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Figurative Language in English Grammar

Comprehensive Definition, Description, Examples & Rules 

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How often have we tried reading a poem before exams and realised we could not understand it? Or has your language teacher ever remarked that your writing requires more depth? A reason why we struggle with English is that we are unable to scale the figurative language used in the text.

For English language learners grasping the answer to what is figurative language is essential. And that is where English language trainers of Edulyte step in. They have created the ultimate guide for figurative language meaning and figurative language examples. Benefit from their expertise to brush up on your English skills.

Introduction to Figurative Language: unveil its importance and impact on transforming your writing

Figurative language uses words or phrases beyond their literal definitions, often employing literary devices such as metaphors, similes, personification, hyperbole, and symbolism. So it offers a way to convey complex ideas, emotions, and sensory experiences more engagingly and memorably. The study of these language features meanings is helpful for every language student.

Deciphering the figurative language definitions allow for a profound connection between the speaker and their audience, the writer and their readers, enabling a more effective and memorable communication experience.

Difference between Figurative Language and Literal Language

Literal language is the straightforward use of words to convey their exact meaning. It employs no imaginative or metaphorical language. Literal language is practical and commonly used in everyday conversations, instructions, and formal presentations where precision and clarity are paramount.

In contrast, the figurative language definition states that it employs creative and imaginative expressions to convey ideas and emotions. Figurative language often requires the audience or reader to interpret and grasp the underlying meaning, allowing for a deeper understanding and engagement with the text.

Is figurative language for kids too? Of course, figurative language examples, if taught at an early stage, can accelerate language learning among children. 

Impact and Effectiveness of Figurative Language in Writing and Speech

Figurative language has a profound impact on various forms of writing and speech. It enhances the overall quality of literature, poetry, storytelling, speeches, advertisements, and other forms of creative expression. 

A few ways in which figurative language influences communication:

  1. Vivid Imagery: Figurative language paints vivid mental images, making descriptions more memorable and engaging. 

  2. Emotional Appeal: Using figurative language, writers and speakers can tap into the readers’ or listeners’ emotions more effectively. 

  3. Memorable Expression: Figurative language makes messages stick in the minds of the audience or readers. It adds a layer of uniqueness and creativity, leaving a lasting impression.

  4. Engaging and Captivating: Figurative language captures the audience’s attention by introducing surprise, playfulness, and novelty elements. 

  5. Symbolism and Depth: Figurative language allows symbols and metaphors to represent deeper meanings and themes. 

Understanding Figurative Language: elevate your language game by grasping its purpose

What is Figurative Language?

Figurative language meaning encompasses the use of words or expressions that go beyond their literal meanings, relying on imaginative and creative language to convey more profound and more nuanced ideas, emotions, and experiences. 

The Purpose of Figurative Language in Adding Depth, Imagery, and Emotion to Language

Figurative language serves multiple purposes in language and communication. Its primary aim is to add depth, imagery, and emotion to the text, enhancing the overall impact and effectiveness of the message. You can find several critical purposes of the figurative language below:

  1. Conveying Abstract Ideas: Figurative language enables the communication of abstract or complex concepts that may be challenging to express through literal language. Metaphors and analogies, for example, can provide a tangible representation of abstract ideas, making them more relatable to the audience.

  2. Creating Vivid Imagery: Figurative language allows writers and speakers to paint vivid mental images in the minds of the audience or readers.

  3. Evoking Emotions: Figurative language can evoke emotions and create a substantial emotional impact. Through devices like personification, writers and speakers can tap into the readers’ or listeners’ feelings, making the message more resonant and memorable.

  4. Adding Expressiveness and Creativity: Figurative language brings expressiveness and creativity to language by breaking away from the constraints of literal meaning.

  5. Enhancing Persuasiveness: Figurative language is frequently employed in persuasive writing and speeches. Appealing to the audience’s emotions and using vivid imagery can make arguments more compelling and memorable.

  6. Facilitating Interpretation and Analysis: Figurative language invites readers and listeners to engage with the text more profoundly, promoting critical thinking, interpretation, and analysis.

Language Features: Meaning and Examples

In the realm of language and communication, language features examples refer to the specific tools, techniques, and elements writers and speakers employ to enhance the effectiveness and impact of their message. For example, the figurative language list includes the figurative language examples given below. 

  1. Metaphor
  2. Simile
  3. Personification
  4. Hyperbole
  5. Alliteration
  6. Onomatopoeia
  7. Imagery
  8. Symbolism
  9. Irony
  10. Repetition

Types of figurative language: foolproof explanations with simple examples

Within figurative language are various types, each with distinct characteristics and effects. Each type is covered with examples and detailed explanations to make you a pro in recognising and using them. 

Simile: the game-changing technique you have been missing out on 

A simile compares two things, using “like” or “as” to establish the connection. Writers and speakers can use a simile to make their descriptions more relatable, engaging, and memorable.

Examples of Simile:

  1. “He ran as fast as a cheetah.” In this example, the simile compares the person’s speed to a cheetah’s.

