Figures of Speech

figures of speech

All of us use different figures of speech in our everyday life, no matter which language we speak. Being familiar with different types of this grammar can not only increase your vocabulary in a particular language but also help you in your career. This is especially for those who want to pursue a career in translation, poetry or writing. Also, having a solid idea of the different figures of speech can come in handy for a wide range of exams, including both language proficiency exams for studying abroad, and different competitive exams for work or study. Want to familiarise yourself with this? Take a look at this blog for detailed information on the popular types of figures of speech.

What are Figures of Speech?

It is an integral part of any language, which are used extensively not only in our day to day speech but also in written texts and oral literature. These are a word or a phrase used in a distinctive way to produce a rhetorical effect. To say in very simple terms, it is a phrase whose actual meaning is different from its literal meaning. These are developed and expressed through a variety of different rhetorical techniques. All of us use different figures of speech in our daily conversations, both deliberately and subconsciously.


It enhances your writing and content. For example, metaphors add important details that make the writing more relatable to the readers. Idioms help to express complex ideas in a short space. It makes the content presentable and more enjoyable to the writers.


There is a wide range of different types of figures of speech that are used in our daily communication. Let us take a look at some of the most popular ones that are used extensively:


Personification attributes human nature or human qualities to abstract or inanimate objects. For example, we often use the phrases like the howling wind, dancing leaves, time flies etc. Some examples of personification in a sentence are:

  • The opportunity knocked at his door
  • The plants in her house silently begged to be watered


A metaphor is used for implying a comparison between two things that have something in common but are in general different from each other. Some examples of the usage of metaphors in a sentence is as follows:

  • It is raining cats and dogs
  • He is the star of our class


A simile is a figure of speech that compares two things that are different from each other but have similar qualities. These are generally formed through the usage of the words ‘as’ or ‘like’. Some examples of similes in a sentence include:

  • He is as brave as a lion
  • Her expression was as cold as ice


Alliteration is a sentence that consists of a series of words that have the same consonant sound at the beginning. Some popular examples of alliteration in a sentence include:

  • She sells sea shells on the sea shore
  • A good cook could cook as much cookies as a good cook who could cook cookies


This is a figure of speech that is used to express a sound. To be more precise, it involves the use of words that imitate the sounds associated with the action or object referred to i.e. hiss, clap etc. Some examples of onomatopoeia include:

  • The buzzing bee flew over my head
  • The stone hit the water with a splash


A hyperbole is a figure of speech that consists of an exaggeration. It is the usage of exaggerated terms in order to emphasise or heighten the effect of something. Some examples of using hyperboles in a sentence include:

  • I have told you a million times to not touch my stuff!
  • She has got a pea-sized brain 


Euphemism is the usage of a mild word in substitution of something that is more explicit or harsh when referring to something unfavourable or unpleasant. Some examples of its usage include:

  • This mall has good facilities for differently-abled people
  • He passed away in his sleep


Irony or sarcasm is a figure of speech in which the usage of words conveys the opposite of their literal meaning. These are often used in a humorous manner. Some examples of irony include:

  • Your hands are as clean as mud
  • The dinner you served was as hot as ice


It is a repetition of a word or phrase at the start of several sentences of clauses. Some of the examples of anaphora are as follows:

  • Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.: “I Have a Dream” Speech
  • Charles Dickens: A Tale of Two Cities


It addresses the subject that is not present in the work. In this case, the object is absent or inanimate. Here are some of the examples of apostrophes. 

  • Twinkle, twinkle, little star, How I wonder what you are
  • Welcome, O life!


