Do words like “personification” confuse you? Do they spin you around and make you fall over? Do they shout at you in loud voices?
Never fear; this article is here to lend you a helping hand.
Personification is when you give human qualities to something that isn’t human – such as a concept, like “personification.” So, when you give an object (or idea) human characteristics, you’re using this literary device.
For example, let’s take a look at two examples from the opening paragraph:
Do they spin you around and make you fall over? Do they shout at you in loud voices?
Firstly, a concept can’t spin you around and make you fall over, and secondly, it can’t shout at you in a loud voice.
When you give human attributes to inanimate objects, it’s making a comparison. Personification is a type of metaphor. It compares things to other things – in this case, to people.
There are many reasons personification is a great tool when writing because it can make things more straightforward or make your writing more vivid and exciting.
Let’s take a look at these two examples:
Both of those explanations said the same thing, but the first one didn’t use any personification, and the second used a lot of it. Which description was more exciting to read?
Other types of figurative language are similes that don’t compare things to people but branch out like a river delta. (The phrase “like a river delta” is a simile that’s not personification.) Similes are a type of metaphor. There are other types of figurative language that aren’t metaphors, like a “hyperbole,” which is used when you want to exaggerate something to make it sound better or bigger than it ordinarily is.
It’s pretty common for people to give things human qualities that aren’t actually human. Some of the most commonly used examples of personification in speech include:
We also use personification in everyday speech. It’s common to talk about our technology as though it has human qualities. Here are some examples:
Personification is often used when talking about natural disasters or the weather:
You might also hear one of these examples of personification:
In fact, it’s so common that it often becomes a figure of speech:
Click each card to learn more.
While personification pokes its nose out into our everyday speech, in our writing, it tends to linger about on the page. Here are some examples of personification in writing:
Personification is used all the time. Here are some famous examples:
Personification is a literary device, so, of course, it’s used in poetry:
“Death” can’t really stop for a person.
A stone can’t really stand.
A cloud can’t really feel lonely.
It’s also used in advertising:
You might have also seen this other big word that sometimes rears its ugly head when people talk about personification: anthropomorphism.
Wow. That’s a mouthful!
Anthropomorphism is a particular type of personification where animate objects (like pets or wild animals) are given human qualities, which you’ll often see in children’s books.
Examples of anthropomorphism
Here are the same ideas, using personification instead of anthropomorphism:
As you can see, personification focuses on inanimate things which can’t move. Whereas anthropomorphism just gives animals more credit than they may be due.
As you can see, the big scary word “personification” isn’t such a big bully. Even his friend “anthropomorphism” isn’t that mean. Personification is the friend who brings the snacks to the party to make it more exciting. While anthropomorphism tags along like a faithful dog who has FOMO (fear of missing out) and won’t even let you go to the toilet without him.
Click each card to learn more.