What is figurative language?
Authors use figurative language to make their writing more interesting. Figurative language is a word or phrase that doesn't have its literal meaning, but has a figurative meaning. This sounds complicated, but it can be explained easily by using some examples.
In the book Charlotte's Web, the author uses this sentence to describe a cold winter morning when everything on Zuckerman's farm is covered in ice:
"The grass looked like a magic carpet. The asparagus patch looked like a silver forest."
Both of these examples are similes, but there are lots of other types of figurative language.
Similes are a comparison between two things (like grass and a magic carpet) that use the words "like" or "as" in the comparison. "The grass looked like a magic carpet."
"The baby's skin is as smooth as silk."
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Metaphors are a comparison between two things when the author says one thing is something else. If E.B. White had said, "The grass was a magic carpet," it would be a metaphor instead of a simile.
"My grandma has a heart of gold."
Personification is when something that isn't human is given human characteristics. When animals or cars talk in cartoons, they are being personified.
Alliteration is when the first letter, sound, or group of sounds is repeated. Tongue twisters fall into this category. Cartoon character names are often alliterative: Bugs Bunny, Lex Luther, Donald Duck.
"The wind whispered through the trees."
Wind can't actually whisper, only people can, but the soft sound wind sometimes makes when it blows through the treetops seems like it is whispering.
"Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers."
Hyperbole is an over exaggeration to emphasize a point.
"I've got a million things to do!"
Even though they don't literally have one million items on their list of things to do, when people have many things to do and are busy, they often use the first example sentence. You've probably heard it a million times before!
Onomatopoeia is when the word used sounds similar to the actual sound you hear. "Buzz" is an example of onomatopoeia because an actually buzzing sound sort of sounds like "buzz."
"The plane whizzed through the air."
Idioms are often unique to a region or culture. In México, they don't use the phrase "killing time," they instead say, "está picándose los ojos" which means he's "poking his eyes." They don't literally mean he's poking his eyes, of course, just like in the U.S. we don't literally mean we're killing time. It is an idiom that means they are wasting time while waiting for something.
"It's raining cats and dogs."
"We were shooting the breeze."
"It's going to cost you an arm and a leg."
"Don't beat around the bush, just say it!"
Flocabulary. "Flocabulary - Figurative Language." YouTube. YouTube, 15 Nov. 2012. Web. 09 Jan. 2016. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OPjAiUbdl14>.
Lewis, Ryn. "Language Arts Figurative Language Tutorial." YouTube. YouTube, 9 Nov. 2010. Web. 09 Jan. 2016.
Luna, Rulo. "45 Funniest Mexican Expressions (and How to Use Them)." Matador Network. N.p., 2 Mar. 2015. Web. 9 Jan. 2016.
Warner, Joanne. "Figurative Language." Mrs. Warner's 4th Grade Classroom. Arlington Elementary School, n.d. Web. 09 Jan. 2016.