have a look at some other similes. Remove the “as” or “like”, rearrange the words and turn them into stylish metaphors.

Write your own Metaphors.

Just like writing similes, you can use this simple recipe to cook up delicious metaphors.

Picture the object or visualize it in your mind.
What does it look, feel, smell, taste or sound like?
How would you or a stranger react to it?
What does it make you think of?
Write down all your ideas – play around with the words until you find that “YES!” moment.

Beware of Cichés

Clichés are metaphors (similes or other forms of creative writing) that have lost their impact, either through over use of by becoming irrelevant to the times.

“He is a loose cannon,” someone who acts uncontrollably – likely to cause problems for others.

This is a dead metaphor because the days of fighting wars with cannons are long gone. He’s a loose cluster bomb, hmmm, bombs just aren’t politically correct or sensitive these days.

Let’s be Clever and Recycle it into a Modern Metaphor.

loose cannonuncontrollable, cause problems, trouble, mischief maker, punk, Sid Vicious, computer virus,

He’s a vicious virus. (YES!)

Does that make you think of someone who’s uncontrollable and dangerous?

Maybe, “vicious virus,” is easier to understand than “loose cannon.” What do you think?

Consider metaphors as never finished but evolving within time and place.

Keep playing with the words.

Look back in your diary. Can you see a great place for a metaphor? Look at the metaphor list. Follow the instructions above. Try changing the words.

Compose a funky metaphor to animate your diary page.

Don’t think there is a right or wrong way to do things.

Experimentation welcomes explosive results.

Feel free to share your new unique metaphors in the comments section.

Did you make a Fluent English New Year’s Resolution? Let’s do some planning now.

Similes & Metaphors – Best Practice

Many students ask for simile or metaphor examples when they want to become fluent in English. They want to sound like a native English speaker so I wrote this free lesson on similes. We will study metaphors in the next lesson.

This lesson identifies similes, gives some examples of “as” and “like” similes and then encourages you to write your own. A list of new similes as modern as the metric system will appear in the comments section after this lesson.

Similes (like metaphors) create imagery. Both can be used to paint a picture in your reader’s mind. The easy way to identify a simile is to look for the word “as” or “like.”

Similes use AS or LIKE

Many of the simplest similes describe people through the actions of animals.

“Sam is as brave as a lion,” the person is courageous.

“He is busy as a bee,” the person is hard working.

“Grandpa is blind as a bat,” because bats use echolocation rather than sight.

“She was as nervous as my guinea pig,” the person is timid.

“My dog is crazy like a fox,” the dog is uncontrollable or pounces on things instinctively.

“Like having someone else’s shadow,” describes being followed around very closely.

Similes can Describe Objects

“My love is like a red, red rose,” Robert Burns compares his love to a beautiful red flower.

“The truth was like a bad taste on his tongue,” describes not liking or not being able to speak the facts.

“Like putting toothpaste back in the tube,” describes a difficult task that would be slow and tedious.

“Like exchanging stares with a statue,” describes an unmoving face that has no emotion, it never blinks.

“Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re going to get.” Forest Gump compares the uncertainty of life to the guesswork of choosing a chocolate from a box.

“They melted away like snow from a fire,” describes peoples’ movement away from something or someone. This simile is extremely effective because snow does melt next to a fire and the movement would be gradual and fluid. Smooth flowing writing is your aim.

Simile Definition

Now you have seen some examples, here is the definition. A simile is a figure of speech involving the comparison of one thing with another thing of a different kind, used to make a description more emphatic or vivid. Similes use “like” or “as.”

You can find a large list of similes here.

Easy Simile Practice

Start using similes by comparing people to the characteristics of animals. Start by thinking about interesting or distinctive people in your real life. Now think of an adjective to describe them. Next find an animal that the adjective also describes.

Example: Richard, brave, lion.
Richard is as brave as a lion.

How many people can you compare to animals? Try to be nice! Write down the polite ones. “Hey Henry! You look as happy as a hyena,” could be a very bad way to start your day if Henry were your boss!

