Table of Contents
- What is a figure of speech?
- Uses of figures of speech
- Types of Figures of Speech
- What’s next?
For people who are not native English language speakers, conversing in English regularly may sometimes become a challenge. You may find that you often fumble or speak incorrectly because you can’t find the right words or phrases to express yourself. And in some cases, this can put you in an awkward position. To help you avoid that from happening, we will be exploring 18 different figures of speech examples in this blog. Let’s get started!
What is a figure of speech?
A figure of speech is a phrase that has an implied meaning and should not be taken at face value. This means that the real meaning of such a phrase differs from its literal meaning.
Since most figures of speech are used widely in common parlance, native English language speakers are quite familiar with them. However, if you are not a native English speaker, or if you are one and wish to learn more about your language, then you have come to the right place!
Uses of figures of speech
While you may find several figures of speech definitions and examples online, it is important that you first understand the need of using these phrases.
- Many figures of speech contain metaphors, idioms, similes, ironies, antithesis, alliterations, personifications, and paradoxes. So as you learn about these figures of speech, you also start to understand other aspects of the English language.
- Since figures of speech are used not only in spoken English but also in the written word, using them can greatly enhance the overall quality of your English.
- In most cases, you can use these phrases in the form of a witty comeback or simply as a way to demonstrate your eloquence in the language.
Types of Figures of Speech
After looking at these phrases, you may be eager to start using figures of speech in your daily conversation. But for that, you also need to know which figure of speech to use in which context.
So let’s get into the details of the 18 types of figures of speech with examples so you know exactly when to use each of them.
This type of figure of speech is constructed by attributing certain human characteristics to otherwise inanimate objects. For example, you may have often heard people saying that the “wind is howling.” Look at these two popular examples to get a better idea-
- Opportunity knocked at his/her door.
- Time flies when you’re having fun.
This type of figure of speech is generally used by talking about two very different kinds of things that have a common link. Hence, the action, feature, or effect of the unrelated thing can be applied to that of the related thing, and imply a new meaning. For example-
- She is the apple of my eye.
- The Sun is a creature of habit.
These phrases are somewhat similar to metaphors but are more direct than implied in their meaning. In similes, the indirectly implied meaning is replaced with the words “as” or “like.” These words are used to make the connection between the two different words being used. For example-
- His response was as cold as ice.
- After taking his medication, he became fit as a fiddle.
These types of phrases are figures of speech that have a similar sounding consonant (non-vowel letters) at the beginning of each word. You can identify them by checking for these similarities in two to three consecutive words. Some alliteration figure of speech examples are-
- Claire, close your cluttered closet.
- Go and gather the green leaves on the grass.
These are rather simple yet unique figures of speech. Onomatopoeiae are words or phrases that are similar to the sounds they produce. While they may be an informal and childish way of speaking, these figures of speech can often come in handy when one is trying to be illustrious. Two popular examples are-
- “Sometimes a thousand twangling instruments will hum about mine ears, and sometimes voices&” (From Shakespeare’s “Tempest”)
- “Tis some visitor&tapping at my chamber door Only this and nothing more.” (From Edgar Allen Poe’s “The Raven”)
These are one of the most common figures of speech in English, and you must have used them at least once, even if you are not a native English language speaker. These phrases are meant to emphasize the importance of something by using overexaggerated phrases. Two examples of hyperbole figures of speech are-
- I have told you a million times not to touch my stuff!
- He has a pea-sized brain.
Euphemisms are figures of speech that are used to replace stronger and harsher phrases. These are generally milder or more acceptable terms that you can use in your conversations to sound more polite and sometimes, politically correct. For example-
- She has “passed away”, instead of “died.”
- The company has “let him go,” instead of “fired him.”
Figures of speech sometimes also express sarcasm. You can use these phrases to convey a certain meaning by stating the opposite of it. In common English parlance, such ironic statements or phrases are easily understood. However, here are two examples that will make it clearer-
- During a thunderstorm, Thomas exclaimed ironically, “What beautiful weather we are having!”
- Gerald proposed a useless idea, to which Thomas responded saying, “That’s genius!”
