It's been a hard day's night,
and I've been working like a dog
A simile is a figure of speech that says that one thing is like another different thing. We can use similes to make descriptions more emphatic or vivid.
We often use the words as...as and like with similes.
Common patterns for similes, with example sentences, are:
- something [is*] AS adjective AS something
His skin was as cold as ice.
It felt as hard as rock.
She looked as gentle as a lamb.
- something [is*] LIKE something
My love is like a red, red rose.
These cookies taste like garbage.
He had a temper (that was) like a volcano.
- something [does**] LIKE something
He eats like a pig.
He smokes like a chimney.
They fought like cats and dogs.
* stative verb: be, feel, smell, taste etc
** action verb
Here are some more examples of well known similes:
| [is] AS adjective AS something
|as blind as a bat
|as cold as ice
|as flat as a pancake
|as gentle as a lamb
|as light as a feather
|as old as the hills
|as sharp as a knife
|as strong as a bull
|as white as snow
|as wise as an owl
|Longer list of AS...AS similes
| [is] LIKE something
|| possible meaning (depending on context)
|like a rose
|like a volcano
|like an animal
||sweet and pure
|like a tip
||very untidy (tip = garbage dump)
|like a dream
||bright and beautiful
| [does] LIKE something
|to drink like a fish
||to drink a lot
|to eat like a bird
||to eat very little
|to eat like a horse
||to eat a lot
|to eat like a pig
||to eat impolitely
|to fight like cats and dogs
||to fight fiercely
|to sing like an angel
||to sing beautifully
|to sleep like a log
||to sleep well and soundly
|to smoke like a chimney
||to smoke heavily, all the time
|to soar like an eagle
||to fly high and free
|to work like a dog
||to work very hard
Note that with the AS...AS pattern, the first AS is sometimes suppressed, for example:
- His skin was cold as ice.
The above patterns of simile are the most common, but there are others made with adverbs or words such as than and as if, for example:
- He ran as fast as the wind.
- He is larger than life.
- They ran as if for their lives.
Similes can include other figures of speech. For example, "He ran like greased lightning" is a simile that includes hyperbole (greased lightning).
Similes often make use of irony or sarcasm. In such cases they may even mean the opposite of the adjective used. Look at these examples:
- His explanation was as clear as mud. (not clear at all since mud is opaque)
- The film was about as interesting as watching a copy of Windows download. (long and boring)
- Watching the show was like watching paint dry. (very boring)
Similes are often found (and they sometimes originate) in poetry and other literature. Here are a few examples:
- A woman without a man is like a fish without a bicycle - Irina Dunn
- Dawn breaks open like a wound that bleeds afresh - Wilfred Owen
- Death has many times invited me: it was like the salt invisible in the waves - Pablo Neruda
- Guiltless forever, like a tree - Robert Browning
- Happy as pigs in mud - David Eddings
- How like the winter hath my absence been - William Shakespeare
- As idle as a painted ship upon a painted ocean - Samuel Taylor Coleridge
- Jubilant as a flag unfurled - Dorothy Parker
- So are you to my thoughts as food to life - William Shakespeare
- Yellow butterflies flickered along the shade like flecks of sun - William Faulkner
Popular songs, too, make use of simile:
- A woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle - U2
- Cheaper than a hot dog with no mustard - Beastie Boys
- I must do what's right, as sure as Kilimanjaro rises like Olympus above the Serengeti - Toto
- It's been a hard day's night, and I've been working like a dog - The Beatles
- Like A Rolling Stone - Bob Dylan
- Like a bat outta [out of] hell - Meat Loaf
- My heart is like an open highway - Jon Bon Jovi
- These are the seasons of emotion and like the winds they rise and fall - Led Zeppelin
- Thick as a Brick - Jethro Tull
- You are as subtle as a brick to the small of my back - Taking Back Sunday
Many similes are clichés (phrases that are overused and betray a lack of original thought). You should use well-known similes with care; but it is certainly useful to learn them so that you can understand language containing them.
Play these fun matching similes games to help your comprehension.