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Simile and Metaphor: How to Set Them Apart?

Simile and metaphor are two of the most common literary devices that allow you to compare different things, concepts, ideas, and experiences. Both can help you add interest, exaggerate, or emphasize.

Milena Lazova
Milena Lazova

Simile and metaphor are two of the most common literary devices that allow you to compare different things, concepts, ideas, and experiences. Both can help you add interest, exaggerate, or emphasize.

Even though they are two different comparison methods, people often confuse them since similes are considered a type of metaphor. So, how can you set them apart and solve the metaphor vs. simile confusion once and for all?

Simile and Metaphor

Although simile vs. metaphor is a common confusion, making a difference between them is quite simple. All you need to know is their meaning, usage, and form.

Simile: Meaning, Usage, and Examples

A simile is a method of comparison that uses the words “like” and “as.” These two words are clear signs that someone is comparing two things or concepts.

Your eyes are shining like the moon.
He was as cool as a cucumber.

As you can see from the two examples, we compare two different things that have something in common using the words “like” and “as.” Since both “her eyes” and “the moon” shine and both “he” and “cucumber” are cool, we’re vividly describing how much her eyes shine and how calm he is.

Metaphor: Meaning, Usage, and Examples

Metaphor is another way to compare or connect different ideas or things. Unlike similes, metaphors don’t use the comparative prepositions “like” or “as.” Instead, they often use “being verbs” like “became,” “is,” or “are,” or no comparison words at all.

Your heart is pure gold.
Her home became her prison.

We use metaphor in the two examples to compare or create associations between two unrelated things. By comparing “your heart” with “pure gold,” we’re actually describing someone truly good and kind. In the second example, we use metaphor and the comparison word “became” to indicate that someone feels imprisoned in her own home.

What Is the Difference Between Similes and Metaphors?

The main difference between simile and metaphor is that you’re comparing things saying that something or someone is like or as something or someone else with a simile. With metaphor, on the other hand, you’re comparing things saying that something or someone is something or someone else.

For that reason, metaphors are often used to make stronger or more forceful descriptions and create a more powerful effect than similes. On the other hand, similes are more commonly used for making clear comparisons.

Still, both literary devices can be used in various contexts and situations.

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Milena Lazova

I'm an ESL teacher with over 7 years of experience in providing original content. I really like writing educational articles which may help others learn some aspects of English.


Milena Lazova

I'm an ESL teacher with over 7 years of experience in providing original content. I really like writing educational articles which may help others learn some aspects of English.

Valentina Dordevic

Hello! My name is Valentina. Book digesting is my specialty. I transform book ideas into easy-to-follow summaries, articles, study guides, reviews, essays, analyses, slides, or e-books.

Beth Taylor

Hello! My name is Beth. I'm from France. I'm a French and English native speaker and I really like writing.