  2. “Her voice was as sweet as honey.” This simile compares the sweetness of the person’s voice to the sweetness of honey, conveying the pleasing quality of the voice.

  3. “The moon hung in the sky like a silver lantern.” This simile compares the moon’s appearance to a silver lantern, conjuring an image of brightness and beauty.

Metaphor: say goodbye to boring writing with the power of metaphor

A metaphor is an influential figure of speech that compares two unrelated things, highlighting their similarities or shared characteristics. It differs from a simile using “like” or “as”. 

Examples of Metaphor:

  1. “Time is a thief.” In this metaphor, time is compared to a thief, implying that time can steal moments, opportunities, or even youth and emphasising the fleeting nature of time.

  2. “Her heart is a fragile bird.” This metaphor compares the fragility of a bird to the delicate nature of the person’s heart.

  3. “The world is a stage.” This metaphor, famously coined by William Shakespeare, equates the world to a stage, implying that life is like a performance, with people playing various roles and acting out their lives.

Personification: use its power to better your expressions

Human qualities are attributed to inanimate objects, animals, or abstract concepts through personification. By personifying these non-human entities, writers and speakers make them relatable and animate. 

Examples of Personification:

  1. “The wind whispered through the trees.” In this example, the wind is given the human quality of whispering, creating an image in the readers’ minds.

  2. “The sun smiled down on the beach.” Here, the sun is personified as smiling, conveying a sense of warmth and happiness

  3. “The flowers danced in the breeze.” This personification attributes the human action of dancing to the flowers, creating an image of their movement.

Hyperbole: supercharge your communication with exaggerated brilliance

Hyperbole is a figure of speech characterised by exaggeration or claims not meant to be taken literally. By intentionally exaggerating something, writers and speakers can evoke strong emotions, create humour, or emphasise the magnitude of a situation.

Examples of Hyperbole:

  1. “I’m so hungry I could eat an elephant!” This hyperbolic statement exaggerates the hunger level to emphasise its intensity and suggest that the person is extremely hungry.

  2. “This bag weighs a ton!” In this example, the bag’s weight is exaggerated to emphasise its heaviness.

  3. “I’ve told you a million times!” This hyperbole exaggerates the number of times something has been said to emphasise the speaker’s frustration.

Symbolism: infuse more depth into your writing with its power

Symbolism uses symbols, objects, characters, or events to represent deeper meanings or concepts. Symbolism adds layers of interpretation and depth to the writing. 

Examples of Symbolism:

  1. The colour red symbolises passion or love. Red is frequently used to symbolise solid emotions and can represent danger or warning in specific contexts.

  2. The phoenix is a symbol of rebirth or regeneration. The mythical bird is often used as a symbol to represent the idea of renewal or rebirth.

  3. The raven symbolises death or grief. In Edgar Allan Poe’s famous poem, “The Raven,” the raven symbolises death and mourning. 

Alliteration: decipher the subtle sound play of language

Alliteration figurative language involves the repetition of initial consonant sounds in neighbouring words or stressed syllables. It is a technique used to create rhythm, emphasis, and musical quality in writing. Alliteration is commonly used in poetry, brand names, slogans, and advertisements, making the words or phrases more memorable.

Examples of Alliteration:

  1. Dunkin Donuts 
  2. Jaguar’s slogan: Grace, Space, Pace
  3. The famous lines from the poem Icarus by Edward Field:
  • “Only the feathers floating around the hat
  • Showed that anything more spectacular had occurred”

Onomatopoeia: adding life to your words with sounds 

Onomatopoeia uses words that imitate or mimic the natural sounds associated with the object, action, or phenomenon they represent. As a result, onomatopoeic words can create a more immersive reading experience. 

Examples of Onomatopoeia:

  1. “Buzz” – The word “buzz” imitates the sound of a bee or an insect flying.
  2. “Crash” – This onomatopoeic word represents the sound of something colliding or breaking with force.
  3. “Sizzle” – The term “sizzle” imitates the sound of food frying or sizzling in a hot pan.

Figurative Language Do's and Don'ts: how to write impactfully and avoid pitfalls.

A figurative language is a powerful tool that can enhance communication and add depth to writing. However, it is vital to use figurative language effectively and appropriately. Check out some dos and don’ts to consider when using figurative language:


  1. Understand the meaning: Before using any figurative language, fully understand its meaning and implications. It empowers you to employ it correctly and convey your intended message.

  2. Use it purposefully: Figurative language should serve a purpose. Whether it’s to evoke emotions, create vivid imagery, or enhance the overall message, ensure it aligns with your writing goals.

  3. Tailor it to your audience: Consider your audience’s familiarity with figurative language. If you are writing for a specialised or technical audience, use figurative language sparingly and ensure it is relevant to them.

  4. Use various techniques: Explore different forms, including similes, metaphors, personification, and hyperbole. A variety will add richness and depth to your writing.


  1. Overuse figurative language: While figurative language can be effective, using it excessively can diminish its impact and overwhelm the reader. Figurative language should flow naturally within the context of your writing. 

  2. Rely solely on clichés: Clichés are overused and lack originality. Instead of relying on typical clichés, create unique and fresh figurative language to engage your readers.

