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What is a Metaphor?
A metaphor is a figure of speech that is used to create links or draw comparisons to imply one thing is similar to another. A metaphor describes things in a way that is not literally true. For example, “she has a heart of gold” means she is very kind and she does not literally have a heart made of gold!
Metaphors are different to similes because they do not use “like” or “as” to create comparisons. Simile examples: She is as brave as a lion; they fight like cats and dogs!
Metaphor examples: She is lionhearted; they fought to the bitter end.
Metaphors are more poetic and the comparison is symbolic rather than literal – a literal translation would sound unnatural or even silly! For example, he is the black sheep of the family does not mean that he is a black sheep in a family of humans! It means he is the odd one out or doesn’t fit in with the looks or characteristics of the family!
Metaphors are wonderful devices for adding color and description to what you’re saying as it engages the imagination. Rather than just saying “that test was difficult”, saying “that test was murder!” gives a clearer impression of how difficult it was, and everyone is still alive!
Take a look at more examples of metaphors in the speech bubble:
Franklin has a heart of gold!
Mary’s voice is music to my ears
He’s a walking encyclopedia
You are my sunshine
The world’s a stage
Did you recognize any of those metaphors? Have you heard people say them before, read them in a book or used them yourself? When people use metaphors, they are describing the situation as something else, usually for emphasis. They don’t literally mean what they are saying.
Franklin has a heart of gold! Franklin doesn’t actually have a heart made of gold, how would it pump blood? This metaphor is used to emphasize how kind and loving Franklin is – his nature is a precious treasure, like gold.
Mary’s voice is music to my ears. Music doesn’t really come out of Mary’s mouth when she talks! This metaphor emphasizes the pleasant sound of Mary’s voice and listening to her speak is as nice as listening to music.
He’s a walking encyclopedia. There’s no such thing as a book with legs that can walk around! This metaphor suggests that the boy is so smart and knows about a lot of things, just like an encyclopedia.
You are my sunshine: People are not gigantic stars that are scorching hot and millions of miles away. This metaphor describes how the person’s character is warm, happy and bright – just like the sun!
The world’s a stage. This metaphor is used to say that because so many different things happen in people’s lives, it’s like a theatre stage where drama, tragedy, romance, horror, and comedy plays out.
The great thing about metaphors is that their possibilities are endless! You can describe absolutely anything using a metaphor – including objects, people, places, animals and things. Animals are commonly used for metaphors because we associate certain characteristics with animals. For example: Lion – brave; snake – traitor; chicken – coward; bee – busy; ant – hard-working; owl – wise.
Metaphors and Similes
Metaphors are often confused with similes. The comparison itself can’t use words such as ‘’like’’ or ‘’as’’ as it would rather refer to simile then.
While a simile tends to say that something is like or as something else, a metaphor creates a direct comparison.
Simile: She is like a mother bear when she wants to protect her children.
Metaphor: Her mother bear instincts are strong.
Simile: John was as cool as ice while he was getting on the stage.
Metaphor: John’s nerves were calmer than the morning sea before stepping on stage.
The use of Metaphors
Metaphors are used in poetry and literature. For example:
‘’…Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day…”
(from Sonnet 18 by William Shakespeare)
‘’…Dementors are among the foulest creatures that walk this earth. They infest the darkest, filthiest places, they glory in decay and despair, they drain peace, hope, and happiness out of the air around them…”
(From Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J. K. Rowling)
But they are also often used in everyday language
It’s raining cats and dogs.
(common phrase meaning it’s raining heavily).
The Purpose of Using Metaphors
The purpose of using metaphors is to make common and boring language somewhat more appealing to the reader or listener. They tend to describe words or expressions more vividly so that reader or listeners can imagine the scenario more intensely.
If we were to say “she has green eyes,” it’s not very descriptive as there are many shades of green. However, if we were to say “Her emerald green eyes,” or “She looked at him with the eyes of a deep forest,” that would be much more descriptive and exciting to imagine!
Most Common Types of Metaphors
Metaphors can be freely used to create any kind of symbolism. There are also several types that are common, like in literature, where we can distinguish between implied, sustained, cartographic, or dead metaphors, for example.
An implied metaphor is simply a statement that word or phrase A IS word or phrase B, like in:
John is a fish when he is in the water = He swims very fast
A sustained metaphor is one that carries a theme over several sentences or even paragraphs. It’s a powerful tool that is often used in literature. William Shakespeare is the best example for metaphors, as he used them freely and excessively in all his works. He was a master of sustained metaphors:
“All the world’s a stage, And all the men and women merely players; They have their exits and their entrances, And one man in his time plays many parts, His acts being seven ages.”
Dead metaphors refer to those that are so commonly used that we don’t even imagine the image they’re suggesting, we just know what they represent.
It’s raining cats and dogs.
(We immediately picture heavy rain, without actually picturing cats and dogs falling out the sky!)
Now that you know what a metaphor is, you can try to identify and create metaphors on your own.
This bundle contains 9 ready-to-use metaphor worksheets that are perfect to test student knowledge and understanding of what a metaphor is and how it can be used. You can use these metaphor worksheets in the classroom with students, or with home schooled children as well.
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Link will appear as Metaphor Examples and Worksheets: https://kidskonnect.com - KidsKonnect, February 18, 2016
Use With Any Curriculum
These worksheets have been specifically designed for use with any international curriculum. You can use these worksheets as-is, or edit them using Google Slides to make them more specific to your own student ability levels and curriculum standards.