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How Do I Identify Sentences with Metaphor?

"Love is a rose with thorns" is a common metaphor for love.
Metaphors are comparisons.
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  • Written By: G. Wiesen
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 05 July 2014
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When identifying sentences with metaphor, you should look for two or more objects or ideas in a sentence, usually represented by nouns, which are being directly compared to each other. This is in contrast to similes in which two objects or ideas are compared to each other with qualifiers such as “like” or “as,” rather than through a direct comparison. You should also look for sentences with metaphor that utilize an extended metaphor from an earlier section of a paragraph, which can be more difficult to see since one of the ideas or objects may be absent from the ongoing metaphoric usage.

Sentences with metaphor can typically be identified by looking for two objects or ideas in a sentence that are directly compared with each other. This means you can typically begin by looking to see if a sentence has two different ideas or objects, since a sentence with only a single object usually does not contain a metaphor. “The cat ran quickly and silently,” does not contain any metaphors since there is only a single object, the cat. It is still possible to find sentences with metaphor that only contain a single object, though this is somewhat rare and usually consists of an indirect metaphor such as “The cat slithered silently, ready to strike,” which compares the cat to a snake, but does not directly mention the snake.

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Once you have found two objects in sentences with metaphor, then you should look for a comparison of those two objects. Metaphors use direct comparisons, which means a metaphor uses a direct word such as “is” or “are;” metaphors such as “The cat is a wrecking ball of destruction” or “Her eyes are pools of sea foam” use direct comparisons. In a metaphor, one object is stated to directly be another object, though the reader understands this is symbolic and not meant to be literal. This makes sentences with metaphor easy to distinguish from sentences with similes like “The cat was like a tornado” or “Her eyes were like glistening gemstones.”

As you look for sentences with metaphor, however, you should also keep in mind the possibility of extended metaphors. These are metaphors that typically run from one sentence into another, but often continue the comparison indirectly. The sentence “The cat is a wrecking ball of destruction” is a clear metaphor that you could easily find in a paragraph or reading. If the next sentence, or a few sentences later, read “As the cat reeled back for another swing through the room,” it would continue or extend the comparison and image of the cat as a wrecking ball, without clearly stating the metaphor again.

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