  3. Sacrifice clarity for creativity: While figurative language can be creative and imaginative, it should not sacrifice clarity. Ensure your message remains clear and easily understood, even when using figurative expressions.

Confused regarding the many types of figurative language examples and their characteristics? Sit back, as we have you covered. Download this helpful infographic which makes using figurative language a cakewalk!

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Key Takeaways

  1. Definition: Figurative language goes beyond the literal meaning of words to create imagery, evoke emotions, and add depth to communication.

  2. Types: Examples of figurative language include simile, metaphor, personification, hyperbole, symbolism, alliteration, and onomatopoeia.

  3. Purpose: Figurative language enhances communication by making it more engaging, expressive, and memorable. It adds depth, imagery, and emotion to writing and speech.

  4. Impact: Figurative language can powerfully impact the reader or listener. It can evoke emotions, create vivid mental images, emphasise key points, add humour, and make a message more persuasive.

  5. Usage: Effective use of figurative language requires understanding the intended effect, choosing appropriate language techniques, considering the audience, and using various techniques to create a rich and engaging experience.

  6. Examples: Everyday conversations, literature, poetry, advertisements, and speeches often contain examples of figurative language. Examples include phrases like “time flies,” “as busy as a bee,” “heart skipped a beat,” and “life is a roller coaster.”


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Frequently Asked Questions

How does simile differ from metaphor in figurative language?

Similes and metaphors are figurative language used to make comparisons but differ in structure and presentation.

A simile directly compares two things using “like” or “as.” For example, “He runs as fast as a cheetah” or “Her voice is like honey.” The simile uses “like” or “as” to establish the comparison in both cases.

On the other hand, a metaphor implies a comparison between two things by stating that one thing is another—words such as “like” or “as” are not used to make the comparison. For example, “Time is a thief” or “Her heart is a fortress.” In these examples, the metaphor compares time to a thief and the heart to a fortress, respectively, without using “like” or “as” to make the comparison.

What is the purpose of using figurative language in writing and speech?

The purpose of figurative language in writing and speech is to enhance communication, add depth, create vivid imagery, and evoke emotional responses in the audience. Here are some critical purposes for using figurative language:

  1. Engaging the audience: Figurative language captures the attention of readers or listeners by offering imaginative and creative descriptions. 

  2. Conveying emotions and creating mood: Figurative language allows writers and speakers to evoke specific emotions and create a particular mood. 

  3. Enhancing imagery: Figurative language paints vivid pictures in the audience’s minds using imaginative comparisons and sensory details. 

  4. Adding depth and layers of meaning: Figurative language goes beyond the literal meaning of words, allowing for multiple interpretations and layers of meaning. 

  5. Making abstract ideas more relatable: Figurative language helps make abstract complex concepts more relatable and understandable. 

  6. Creating memorable expressions: Figurative language often produces unique phrases, images, and expressions that stick in the audience’s minds. 
Can you provide examples of figurative language in everyday conversations?

Some examples of figurative language that can be commonly found in everyday conversations:

  1. “I’m feeling on top of the world today.” (Metaphor) – This expression means someone feels extremely happy or prosperous.

  2. “She’s as busy as a bee.” (Simile) – This statement compares someone’s level of busyness to the industriousness of a bee.

  3. “My heart skipped a beat when I saw her.” (Hyperbole) – This hyperbolic expression means that someone felt a sudden intense emotion or excitement upon seeing someone else.
What is alliteration in figurative language?

Alliteration involves the repetition of initial consonant sounds in neighbouring words or stressed syllables within a phrase or sentence. It is used to create rhythm, emphasise certain words or phrases, and add a musical quality to the writing. 

An example of alliteration is in a sentence: “Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers.” In this sentence, the repetition of the “p” sound in “Peter,” “Piper,” “picked,” “peck,” and “pickled peppers” creates an alliterative effect.

What is the effect of using hyperbole in figurative language?

The use of hyperbole in figurative language can have several effects on the reader or listener. First, hyperbole involves exaggeration for emphasis or dramatic effect. By intentionally overstating something, hyperbole aims to create a strong impact, evoke strong emotions, and make a point more vividly.

Are there any tips or techniques for effectively using figurative language in my own writing?
  1. Understand the intended effect: Consider the impact you want before using figurative language. Understanding the intended outcome will help you choose the appropriate figurative language technique.

  2. Use appropriate and relevant language: Select the figurative language pertinent to your subject matter and fits the tone and style of your writing. 

  3. Be mindful of your audience: Consider your audience’s familiarity with figurative language. If you’re writing for a specialised or technical audience, use figurative language sparingly and ensure it is accessible and relevant to them.

  4. Use various techniques: Explore different forms of figurative language, including similes, metaphors, personification, hyperbole, and more. Using a variety of methods will add richness and depth to your writing. 

  5. Use sensory details: Incorporate sensory details into your figurative language to make it more engaging and immersive. Appeal to the reader’s senses of sight, sound, taste, touch, and smell to create a more vivid and memorable experience.
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