blog language for impact 2

5 Literary Devices for Comprehension: “Language Use for Impact”

Greetings everyone! I’m Ms Geraldine, a teacher and curriculum specialist at Lil’ but Mighty. Have you ever wondered about the different types of comprehension questions found in Secondary School? Whether you are just starting out in Secondary School or approaching your graduation from it, it’s always useful to understand some of the comprehension questions you can end up being asked. So do look through my earlier blogposts that give an overview of Narrative Comprehension question types and Non-Narrative Comprehension question types if you haven’t already done so!

Today, I will be taking you through how to approach the Language Use for Impact question, an extremely broad category of questions found in Narrative Comprehension which thus requires an entire blogpost dedicated to it. The Language Use for Impact question requires students to analyse how the language used by the writer creates a certain impact, so these questions require analysis of a variety of literary devices that you should be familiar with.

Let us now go through some of the more common literary devices and see how the Language Use for Impact question may require us to analyse them in Narrative Comprehension.

1. Simile or Metaphor (Making a Comparison between 2 Objects)

All of you should be familiar with the simile or metaphor, the most basic of literary devices and thus introduced in primary school. Both similes and metaphors make a comparison between two objects in order to emphasise something about the first object.


Now let us take a quick look at Language Use for Impact questions regarding similes or metaphors and learn how to approach them. Read through the paragraph below about a girl in the Alaskan wilderness, as well as the accompanying questions.



As you may have already noticed after reading the example questions above, Language Use for Impact Questions on Similes/Metaphors will call your attention to the comparison that has been made between objects and requires you to unpack the reason(s) behind the comparison. To answer such questions accurately, you must consider the shared qualities between both objects and deduce what is being emphasised about the first object.

For example, to tackle Qn #1, we must consider the qualities of a trusty clock and what it emphasises about the Arctic sky. The word ‘trusty’ itself suggests that it is something dependable while comparing it to a clock suggests it is used to determine the time. Your answer should capture both parts:


Similarly, to tackle Qn #2, we must consider the shared qualities between snowflakes against Miyax’s hands and needles. We know that needles are sharp and would cause us pain if we were to touch them, especially if we do so with our bare hands. Using this knowledge and what we know about Miyax’s hands from the passage, the answer should look like this:


Do note that both answers above came from an analysis of the story’s context!

2. Personification (Describing a Non-Human Object as Human)

Personification is another well-known literary device that involves the description of a non-human object as human, in order to emphasise something about the non-human object. Usually, Language Use for Impact questions on Personification will require you to make a deduction about the non-human object. Take a look at some example questions below based on the earlier paragraph that you have read:



To tackle Qn #1, we must identify the human verb “slapped” that has been used to describe the non-human object (“icy winds”), which suggests a hitting action. The phrase “repeatedly with no remorse or mercy” suggests that the action is non-stop and done with force. This would help us to deduce what the writer is trying to emphasise about the winds:


To tackle Qn #2, we must identify the human adjective (“comforting”) and verb (“embrace”) that have been used to describe the non-human object (“sun”) and deduce what qualities of the sun the writer wants to highlight. We know that to “embrace” is to put your arms around someone and hold them gently or lovingly, and in this case, providing much comfort to Miyax who was feeling very cold. The answer will look something like this:


Once again, do note that both answers above came from an analysis of the story’s context!

3. Repetition (Using a Word, Phrase, Idea More Than Once)

Repetition is a straightforward device that can be easy to identify because it involves stating a word, phrase, or idea more than once, in order to emphasise something. Your job is to analyse the repetition by considering the meaning of the repeated word, phrase, or idea and deduce what point the writer is trying to emphasise.

Read through the paragraph below about a fashion journalist visiting a tourist destination only the wealthy can afford. Then, take a look at examples of Language Use for Impact questions commonly linked to the literary device of repetition.



To tackle Qn #1, look for a repeated word, phrase, or idea that conveys a sense of guilt.


To tackle Qn #2, look for a repeated word, phrase, or idea that conveys the desire to be distracted by the negative emotion of guilt.


4. Irony (When Expectations have Clashed with the Reality of Situation)

Irony happens when what has happened in reality is the complete opposite of what one expects to happen. In other words, your expectations have clashed with the reality of the situation.

Take a look at two ironic sentences below. As you read each of them, realise that your expectations of the situation clash with what has truly happened in reality according to the sentence.


In the first sentence, the situation is ironic because a fire station is the last place we would expect to burn down since it is there to put out fires in the first place. The second sentence is ironic because we would not expect a hotel made of ice to need a smoke detector since we think it would be impossible to catch fire in the first place.


Let us now try out an irony question. Read through the paragraph below about a man making his way home and attempt the example irony question.


To answer this question, keep in mind the tip shared above. To get both marks, we need to identify the expectation of the situation and then the surprising or unusual reality of the situation (which is often stated in the passage). In this case, we should include what we know of clocks (only having one to twelve numbers) before picking out what was different about the clocks mentioned in the passage. So, the answer for the above question will look as such:


5. Unusual and Effective Expressions

This last type of literary device is commonly asked about in the ‘O’ Levels. Unusual and effective expressions comprise of words that do not usually occur together.


Now, look through the paragraph about a girl and her group of friends. Then, take a look at the questions on unusual and effective expressions and see if you are able to answer them using the tips above!


Look at how to answer Q1. See how you have to unpack the definition of key words in the given phrase before moving onto explaining what is emphasised in the story’s context?


The same approach has to be taken to answer Q2, as seen below. Always start of by unpacking the usual definitions of the keywords in the given phrase before explaining what is emphasised in the story’s context:


And that’s all we have for today on how to analyse common literary devices in your Language Use for Impact Questions of Narrative Comprehension. I will end off with a final examination tip for such questions:


Happy studying, and do leave a comment if there is anything you wish to clarify! 😀

Lil' but Mighty Secondary School Schedule

Level up with advanced O-Level English examination strategies. Without compromising on the joy of learning.

Components covered:

1. Paper 1 – Writing (Editing, Situational Writing, Continuous Writing)
2. Paper 2 – Comprehension
3. Paper 4 – Oral Communication (Reading Aloud & Spoken Interaction) 


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Ms. Geraldine

In her free time, Ms Geraldine enjoys writing her own prose and poetry, online gaming with friends, as well as critically analysing movies by penning down reviews. A die-hard fan of Star Wars and the Marvel Cinematic Universe, as well as an avid consumer of Netflix shows, she draws on such material in her process of lesson planning and curriculum design, with the goal of boosting student engagement and interest.

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