What is a metaphor?

A metaphor uses the ideas and characteristics of one object to describe another object.

Simple examples of metaphor

He has a heart of stone

(a stone = cold, no emotion; therefore his heart is cold and holds no emotion)

Love is war

(war = an activity in which people fight each other, and causes hurt and even death; therefore love is an activity in which people fight each other, causes hurt and even death)

Common metaphors

These metaphors are common and have become ‘figures of speech’ in English

he has a heart of stone
he has the heart of a lion
time is money
her voice was like music to his ears
a blanket of snow covered the streets
you light up my life
love is war
love is a battlefield
life is a rollercoaster
life is a journey
you reek of failure
she froze on stage

Metaphors of action

You can use metaphors to describe actions. To do this think of an interesting idea of something to compare it with.


Yesterday she killed me at cards
(comparing losing at cards to being killed)

Arriving in Shanghai he opened a new chapter in his life. He waited to find out how the story would turn out.
(comparing moving to a new city to reading a book)

When she heard he was single, she pounced on him, trapping him under her paws, refusing to let him go.
(comparing her actions to a cat with a mouse)


1. Use your imagination to create simple metaphors using the following:

Life is ….
Learning English is….
Death is….
….is a summer’s day
…is a kick in the teeth

2. Try to make metaphors of action to describe:

a) falling in love
b) watching a fight
c) having a dream come true