A simile is a figure of speech that indirectly compares two things of different kinds to express a resemblance between them.

1. Composition of simile
2. The kinds
3. Its Functions in Writing
4. Attention
5.The differences between Simile and Metaphor
6.Exercises7.External links8.References

Composition of simile
A simile includes three parts:

  • Subject: the object being compared.
  • Reference: the object being used to compare with the subject.
  • Figurative words: the words being used to connect the subject with the reference. Such as like, as, can be likened to, similar to, as if.


The great fantastic arch of the Delaware River Bridgeloomed ahead of me likea preposterous giant’s toy.

Analysis: In this sentence, “the great fantastic arch” is compared with “ a preposterous griant’s toy”. So, the former is the subject which is being compared; the latter is the reference which is being used to compare with the subject. The word “like” is a figurative word.

The kinds of simile

There are three kinds of simile, that is descriptive simile, illustrative simile and illuminative simile.

  • Descrptive simile is a kind of simile by using another object to describe one object.
He is something of a political chamelion.(Newsweek; December,1990)

  • Illustrative simile is the simile in which a concrect object is used to explain an abstract one.
  • Illuminative simile is a simile to help people comprehend the deep meaning of an object by using suggestive association.
Its funtions in writing

First, a simile can make the subject lifelike and enliven the bland words. It can not only attract readers, but also help them grasp the deep meaning of the subject.

Second, in simile, a concrecte object is often used to illustrate an abstract one. Therefore, the concrete object can benefit readers to understand the complicated concepts conveyed by the abstract one.

Third, a simile can make the essay more persuasive.


  • The two things being compared should be similar in some aspects.
  • The similes in an essay should be relevant to each other.
  • Though simile is a kind of rhetoric to make sentences effective and persuasive, it should not be used too often in an essay.
  • The last but not the least, the reference being choosed should be meaningful.
Differences between Simile and Metaphor
The relationship between Simile and Metaphor is close in function. Both of them are used to creat a vivid image in the reader’s mind. Though their functions are similar, they still have several differences.

  1. A simile compares two things using the literal word, such as like or as. While a metaphor doesn’t use this kind of literal words. In a metaphor, figurative words are often used.
1) Simile: My father grumbles like a bear in the mornings.
2) Metaphor: My father is a bear in the morning.

2. The Simile, in which a comparison is made directly between two objects, belongs to an earlier stage of literary expression. While the metaphor is the swift illumination of an equivalence. Two images, or an idea and an image, stand equal and opposite. They clash together and respond significantly, surprising the reader with a sudden “light."

1) Simile: if you try that again, I’ will squash you like a bug.

2) Metaphor: We sat in a circle on the floor, pouring out the paths and roads we had traveled since we graduate.


Underline the word or phrase that is being described by each simile. Put parentheses around the word or phrase it is being compared to.
Examples: My Dad understands physics; he is (smart as a whip.)
  1. Chemistry is as clear as mud to me.
  2. Since you broke your arm, you’re like a fish our of water.
  3. When the bell rang, he shot out of the class like a bullet.
  4. The dog isn’t dangerous; it’s as gentle as a lamb.
  5. The Olympic Sprinter runs like the wind.
  6. George is as stubborn as as a mule and won’t follow directions.

External links:

More imformation about Simile, please go to:\

More imformation about the difference between simile and metaphor, you can go to:


  1. Yang Xiahua( 1984). English Writing and Rhetoric.Hefei: Anhui Education Press
  2. Li Mei. (2006). An Intermediate Course in Writing. Beijing: Higher Education Press
  3. Huang ren(2006). English Rhetoric &Writing. Shanghai: Shanghai Foreign Language Education Press