Serious Simile Practice

Think of an action or emotion that you normally associate with a person. Next find phrases that could describe it, choose the best.

Example: Judy, eyes, blue, sky, shine, sparkle, stars
Your eyes sparkle like stars in the sky.

Unique Simile Practice

You need to know similes and understand their meanings but be careful you don’t use them too much. The best similes are the new ones that modern people are creating every day.

Look back in your diary and try to find situations where you could add a simile to your sentence.

Find a picture of the object or visualize it in your mind.
How does it look, feel, smell, taste or sound like?
What reaction would you or a stranger give it?
What does this object make you think of?
Write down all your ideas – the worst one could easily be developed into a fantastic new simile after you sleep on it.

Look at your list in the morning and play with the words some more. Eventually you will crack the code of simile writing like a thief at a poets’ gala dinner.

Please feel free to show off your similes in the comments section.

Overcome Shyness in Business English

Many people have suffered from shyness at one time or another. Shyness is quite normal for those studying to become fluent in English. One of the most important things to remember is that shyness happens when we are aware of our own discomfort. Knowing your faults is a strength (not a weakness). Shyness can be defeated when we accept ourselves for who we are. Learning how to improve yourself will teach you how to overcome shyness in business English situations. This lesson focuses on opening lines, statements and questions that will help you get business conversations flowing.

Practice and Map for Confidence

In business we often meet strangers but it is interesting to know that successful business people talk in five key stages. If you practice these stages, you will build a library of conversation topics that will in turn increase your confidence. The five key stages that you will need to practice are; 1) opening lines; 2) introductions; 3) trying out topics; 4) exploring common ground; 5) closure, including the exchange of contact information. Once you can remember these stages, you will understand where you are in the conversation and what you need to do next.

Smile, be Friendly and be Natural

The golden rule is to be friendly with your opening line or introduction. Smile like you already know the person, be professional but don’t be too formal. A natural delivery to your opening line will put the other person at ease. It’s also fine to sometimes skip the opening line and jump straight in with a fantastic bit of business news!

Whatever you do, have a backup plan just in case your opening line flops. The classic example is when you ask someone, “Hello, my name is Steve. How are you?” and they reply, “Fine”. You need to be prepared to ask a follow up question, ask about another topic or make a new statement. In all cases, practice will build your library of conversations and give you a better chance to recover your business meeting.

Some good opening lines are.

“Hi, I’m Steve from English Teacher Online.” (offer to shake hands)

“Hello, I’m Steve. What’s your name?” (wait to see what they do)

Or if you want to jump straight in.

“I was really impressed by the speech you gave at [an event] last year.”

“I just tried [a starter] from the buffet table and I’m going to get another. Care to join me?”

Your list of backup questions and answers should expand as you practice to include things that will help you in various situations.

“How long have you been a member of [this organization]?”

“How long have you been working here?”

“What company are you from?”

Have some comments for the situations that apply to your business.

“This building is so modern and clean.”

“Amazing, there are so many customers here today.”

“This event is always popular, last year I ……………”

Have some questions for the situations that apply to you.

“Could you tell me where Teacher Steve’s office is please?”

“I missed the introduction. Did they hand out the agenda yet?”

“Do you know when we need to be back from the break?”

Ask questions about the other person.

“What do you do in the company?”

“Do you have any children?”

“What do you usually do [for fun] on the weekend?”

Make a positive statement about the other person.

“You look like you’re in a good mood today.”

“I like your tie. Where did you get it?”

Make a statement about yourself.

“I’m so happy right now. I’ve hit my sales target 12 months running.”

“So I just found out my boss wants me to work [on Saturday afternoon].”

“A friend of mine is still trying to decide whether to go on holiday [to Asia].”

If you know the person, ask for an update about what they’ve been doing.

“So how was your weekend [at the lake]?”

“How’s your son doing? Did he pass his test yet?”

“What have you been up to recently? Have you finished decorating [your kitchen]?”

Ask the other person to do something for you.

“Do you want to swap emails so we can finish this later?”

