What is a metaphor?


Metaphor is a figure of speech based on the similarity of phenomena. For example, the expression "you are a ray of light for me in a dark kingdom" is a typical metaphor. It is clear that a person cannot be a ray. It uses the property of the beam to shine, to bring joy and happiness. This property is transferred to the person. This is the root of metaphors - in the transfer of the properties of one phenomenon or object to another.

In English, thanks in large part to Shakespeare, metaphors are not uncommon. The simplest scheme looks like this:

The _____ is a _________.

For example:

Her home was a prison. Her house was a prison. (It is clear that she did not live in prison, but the house looked like a prison. In other words, she lived in solitude and imprisonment).

In this sentence, prison is a metaphor, and although it only has 5 words, we already understand that she is most likely unhappy, lonely and this is not her choice. Metaphor allows a couple of capacious words to express a whole world of sensations and feelings. Therein lies its strength and usefulness. Let's look at another example.

George is a sheep. - George is a follower. (Of course, George is not a sheep, but a man. George looks like her, because the sheep go in a flock, follow each other, not thinking about the personal. The properties of the sheep are transferred to George, i.e. he easily follows others, gives in to herd feeling ).

In this sentence, sheep is a metaphor.

Examples and translation of English metaphors

Metaphors, no matter how it may seem at first glance, are used not only in stories, poems and songs. In English, in everyday speech, they are used literally everywhere.

Table 1. Metaphors in English

Metaphor Example

Metaphor Meaning

I'm not an angel, but I wouldn't behave like that. “I'm not an angel, but I wouldn't act like that.

exemplary person

America is a melting pot. America is a melting pot.

A place where different cultures, ethnic groups, peoples mix.

John is a real pig when he eats. John is like a pig when he eats.

Greedy, sloppy person

My father is a rock. “My father is a rock.

A strong and reliable person.

How could he marry a snake like that! How could he marry such a snake!


The policeman let him off with a yellow card. The policeman released him with a yellow card.


In the examples from the table above, all metaphors are nouns. However, this is not the only way. Any part of speech and even whole phrases can act as a metaphor.

Table 2. Use of different parts of speech in English metaphors

Metaphor Example

An example of use in the literal sense

The committee shot her ideas down one by one. The committee rejected her ideas one by one.

Anti-aircraft guns shoot down planes. - Anti-missile weapons shoot down planes.

The private detective dug up enough evidence to convince the police to act. The private detective found enough evidence to convince the police to take action.

Dogs like to bury bones and dig them up later. “Dogs like to bury and later re-dig up bones.

He broke into her conversation. He interrupted her conversation.

Burglars break into buildings. Thieves break into buildings.

Tim lost his job after a heated argument with his boss. Tim lost his job after a tense argument with his boss.

We have a heated swimming pool. We have a heated pool.

It wasn't long before their relationship turned sour. “Very soon, their relationship became boring.

Sour food has an acid taste like lemon or vinegar. – Sour foods taste like vinegar or lemon.

If you are not sure about the use of metaphors, you can replace them with phrases like or as, which are translated as "as if".

He is a pig. = He is like a pig.

George is a sheep. = George is like a sheep.

Do not be afraid to make your speech brighter and more beautiful! Metaphors will help you with this - both in English and in any other language.