Personification - Learn What It Is and How to Use Them with Examples

Figures of speech, also called rhetorical devices, are used in the English language to make one’s language look descriptive, vivid and symbolic. In this article, you will be introduced to one of the figures of speech named personification, its meaning, definition and how it is used in sentences along with examples for your understanding.

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What is Personification?

Personification is a figure of speech that is used to attribute human characteristics to something that is not human. It can also be used to personify an abstract quality.

Personification, according to the Oxford Learner’s Dictionary, is defined as “the practice of representing objects, qualities, etc. as humans, in art and literature; an object, quality, etc. that is represented in this way.” The Cambridge Dictionary defines personification as “the act of giving a human quality or characteristic to something which is not human.”

According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, personification is defined as the “representation of a thing or abstraction as a person or by the human form.” Personification is defined as “the attribution of human characteristics to things, abstract ideas, etc., as for literary or artistic effect”, and “the representation of an abstract quality or idea in the form of a person, creature, etc., as in art and literature”, according to the Collins Dictionary.

How to Use Personification in a Sentence? – Points to Keep in Mind

Personification can be used in a sentence to describe something concisely and also to bring a deeper meaning and connection to the object or virtue being personified. However, it is figurative and so it cannot be used in formal essays, any kind of professional or technical writing or to convey something literal.

When you want to use personification in a sentence, make sure it makes sense. Like every other figure of speech, personification also has to be used only if necessary. Personification can be used to make your readers empathise with the characters, both human and non-human, in your writing. The one thing that you will have to take care of is to use the right verbs that describe exactly what you wish to convey.

Examples of Personification

Take a look at a few examples of personification to have a much better understanding of how it can be used.

Personification Examples from Literature

Example 1:

Emily Dickinson, in her poem , Because I could not stop for death, writes,

“Because I could not stop for Death –

He kindly stopped for me –

The Carriage held but just Ourselves –

And Immortality.”

Example 2:

Given below is an example of personification from the poem titled, Hey Diddle, Diddle by Mother Goose.

“Hey, Diddle, Diddle,

The cat and the fiddle,

The cow jumped over the moon;

The little dog laughed

To see such sport,

And the dish ran away with the spoon.”

Example 3:

“Ah, William, we’re weary of weather,”

said the sunflowers, shining with dew.

“Our traveling habits have tired us.

Can you give us a room with a view?”

William Blake personifies sunflowers as if they are talking to him in his poem, Two Sunflowers Move in the Yellow Room.

Example 4:

In his poem, Magdalen Walks, Oscar Wilde personifies the plane and the pine-tree.

“And the plane to the pine-tree is whispering some tale of love

Till it rustles with laughter and tosses its mantle of green,”

Example 5:

“Seagulls soar above her surf,

The sun reflects and gleams,

While people come from miles around

To stroll upon her beach.”

The above example of personification is from the poem A Miracle to Behold by Patricia A Flemming.

Example 6:

In her poem, Mirror, Sylvia Plath personifies the mirror as if it is giving a monologue.

“I am silver and exact. I have no preconceptions.

Whatever I see I swallow immediately

Just as it is, unmisted by love or dislike.

I am not cruel, only truthful,”

Example 7:

In the play, Romeo and Juliet, William Shakespeare makes good use of personification, which is evident in the following lines.

“Care keeps his watch in every old man’s eye,

And, where care lodges, sleep will never lie”

There are more examples of personification in the play and Romeo’s talk to the sun is one example.

“Arise, fair sun, and kill the envious moon,

Who is already sick and pale with grief,

That thou her maid art far more fair than she:

Be not her maid, since she is envious”

Example 8:

In the play, A Midsummer Night’s Dream by William Shakespeare, there is such a beautiful portrayal of the emotions of the moon, which is also an example of personification.

“The moon methinks looks with a watery eye;

And when she weeps, weeps every little flower,

Lamenting some enforced chastity”

Example 9:

In the play, Every Man in His Humour, Ben Jonson makes use of personification to create an effect in the minds of his readers. There are multiple examples of personification in the play.

“It is my want speaks, not myself”

“Your honesty? dame, it flies too lightly from you”

Example 10:

“Blow winds and crack your cheeks! Rage, blow!”

“But yet I call you servile ministers”

The above examples of personification are from the famous play, King Lear by WIlliam Shakespeare.

Personification Examples in Everyday Language

Literature is definitely the best source to understand how personification works. However, personification can be used in everyday life as well. Let us take a look at a few examples to see how.

  • The sun kissed me while I was clicking a picture.
  • The flowers danced to the wind.
  • My clothes stood so erect as if someone had ordered them to stay in attention, as soon as I had ironed them.
  • I felt like the food kept calling me.
  • The stars were sparkling and winking at all of us.

Frequently Asked Questions on Personification in English Grammar

What is personification?

Personification is a figure of speech that is used to attribute human characteristics to something that is not human. It can also be used to personify an abstract quality.

What is the definition of personification?

Personification, according to the Oxford Learner’s Dictionary, is defined as “the practice of representing objects, qualities, etc. as humans, in art and literature; an object, quality, etc. that is represented in this way.” The Cambridge Dictionary defines personification as “the act of giving a human quality or characteristic to something which is not human.” According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, personification is defined as the “representation of a thing or abstraction as a person or by the human form.” Personification is defined as “the attribution of human characteristics to things, abstract ideas, etc., as for literary or artistic effect”, and “the representation of an abstract quality or idea in the form of a person, creature, etc., as in art and literature”, according to the Collins Dictionary.

Why do we use personification?

Personification can be used,

  • to describe something concisely and also to bring a deeper meaning and connection to the object or virtue being personified.
  • to make your readers empathise with the characters, both human and non-human.

Give some examples of personification.

Here are a few examples of personification for your reference.

  • “The moon methinks looks with a watery eye;
  • And when she weelis, weelis every little flower,
  • Lamenting some enforced chastity”
  • “Ah, William, we’re weary of weather,”
  • said the sunflowers, shining with dew.
  • “Our traveling habits have tired us.
  • Can you give us a room with a view?”
  • The sun kissed me while I was clicking a liicture.
  • The flowers danced to the wind.
  • My clothes stood so erect as if someone had ordered them to stay in attention, as soon as I had ironed them.

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