Figures of Speech - Explore What They Are and How to Use Them with Examples

Are you as busy as a bee? Why not take some time off your busy schedule to learn how you can make your speech and writing sound and look extraordinary and engaging? There are many ways to make your language creative and interesting. One of the most effective ways to do it is to use figurative language. In this article, you will be introduced to what figures of speech are, their meaning and definition, the different figures of speech and how to use them effectively in sentences with examples.

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What is a Figure of Speech?

A figure of speech is an expression used to make a greater effect on your reader or listener. It includes making comparisons, contrasts, associations, exaggerations and constructions. It also gives a much clearer picture of what you are trying to convey.

Let us take a look at how different dictionaries define a figure of speech to have a much better idea of what it is.

Definition of a Figure of Speech

A figure of speech, according to the Oxford Learner’s Dictionary, is defined as “a word or phrase used in a different way from its usual meaning in order to create a particular mental picture or effect.” The Cambridge Dictionary defines a figure of speech as “an expression that uses words to mean something different from their ordinary meaning.” According to the Collins Dictionary, a figure of speech is “an expression or word that is used with a metaphorical rather than a literal meaning.”

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines a figure of speech as “ a form of expression (such as a simile or metaphor) used to convey meaning or heighten effect often by comparing or identifying one thing with another that has a meaning or connotation familiar to the reader or listener.” According to the Macmillan Dictionary, a figure of speech is defined as “an expression in which the words are used figuratively, not in their normal literal meaning.”

Figures of Speech in English Grammar

In English grammar, there are around fifteen to twenty figures of speech. However, there are a few of them which are used more often than the others. Let us look at the most commonly used figures of speech.

How to Use a Figure of Speech in English? – Points to Remember

You now know that a figure of speech can make your language look and sound a lot more poetical, interesting and flamboyant. However, the challenge is not about learning the different figures of speech but knowing when, where and how to use them. You cannot use it anywhere you like. Only if it is used right and where they are appropriate and necessary, will it make your language better.

Figures of speech are not meant to provide information literally, so it is not suggested that you use figurative language in professional presentations and writings like essays. Since they do not convey literal meanings, it is very important that you learn how each figure of speech can be used. What is more important is knowing what it would mean when used in a particular part of a sentence. So, the most significant point that you have to keep in mind when using figures of speech is to employ them only if they give you the desired effect and meaning.

Classification of Figures of Speech

The figures of speech can be categorized into types based on their functions when used in sentences. Accordingly, the main categories are composed of ones that:

  • Show a Relationship or Resemblance
  • Show Phonetic Resemblances and Representing Sounds
  • Show Emphasis or Unimportance

Showing a Relationship or Resemblance

This category includes figures of speech which are designed to make comparisons to show a relationship or some resemblances. Similes, metaphors, personification, euphemism, metonymy and synecdoche are the figures of speech used for this purpose.

Showing Phonetic Resemblances and Representing Sounds

This category of figures of speech include alliteration, assonance and onomatopoeia. The first two figures of speech are used to create an effect by using similar sounding words or words starting with the same consonant and vowel sounds, whereas onomatopoeia includes words that are used to represent sounds.

Showing Emphasis or Unimportance

The figures of speech belonging to this category are used to provide emphasis or show how important or unimportant something is. Hyperbole, antithesis, oxymoron, irony and litotes are figures of speech that can be used for this purpose.

Examples of Figures of Speech

Here are a few examples of the different figures of speech in English grammar.

  • Simile – Rachel is as bright as the sun.
  • Metaphor – The whole world is a stage.
  • Personification – The wind whispered in my ears.
  • Apostrophe – O William, you should be living now to see all this.
  • Alliteration – Sally sold some seashells.
  • Assonance – I seem to like your little green trees.
  • Hyperbole – I am so hungry I could eat a horse.
  • Oxymoron – Euthanizing their sick pet dog was considered as an act of kind cruelty.
  • Epigram – The child is the father of man.
  • Irony – A fire station burned down yesterday.
  • Pun – Life depends upon the liver.
  • Metonymy – The Bench decided that the man is guilty.
  • Synecdoche – We need more hands to help us move this cupboard.
  • Transferred Epithet – She had a sleepless night.

Frequently Asked Questions on Figures of Speech in English

What is a figure of speech?

A figure of speech is an expression used to make a greater effect on your reader or listener. It includes making comparisons, contrasts, associations, exaggerations and constructions. It also gives a much clearer picture of what you are trying to convey.

What is the definition of a figure of speech?

A figure of speech, according to the Oxford Learner’s Dictionary, is defined as “a word or phrase used in a different way from its usual meaning in order to create a particular mental picture or effect.” The Cambridge Dictionary defines a figure of speech as “an expression that uses words to mean something different from their ordinary meaning.” According to the Collins Dictionary, a figure of speech is “an expression or word that is used with a metaphorical rather than a literal meaning.”
The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines a figure of speech as “ a form of expression (such as a simile or metaphor) used to convey meaning or heighten effect often by comparing or identifying one thing with another that has a meaning or connotation familiar to the reader or listener.” According to the Macmillan Dictionary, a figure of speech is defined as “an expression in which the words are used figuratively, not in their normal literal meaning.”

What are the different figures of speech in English?

Here is a list of the different figures of speech in English.

  • Simile
  • Metaphor
  • Personification
  • Apostrophe
  • Alliteration
  • Assonance
  • Hyperbole
  • Euphemism
  • Antithesis
  • Oxymoron
  • Epigram
  • Irony
  • Pun
  • Metonymy
  • Synecdoche
  • Transferred Epithet

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