Figures of Speech Examples
Personification The opportunity knocked at his door
Metaphor It is raining cats and dogs
Simile He is as brave as a lion
Alliteration She sells seashells on the seashore
Onomatopoeia The buzzing bee flew over my head
Hyperbole She has got a pea-sized brain 
Euphemism He passed away in his sleep
Irony Your hands are as clean as mud
Anaphora Dr Martin Luther King Jr: “I Have a Dream” Speech
Apostrophe Twinkle, twinkle, little star, How I wonder what you are

Writing Figure of Speech

As a literary device, it enhances the meaning of written and spoken words. In oral communication, it can clarify, enhance description, and create interesting use of language. In writing, when figures of speech are used effectively, these devices enhance the writer’s ability for description and expression so that readers have a better understanding of what is being conveyed. Here are some ways that writers benefit from incorporating it into their work:

Figure of Speech as Artistic Use of Language

Effective use of figures of speech is one of the greatest demonstrations of artistic use of language. Being able to create poetic meaning, comparisons, and expressions with these literary devices are how writers form art with words.

Figure of Speech as Entertainment for Reader

Effective figures of speech often elevate the entertainment value of a literary work for the reader. Many invoke humour or provide a sense of irony in ways that literal expressions do not. This can create a greater sense of engagement for the reader when it comes to a literary work.

Figure of Speech as Memorable Experience for Reader

By using it effectively to enhance description and meaning, writers make their works more memorable for readers as an experience. Writers can often share a difficult truth or convey a particular concept through figurative language so that the reader has a greater understanding of the material and one that lasts in memory.

Examples in Literature

Works of literature feature innumerable figures of speech that are used as literary devices. These add meaning to literature and showcase the power and beauty of figurative language. Here are some examples in well-known literary works:

The Great Gatsby (F. Scott Fitzgerald)

In his blue gardens men and girls came and went like moths among the whisperings and the champagne and the stars.

Fitzgerald makes use of simile here as a figure of speech to compare Gatsby’s party guests to moths. The imagery used by Fitzgerald is one of delicacy and beauty and creates an ephemeral atmosphere. However, the likening of Gatsby’s guests to moths also reinforces the idea that they are only attracted to the sensation of the parties and that they will depart without having made any true impact or connection. This simile underscores the themes of superficiality and transience in the novel.

One Hundred Years of Solitude (Gabriel Garcia Marquez)

Both described at the same time how it was always March there and always Monday, and then they understood that José Arcadio Buendía was not as crazy as the family said, but that he was the only one who had enough lucidity to sense the truth of the fact that time also stumbled and had accidents and could therefore splinter and leave an eternalized fragment in a room.

In this passage, Garcia Marquez utilizes personification as a figure of speech. Time is personified as an entity that “stumbled” and “had accidents.” This is an effective use of figurative language in that this personification of time indicates a level of human frailty that is rarely associated with something so measured. In addition, this is effective in the novel because time has a great deal of influence on the plot and characters of the story. Personified in this way, the meaning of time in the novel is enhanced to the point that it is a character in and of itself.

Fahrenheit 451 (Ray Bradbury)

A book is a loaded gun in the house next door…Who knows who might be the target of the well-read man?

In this passage, Bradbury utilizes metaphor as a figure of speech to compare a book to a loaded gun. This is an effective literary device for this novel because, in the story, books are considered weapons of free thought and possession of them is illegal. Of course, Bradbury is only stating that a book is a loaded gun as a means of figurative, not the literal meaning. This metaphor is particularly powerful because the comparison is so unlikely; books are generally not considered to be dangerous weapons. However, the comparison does have a level of logic in the context of the story in which the pursuit of knowledge is weaponized and criminalized.

How to Ace Figures of Speech?

Wondering what the hard and fast rule is to ace this section? The only thing that will help you is practice. We have curated a list of the best books that will help you ace it like a pro:

Figures of Speech: The Art of Ornate Diction Buy Here
Figures of Speech: Sixty Ways to Turn a Phrase Buy Here
A Handbook of Scansion and Figures of Speech Buy Here
Fantastic Figures of Speech (Fun with English) Buy Here
Figures of Speech: Figures of Speech Buy Here
Credits: Slideshare

Test Yourself and Complete this Exercise on Figures of Speech

Hope you found this blog on some popular figures of speech interesting and informative. Being familiar with these figures of speech can help you tremendously in preparing for various competitive exams. Need help in your preparation for IELTS, TOEFL or GMAT? Leverage Live offers live interactive classes and doubt-clarification sessions by top certified experts who can help you ace your test with flying colours. Reach out to us today!

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