This type of figure of speech is characterized by words, phrases, or clauses that repeat in consecutive sentences. They are generally used contrastingly in either children’s rhymes or powerful and dramatic speeches. For example-
- “So let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire. Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York. Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania…” (From Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech).
- “In every cry of every Man, In every infant’s cry of fear, In every voice, in every ban, The mind-forg’d manacles I hear” (in William Blake’s poem “London”).
Puns are also one of the most common figures of speech that you can use in everyday life. They make you sound witty and even comical in some cases, and can surely be a conversation starter. A couple of examples of pun figures of speech are-
- Denial is a river in Egypt (referring to The Nile using the word Denial).
- Her cat is near the computer to keep an eye on the mouse.
Apostrophe figures of speech are situations (usually in literary worlds), when a character, author, or speaker addresses an inanimate object or even a person that does not really exist in the given scenario. While you may not find it in common usage, it is definitely an interesting figure of speech to learn about. Here are two examples-
- Oh, rose, how sweet you smell and how bright you look!
- Oh, trees, how majestic you are as you throw down your golden leaves.
Similar to ironies, these figures of speech highlight something by talking about exactly the opposite of it. However, a paradox is different because it does not point out the dissimilarity as obviously as an irony. Let’s look at two paradox figures of speech examples-
- “Some of the biggest failures I ever had were successes.” (As said by American actress Pearl Bailey).
- “War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength.” (As said by English novelist George Orwell).
An understatement is also a type of figure of speech. It is aimed at inciting a less reactive response to a particular statement. These can really come in handy during your day-to-day English conversations. For example-
- That condemned house just needs a coat of paint.
- Sue won the lottery, so she’s a bit excited.
Much like synonyms, these figures of speech refer to words that are used in place of other words (nouns, to be specific). These replacement words are different from the word replaced but share a common connection. Here are two metonymy figure of speech examples-
- “The pen is mightier than the sword.” (here, ‘pen’ has replaced ‘the written word’).
- “If you want I can give you a hand.” (here, ‘hand’ has replaced ‘help’).
Not to be confused with ironies and paradoxes, this figure of speech is used to connect two opposite ideas simultaneously. This means that, in an oxymoron figure of speech, two contrasting ideas are used within a single sentence to have a jocular effect. For example-
- This is another fine mess you have got us into.
- Suddenly the room filled with a deafening silence.
Antithesis is a figure of speech that contrasts words or ideas in juxtaposition. It shouldn’t be mistaken with an oxymoron because the former is a statement that conveys two conflicting ideas, while the latter is a strategy used to convey two opposing ideas or concepts in a sentence. Some common examples of antithesis are-
- To err is human, to forgive is divine.
- Speech is silver, but silence is gold.
A figure of speech in which ideas, words, phrases, clauses, or sentences are arranged in ascending order of importance.
- To infinity and beyond!
- My brother, my captain, my king.
Anticlimax is a figure of speech in which ideas and events gradually descend in order of importance. It is a rhetorical device that entails abrupt tone changes while moving from significant ideas to unimportant ones.
- She lost her family, her home, and her car.
- She is a great writer, a daughter, and a cook.
Apart from these 18 types of figures of speech with examples, there are many more that you may want to know about. Like-
- Circumlocution, and
-are all different types of figures of speech, though somewhat uncommon in usage.
The best part about knowing all of these is that you can significantly increase the amount of expressiveness in your writing, which is something that is highly sought-after in candidates who sit for exams like the IELTS and the TOEFL.
Feel free to check out our blog for more such interesting tips!
Liked this blog? Read: Direct and Indirect Speech | A complete guide to the English language
1. What is ‘irony’ in the figure of speech examples?
Irony is a type of figure of speech that is used to denote an opposite meaning to whatever is being said or written.
2. What figure of speech is good?
While each person may have his/her own personal favorite figures of speech, using metaphors, euphemisms and oxymorons may be considered quite clever.
3. Which are the 3 most popular figures of speech example sentences?
Three popular figures of speech example sentences are-
- Your hands are as clean as mud.
- Twinkle, twinkle, little star, How I wonder what you are.
- He passed away in his sleep.
4. What are examples of a metaphor?
Some popular examples of metaphors are-
- “I’m feeling blue”
- “Sharon is an early bird”
- “Raining cats and dogs”
- “Heart of gold”
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