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Figurative Language

On this page you can find frequently asked questions about figurative language, a review worksheet to practice figurative language, and links to other pages that contain worksheets that practice figurative language.

In this worksheet, students will practice different kinds of figurative language, including simile, metaphor, personification, onomatopoeia, allusion, hyperbole and alliteration. (While there is some debate about whether or not alliteration is a type of figurative language, it is being included here as it is generally taught alongside all the other types of figurative language.) In the first exercise, students identify the type of figurative language being used. In the second exercise, students identify and explain each example of figurative language. It is suitable for Grade 5, Grade 6, Grade 7, and Grade 8.

Worksheet

Worksheet

Answer Key

More practice for figurative language can be found here:

Alliteration

Metaphor

Onomatopoeia

Personification

Simile

  • Why do FAQs matter?
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  • What is figurative language?
    Figurative language expresses an idea by using language that means something different than just the meanings of the words themselves. Writers use it to make their writing vivid, unique, and memorable. There are many different types of figurative language, including simile, metaphor, hyperbole, and personification. ​ Here are some examples of figurative language: ​ A simile compares two things using the words "like" or "as." For example, "The steel milk churns looked like squat sentries in flat hats.” The Sea, John Banville ​ A metaphor compares two things without using the words "like" or "as." For example, "The river had widened during the night and by the morning it was a two-kilometer-wide highway of blue gray cutting through the low green hills of the Sea of Grass.” Hyperion, Dan Simmons ​ Personification is when something that is not a person does something like a person or is like a person in some way. For example, "Emotions tugged at him with the same sudden violence as the time tides." The Fall of Hyperion, Dan Simmons ​
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  • When do students learn figurative language and what skills do they learn?
    Students learn about figurative language as early as third grade. The Common Core State Standards (CCSA) in America reference the use of non-literal language in RL 3.4 in their reading standards for literature. Here is a quick rundown of the common core state standards that relate to figurative language and what they require: ​ Grade 3 CCSA RL 3.4: Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, distinguishing literal from non-literal language. ​ CCSA L.3.5a Distinguish the literal and non-literal meanings of words and phrases in context (e.g., take steps). ​ Grade 4 CCSA RL4.4: Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including those that allude to significant characters found in mythology (e.g., Herculean). ​ CCSA L.4.5a Explain the meaning of simple similes and metaphors (e.g., as pretty as a picture) in context. CCSA L.4.5b. Recognize and explain the meaning of common idioms, adages, and proverbs. ​ Grade 5 CCSA RL5.4 Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including figurative language such as metaphors and similes. ​ CCSA L.5.5 a Interpret figurative language, including similes and metaphors, in context. CCSA L.5.b Recognize and explain the meaning of common idioms, adages, and proverbs. ​ Grade 6 CCSA RL 6.4 Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including figurative and connotative meanings; analyze the impact of a specific word choice on meaning and tone. ​ CCSA RI.6.4 Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including figurative, connotative, and technical meanings ​ CCSA L.6.5 Demonstrate understanding of figurative language, word relationships, and nuances in word meanings. a. Interpret figures of speech (e.g., personification) in context. b. Use the relationship between particular words (e.g., cause/effect, part/whole, item/category) to better understand each of the words. c. Distinguish among the connotations (associations) of words with similar denotations (definitions) (e.g., stingy, scrimping, economical, unwasteful, thrifty). ​ Grade 7 CCSA RL 7.4 Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including figurative and connotative meanings; analyze the impact of rhymes and other repetitions of sounds (e.g., alliteration) on a specific verse or stanza of a poem or section of a story or drama. ​ CCSA RI.7.4 Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including figurative, connotative, and technical meanings; analyze the impact of a specific word choice on meaning and tone. ​ CCSA L.7.5 Demonstrate understanding of figurative language, word relationships, and nuances in word meanings. a. Interpret figures of speech (e.g., literary, biblical, and mythological allusions) in context. b. Use the relationship between particular words (e.g., synonym/antonym, analogy) to better understand each of the words. c. Distinguish among the connotations (associations) of words with similar denotations (definitions) (e.g., refined, respectful, polite, diplomatic, condescending). ​ Grade 8 CCSA RL 8.4 Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including figurative and connotative meanings; analyze the impact of specific word choices on meaning and tone, including analogies or allusions to other texts. ​ CCSA RI.8.4 Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including figurative, connotative, and technical meanings; analyze the impact of specific word choices on meaning and tone, including analogies or allusions to other texts. ​ CCSA L.8.5 Demonstrate understanding of figurative language, word relationships, and nuances in word meanings. a. Interpret figures of speech (e.g. verbal irony, puns) in context. b. Use the relationship between