Personification: What Is And How To Use It With Examples

Figurative language is a way of talking about something that does not describe it literally but that often conveys meaning more effectively than literal language does. Figurative language can be used for persuasion or to help the reader better understand the writer's point. Similes, metaphors, allusions and hyperbole are the names of just a few types of figurative language.
Personification is a kind of figurative language that attributes human qualities to non-human things or animals. It can actually incorporate other types of figurative language as well, particularly simile and metaphor. Like most types of figurative language, while you may study it formally in literature classes and encounter it in poetry and essays, examples of personification are also common in the things we say to one another. If you said, "The wind was howling during the storm," this would be one of these personification examples. Even though wind can't literally howl, this description gives you a better idea of how the wind looked and felt than simply saying "The wind blew really hard."

personification example

Further examples of personification can help you better understand this particular type of figurative language and how it is used.

Personification Examples in Essay Writing

Many people might associate figurative language and personification with fiction and poetry, but it is useful in other types of writing as well.
While not always appropriate in formal writing, in an essay, personification can sometimes help you drive your point home more effectively.
It can allow you to better illustrate a complex idea or series of actions. It can also be useful if you are writing a persuasive essay.

Example 1:

Throughout the winter, seeds sleep. As the ground gets warm in the spring, the seeds wake up and begin to absorb moisture, and cells start to respire.
Seeds do not really "sleep" and "wake up," but using these terms instead of "dormancy" and "germinate" better illustrate the idea that the writer is trying to convey to a reader unfamiliar with the concepts of dormancy and germination when it comes to plants.

Example 2:

The streets in this town wend their way aimlessly from the car wash to the local funeral parlor and the gas station to the strip of fast food restaurants on the highway.
This sentence talks about streets that "wend their way aimlessly," as though the streets themselves are moving in an aimless way. The overall sense conveyed is that of a town with inhabitants who are aimless because they have nowhere particularly desirable to go.

Example 3:

During storms, the sea grows hungry, swallowing chunks of land off the cliffs here.
This describes coastal erosion. Using the imagery of a hungry, swallowing sea more vividly conveys what is happening than simply saying "During storms, pieces of land are broken and carried away by the strong tides."

Example 4:

The ice sculpture was melting like it was on a crash diet.
This is one of the examples of personification that is also a simile. "Like it was on a crash diet" creates the simile, but the element of personification is that the melting of the ice is described as though the ice sculpture is deliberately trying to slim down.

More Examples of Personification

Personification can be useful if you need to persuade your reader in an essay. It can help make abstract ideas feel more concrete.

Example 1:

Each spring, as use of the park rises, so does the careless disposal of food and beverage containers along with other containers, choking the stream and cutting off the flow of water.

The image of a stream "choking" here from pollution carries more emotional weight than simply stating that there is garbage in the stream.

Example 2:

Language learning is an excellent way of helping the aging brain stay healthy, keeping the lights on in neural networks throughout the brain that might otherwise dim.

We still don't have a full understanding of how the brain works, and what is known can be difficult for lay people to understand. Imagining lights strung along a network that may be bright or dim can help illustrate this concept.

Example 3:

In underfunded schools, which lack the resources to carry out their mission, education is strangled.

Describing education as being "strangled" is a more emotionally compelling way of saying that it is difficult to educate students without the funds to do so.

Personification Examples with Animals

It is important that you do not confuse examples of personification using animals with anthropomorphism. The latter is when animals are given human characteristics, such as cartoon characters who wear clothes and live as humans.

In personification, animals are described using human behaviors or characteristics.

Example 1:

The bees danced in the air above the wildflowers for a few moments before settling on several of them.

The image of bees dancing is personification, but it better describes what is happening than simply saying that the bees moved or flew around a little bit.

Example 2:

The kittens were playing hide and seek when I woke up this morning.

This immediately makes an image spring to your mind of kittens playing together, hiding, then leaping out and pouncing on one another. It efficiently creates a clear picture of what the kittens are doing even though, of course, kittens don't actually play hide and seek.

Example 3:

In the mornings on this coastal island, the wild horses assemble on the beach, a lively, contentious community meeting.

Imagining the horses having a meeting paints a vivid scene of this gathering.

For most people, the first place they encounter figurative language is in speech. In school, it is often first studied in poetry. However, figurative language has its place in many types of writing and can perform a number of different functions in essays as well. A single metaphor can be the focal point for an entire essay. Hyperbole, idioms, symbolism and many other types of figurative language join personification as powerful tools that can enhance meaning and more effectively convey sensation to readers.