That Simile Though | An Introduction to Similes

‘I am not just fast, I am as fast as a cheetah!’ Tommy boasted.

I’m sure you have come across this phrase before, either in storybooks or compositions. But what does this phrase mean? Did Tommy really run as fast as a cheetah? Surely that’s impossible! So, let’s take the time to find out what this phrase really means!

An Introduction to Similes. Creative Writing & Compo

Photo by Charl Durand on Unsplash

Did you know? A cheetah can reach a top speed of 130km/h! Compared to that, Usain Bolt, who is commonly referred to as the world’s fastest man, only reached a top speed of around 45km/h!

Hello everyone! I am Mr Joel, an English Teacher at Lil’ but Mighty. Today, I will be sharing more about similes!

An Introduction to Similes. Creative Writing & Compo

Have a quick look at the list of topics I will be covering for this blog post:

  • What are similes?

  • Why are similes used?

  • Understanding unique similes

  • How can we brainstorm for our own similes?

Of course, I will also be providing you with a list of interesting similes you can use in your own writing! Be sure to take note of these, and to use them in your stories!

What are Similes?

Before we dive into the fascinating world of similes, let’s first understand what a simile is.

A simile is a comparison between two things using the words ‘as’ or ‘like’. More precisely, it is a figure of speech involving the comparison of one thing with another thing of a different kind. It is useful in making a description more vivid.

Let’s use the example from below to help us understand this better!

When Tommy boasted that he could run as fast as a cheetah, he was comparing himself to a cheetah using the words ‘as’. Why did he make this comparison?

(Tip: Let’s think of some qualities that they have in common!)

An Introduction to Similes. Creative Writing & Compo

Photos by Cara Fuller and Greg Rosenke on Unsplash

From this example, we can see that one thing that Tommy and the cheetah have in common is that they are fast. Therefore, when Tommy boasted that he could run as fast as a cheetah, he is trying to say that he could run very quickly.

To write this out, let’s use the matching adjective (fast) and the words ‘as’ or ‘like’!

Tommy was as fast as a cheetah.
Tommy was fast like a cheetah.

In this simple example, the use of the simile effectively shows how fast Tommy can run through the comparison with a cheetah.

What are some other examples you can think of? (Try to think of a few before moving on!)

Here are some other examples:

  1. As I was tired, I was trudged home slow as a turtle.

  2. Ever since he was young, my older brother has been as stubborn as a mule.

  3. My best friend is funny like a clown. He always cracks me up!

Why are Similes Used?

Now that we know what similes are, let’s understand what they are used for and why we should use them.

Similes make our stories more interesting! For example, when we use a simile to describe a character, we help readers understand more about that character.

Let’s use the following simile as an example:

After the race, John panted like a dog.

What thoughts do you have after reading this simile? What does this simile tell you about John?

From the simile above, we can tell that John was exhausted after the race! How do we know this? Have you seen a dog panting before?

Tired Golden Retriever GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

Would you agree that this dog is panting very heavily? Dogs are creatures that often pant a lot. Have you seen and heard a dog panting before? Try to imagine this! Now, can you imagine John doing the same thing?

Hence, when we use a simile to describe our characters, we help readers understand what our characters are like, and how they are behaving by giving them a vivid mental picture through the use of comparison. Don’t you agree that this is a much more interesting way to express what we are thinking?

Understanding Unique Similes

As mentioned, most similes are simple enough to understand because the quality of the object that is being compared is usually mentioned, for instance as hard as a rock or sparkling like diamonds.

However, there are times where you might come across a few unique similes.

These are special in the sense that you might not understand the comparison at first glance. I have listed a few of such similes below:

  1. As busy as a bee

  2. As happy as a lark

  3. As cool as a cucumber

  4. Shaking like a leaf (in the wind)

As busy as a bee

Why would someone be as busy as a bee? That’s because bees are often seen buzzing around, busy collecting honey to bring back to their queen!

As happy as a lark

Larks are birds that sing melodious songs. When larks sing, they sound very happy. As such, we tend to think of them as being very happy creatures. That is why we say that someone is as happy as a lark!

Birds GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

As cool as a cucumber

Now, what about as cool as a cucumber? It can be used in the following sentence, ‘Marvin sauntered into class, as cool as a cucumber’. Cucumbers are cool to the touch, being mostly in water. However, the word ‘cool’ as used in the simile here does not refer to Marvin’s temperature, but that he was very calm and collected.

An Introduction to Similes. Creative Writing & Compo

Shaking like a leaf (in the wind)

Have you seen a leaf in the wind? It sways from left to right, almost as if it’s shaking! Then, what does it mean when a character is shaking like a leaf in the wind? If a character is shaking or trembling, that might mean that he / she is afraid!

Hence, this simile is used to show that a character is feeling frightened!

How Can We Brainstorm for Our Own Similes?

After learning so much about similes, the most important question would be how we can craft interesting similes to use in our stories. Here are two ways we can do so:

1. Read more books and pay attention to when and how similes are used.

Reading is a wonderful way to expand our vocabulary! The next time you are reading a book (or even a composition written by someone else), try paying attention to when similes are being used and add them to your vocabulary bank.

The more you read, the more similes you would know!

2. Focus on the quality that you would like to show.

When coming up with similes on your own, think about what quality you would like to focus on. That’s step one! For example, are you trying to say that your character’s legs feel very heavy?

The next step is to think of what you can compare your character’s heavy legs to. Think about what object is very heavy. Lead is a metal that is very heavy. In that case, we can compare your character’s legs to lead.

The final step is to form the simile. Remember how we wrote out a simile before? Let’s combine the matching adjective with the words ‘as’ or ‘like’!

How would this look like? (Try this on your own before moving on!)

Michael’s legs were as heavy as lead.
Michael’s legs were heavy like lead.

Did you get that right on your own? Excellent job!

Additional Activity

As a bonus, try using a few similes to describe yourself and the people around you! As per what we have gone through, do try to think about the qualities that are similar between you / the people around you and the object you are making the comparison with.

Do share some of these interesting similes in the comments section below!

Now that we’ve learnt about similes, you might want to find out more about other types of literary devices. Click here to read about them!

After reading this blog post, are you ready to try this fun writing technique in your stories? Have fun!

Mr. Joel

As a teacher, Mr. Joel believes in nurturing independent learners. He hopes to be able to impart his love for English and particularly, writing, to his students by ensuring that the classroom is a safe space where students can come to learn. Learning should be fun and enjoyable! With that in mind, Mr. Joel believes that every student can excel, and he looks forward to helping his students achieve their best in his classes!

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