particular words to better understand each of the words. c. Distinguish among the connotations (associations) of words with similar denotations (definitions) (e.g., bullheaded, willful, firm, persistent, resolute). ​ Grade 9 CCSA RL.9.4 Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in the text, including figurative and connotative meanings; analyze the cumulative impact of specific word choices on meaning and tone (e.g., how the language evokes a sense of time and place; how it sets a formal or informal tone). ​ CCSA RI.9.4 Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including figurative, connotative, and technical meanings; analyze the cumulative impact of specific word choices on meaning and tone (e.g., how the language of a court opinion differs from that of a newspaper). ​ CCSA L.9.5 Demonstrate understanding of figurative language, word relationships, and nuances in word meanings. a. Interpret figures of speech (e.g., euphemism, oxymoron) in context and analyze their role in the text. b. Analyze nuances in the meaning of words with similar denotations. ​ Grade 10 CCSA RL 10.4 Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in the text, including figurative and connotative meanings; analyze the cumulative impact of specific word choices on meaning and tone (e.g., how the language evokes a sense of time and place; how it sets a formal or informal tone). ​ CCSA RI.10.4 Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including figurative, connotative, and technical meanings; analyze the cumulative impact of specific word choices on meaning and tone (e.g., how the language of a court opinion differs from that of a newspaper). ​ CCSA L.10.5 Demonstrate understanding of figurative language, word relationships, and nuances in word meanings.a. Interpret figures of speech (e.g., euphemism, oxymoron) in context and analyze their role in the text.b. Analyze nuances in the meaning of words with similar denotations. ​ Grade 11 CCSA RL.11.4 Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in the text, including figurative and connotative meanings; analyze the impact of specific word choices on meaning and tone, including words with multiple meanings or language that is particularly fresh, engaging, or beautiful. (Include Shakespeare as well as other authors.) ​ CCSA RI.11.4 Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including figurative, connotative, and technical meanings; analyze how an author uses and refines the meaning of a key term or terms over the course of a text (e.g., how Madison defines faction in Federalist No. 10). ​ CCSA L.11.5 Demonstrate understanding of figurative language, word relationships, and nuances in word meanings.a. Interpret figures of speech (e.g., hyperbole, paradox) in context and analyze their role in the text.b. Analyze nuances in the meaning of words with similar denotations. ​ Grade 12 CCSA RL 12.4 Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in the text,including figurative and connotative meanings; analyze the impact of specific word choices on meaning and tone, including words with multiple meanings or language that is particularly fresh, engaging, or beautiful. (Include Shakespeare as well as other authors.) ​ CCSA RI.12.4 Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including figurative, connotative, and technical meanings; analyze how an author uses and refines the meaning of a key term or terms over the course of a text (e.g., how Madison defines faction in Federalist No. 10). ​ CCSA L.12.5 Demonstrate understanding of figurative language, word relationships, and nuances in word meanings. a. Interpret figures of speech (e.g., hyperbole, paradox) in context and analyze their role in the text. b. Analyze nuances in the meaning of words with similar denotations.
  • Why do students learn figurative language?
    The main reason students learn figurative language is that writers often use it to express their ideas, particularly in more complex forms of writing. These ideas are often made clearer through the use of figurative language as they may be difficult to understand if stated directly. An example might be a scientific concept that is hard to grasp when explained directly, but which may be more easily understood if an analogy is used to explain it. Ideas are not the only thing writers describe with figurative language. Feelings are extremely complex things that are notoriously difficult to describe. Figurative language can help readers understand the experience that the writer is trying to communicate. In this way, figurative language can be thought of as a set of powerful tools that writers use to communicate with readers. ​Once students understand how these tools are used, they can start to use them in their own writing and thus achieve the ultimate goal of being able to communicate in a clear, creative way through the medium of writing.
  • What is figurative language?
    Figurative language expresses an idea by using language that means something different than just the meanings of the words themselves. Writers use it to make their writing vivid, unique, and memorable. There are many different types of figurative language, including simile, metaphor, hyperbole, and personification. ​ Here are some examples of figurative language: ​ A simile compares two things using the words "like" or "as." For example, "The steel milk churns looked like squat sentries in flat hats.” The Sea, John Banville ​ A metaphor compares two things without using the words "like" or "as." For example, "The river had widened during the night and by the morning it was a two-kilometer-wide highway of blue gray cutting through the low green hills of the Sea of Grass.” Hyperion, Dan Simmons ​ Personification is when something that is not a person does something like a person or is like a person in some way. For example, "Emotions tugged at him with the same sudden violence as the time tides." The Fall of Hyperion, Dan Simmons ​
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