“Would you mind passing the salt and pepper please?”

“Could you save my chair for me? I’ll be back in one minute.”

Ask someone if they want to do an activity together.

“Do you want to be in my group?”

“Do you want to go check out the other exhibition room?”

“My golf club is membership by invite only. Would you like me to invite you?”

Practice For Personal Success

Practice giving your own personal answers to some of these questions. Write a few of your answers down in a journal. Pick one of your favourite questions and try to write a script, how do you think the conversation should go? Write one script where everything goes to plan. Write another script where everything goes wrong! When the conversation dies, add a new question or statement. How long can you keep your conversations going? Finally, practice your conversations with a study partner or teacher.

This is how you build a good foundation in your conversation library and start to overcome shyness in business English situations.

If like this lesson and want to expand your library of topics, please check out our IELTS speaking topics page.

Fluent English New Year Resolution

To become fluent in English is a great New Year’s resolution. If you made it your resolution this year then English Teacher Online wants to help you keep it. I hear that many people give up their New Year’s resolution before the end of January so I thought to myself, “How can I help my students keep going all year long?”

New Year Action Plan!

First, you have to remember why you want to become fluent in English. Do you need it for travel, business, to pass an exam or just so you can speak to a foreigner in your street? Maybe you are doing a number of different activities that require fluent English this year. Whatever the reasons, you need an ACTION PLAN and all good action plans need short, medium and long term goals so let’s start there!


Long Term Goal?

Your long term goal may be to become totally fluent in all forms of English but that’s a bit vague for this year’s resolution. Perhaps you just want to be fluent in conversational English or business English. Do you have a specific goal like wanting to pass an English exam or going on a trip to an English speaking country? Maybe you have suddenly realized that you need to refresh your English skills for a completely different reason. Whatever your long term goal is you should write it down at the top of your New Year’s Resolution Action Plan.


Medium Term Goals?

Next, try to make some smaller goals that you will be able to check off your list as you reach them throughout the year. This will help to give you a sense of achievement and stop you from feeling disheartened. Start with your plan for January and February. Make goals through to May and June. Also have goals for November and December. These will be your medium term goals and should be achievable over the next six months to a year. Medium term goals could include things like; be fluent in airport conversation English; write responses to customer questions in business English; or read the first 1,000 English sight words efficiently.


Short Term Goals?

Within your medium term plan you will also want weekly goals that you can check off when complete. These could include; asking for directions to the transfer lounge at the airport; writing polite English responses or writing in the present continuous tense. They could be simply checking off a number of sight words each week. These short term goals will help to keep you motivated because you can check them off on a regular basis and track your own improvement. Remember that you can become fluent in English if you are willing to put in the time.


Make Time!

Make a schedule and stick to it! It’s pretty obvious that the more you study and practice English the quicker you will become fluent in it. Be realistic and don’t over work yourself! If you can schedule 30 minutes a day for reading, writing, listening or speaking English then this can make a huge difference to your progress. As I wrote in Become Fluent English Speaking, keep learning according to your own interests. Maximize your time when studying for goals.

Short term goals are essential if you want to keep your New Year’s resolution going into February and beyond. Learning just two new vocabulary words a day (that’s 14 new words a week) is an excellent way to keep yourself on track and fully motivated.

Reading an English newspaper, book or internet article according to your own interests is also something you should be able to do for 10-15 minutes a day. Writing a short diary entry before you go to bed will help to keep you balanced between input and output skills.

Listen to the radio or watch English television programs. Copy the phrases that you think will be useful in your life. Whatever you do, try to do a little every day.

If you need me to write you a lesson, just email because if you need it, I promise you that others will use it too. I am always happy to write lessons for all my students.

Stick to Your Plan and Keep in Touch.

Subscribe to our newsletter and receive regular weekly updates to help you stay on track. Come back and visit English Teacher Online throughout the year to get even more ideas. Make a list of your long, medium and short term goals. Leave a brief summary of them in English in the comment section below.

Thanks, good luck and Happy New Year!