It’s been a hard day’s night, and I’ve been working like a dogThe Beatles

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.

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We often use the words as…as and like with similes.

Common patterns for similes, with example sentences, are:

something AS adjective AS somethingHis skin was as cold as ice.It felt as hard as rock.She looked as gentle as a lamb.something LIKE somethingMy love is like a red, red rose.These cookies taste like garbage.He had a temper (that was) like a volcano.something LIKE somethingHe 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:

AS adjective AS somethingmeaning
as blind as a batcompletely blind
as cold as icevery cold
as flat as a pancakecompletely flat
as gentle as a lambvery gentle
as light as a feathervery light
as old as the hillsvery old
as sharp as a knifevery sharp
as strong as a bullvery strong
as white as snowpure white
as wise as an owlvery wise
LIKE somethingpossible meaning (depending on context)
like a rosebeautiful
like a volcanoexplosive
like garbagedisgusting
like an animalinhuman
like spaghettientangled
like dewdropssweet and pure
like golddustprecious
like a tipvery untidy (tip = garbage dump)
like a dreamwonderful, incredible
like starsbright and beautiful
LIKE somethingmeaning
to drink like a fishto drink a lot
to eat like a birdto eat very little
to eat like a horseto eat a lot
to eat like a pigto eat impolitely
to fight like cats and dogsto fight fiercely
to sing like an angelto sing beautifully
to sleep like a logto sleep well and soundly
to smoke like a chimneyto smoke heavily, all the time
to soar like an eagleto fly high and free
to work like a dogto work very hard

Note that with the AS…AS pattern, the first AS is sometimes suppressed, for example:

His skin was cold as ice.

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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).

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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 DunnDawn breaks open like a wound that bleeds afresh – Wilfred OwenDeath has many times invited me: it was like the salt invisible in the waves – Pablo NerudaGuiltless forever, like a tree – Robert BrowningHappy as pigs in mud – David EddingsHow like the winter hath my absence been – William ShakespeareAs idle as a painted ship upon a painted ocean – Samuel Taylor ColeridgeJubilant as a flag unfurled – Dorothy ParkerSo are you to my thoughts as food to life – William ShakespeareYellow 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 – U2Cheaper than a hot dog with no mustard – Beastie BoysI must do what’s right, as sure as Kilimanjaro rises like Olympus above the Serengeti – TotoIt’s been a hard day’s night, and I’ve been working like a dog – The BeatlesLike A Rolling Stone – Bob DylanLike a bat outta hell – Meat LoafMy heart is like an open highway – Jon Bon JoviThese are the seasons of emotion and like the winds they rise and fall – Led ZeppelinThick as a Brick – Jethro TullYou are as subtle as a brick to the small of my back – Taking Back Sunday

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