EnglishClub
Home Learn English Teach English MyEnglishClub Home Learn English Teach English MyEnglishClub
English Club : Learn English : Vocabulary : Figures of Speech : Simile

Simile

pronounced: SIM-i-lee

It's been a hard day's night,
and I've been working like a dog

The Beatles

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 meaning
as blind as a bat completely blind
as cold as ice very cold
as flat as a pancake completely flat
as gentle as a lamb very gentle
as light as a feather very light
as old as the hills very old
as sharp as a knife very sharp
as strong as a bull very strong
as white as snow pure white
as wise as an owl very wise
Longer list of AS...AS similes
[is] LIKE something possible meaning (depending on context)
like a rose beautiful
like a volcano explosive
like garbage disgusting
like an animal inhuman
like spaghetti entangled
like dewdrops sweet and pure
like golddust precious
like a tip very untidy (tip = garbage dump)
like a dream wonderful, incredible
like stars bright and beautiful
[does] LIKE something meaning
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.

Privacy & Terms | Contact | Report error
© 1997-2014 EnglishClub