When you hear this song, do you think the singer is talking to real rays of sunshine? No, of course not! The singer is talking about someone they love, who makes them happy even when the sun isn’t shining.
“You are my sunshine” is a metaphor, which is a type of figurative language. Specifically, it’s a figure of speech used to make comparisons. But it’s also subtle because you only imply the comparison – you don’t state it directly.
You probably use metaphors frequently in your daily life! If you’re too sick to go to school, you might say you’re “under the weather.” Weather doesn’t affect how you feel, but everyone will know what you mean.
Or, if you’re having a tough time with an assignment, you could say, “I’m banging my head against the wall trying to do my homework”! That’s a metaphor! You’re not literally hurting your head, but it might feel like it.
Let’s look at more types of metaphors and examples in everyday language.
Click each card to learn the type of metaphor.
A standard metaphor directly compares two things you think wouldn’t go together.
An implied metaphor is similar to a standard one but even more subtle. In this figure of speech, you directly name only one of the things you’re comparing. The other one is implied.
Sometimes, writers want to spend a lot of time on one metaphor. They might use one idea over several lines, a whole poem, or even a novel. When a metaphor is longer than just a few words, it’s called an extended metaphor.
But you can find extended metaphors anywhere, not just in famous literature. For instance, suppose you wrote an essay about your little sister. In it, you wrote a paragraph comparing her to a monkey because she’s wild and playful. That would also be an extended metaphor!
Rather than using words, a visual metaphor uses images to connect two things or ideas.
Visual metaphors are often used in advertising, but they’re also used in movies, graphic novels, and other media.
Here are some more examples of visual metaphors.
Visual metaphors are extremely useful because they correlate products or ideas with something else, like a feeling or emotion. Next time you’re watching an advert, look at how many visual metaphors you find!
Metaphors are beneficial figures of speech for describing things and conveying ideas. But when you combine two metaphors, you often just get a mess! These are called mixed metaphors, and a lot of the time, they’re nonsense.
One of the exciting things about language is that it changes significantly over time. As part of that, metaphors change too!
Sometimes, people use a metaphor for so long that its meaning changes. In other words, a modern audience won’t understand the original imagery. When that happens, it’s called a dead metaphor.
Test your knowledge and click each card to learn the type of metaphor.
Metaphors are wonderful figures of speech for many situations. Here are some examples of simple metaphors in different scenarios.
When describing how you’re feeling, it’s helpful to use a metaphor. Since emotions aren’t concrete, a metaphor can give someone else an idea of what’s going on in your head.
You can use metaphors to set a scene or describe surroundings. It’s a very poetic way to describe an environment.
Metaphors don’t have to be complicated. Simple metaphors can be entertaining for kids!
There are lots of famous examples of metaphors in literature. They appear in everything from essays to poems, novels, plays, and songs.
When you don’t want to make a comparison outright, you can use a metaphor because it’s a poetic figure of speech. But what if you do want to make an explicit comparison?
As you can see, each of these sentences connects two different things. You could use metaphors instead in these situations, but you’d have to change each sentence to remove “like” or “as.”
Often you’ll see similes and metaphors mixed together in writing. The following are two excerpts from Maya Angelou’s poem Still I Rise. The first uses similes:
The poet uses the word “like” to compare herself to rising moons, suns, and hopes.
Then, in a later stanza, she uses both metaphors and similes:
Here the first three lines are metaphors: “shoot with words,” “cut with eyes,” and “kill with hatefulness.” And in the last line, she compares herself directly to air with “like.”
Click each card to reveal the simile or metaphor.
After this lesson, you’ll be the sharpest pencil in the box! You’re not literally a pencil, but you’re brilliant because now you understand metaphors!
Metaphorical language is a great way to connect two seemingly different things. And there are infinite ways to describe things with metaphors – your imagination only limits you.
Some metaphors are so well-used they’re cliches, and others are brand new. So, you can invent your own creative metaphors!
Also, listen to conversations around you and pay attention to what you read: there are metaphors everywhere. You can learn a lot by listening to others.
There are so many other interesting figures of speech to explore, so be sure to check out the other pages on this site. See, grammar can be fun!