Whether you’re writing for a creative writing course, for a school assignment, or even just talking in real life, the English language hinges off the ability to use metaphors. It’s important to know both what a metaphor is and how to properly construct one.
A metaphor is a figure of speech that compares two unlike objects without using the words ‘like’ or ‘as’. An example of this would be “John is a pig.” The two items that are being compared here is the noun ‘John’ and the noun ‘pig.’ The reader is to assume that John is not really a pig but a human. However, he distributes characteristics that would be attributed to a pig, such as eating a lot or making a mess when eating.
Metaphors are oftentimes confused with similes. Similes are figures of speech that compare two unlike things, too, but they use ‘like’ or ‘as,’ or another connector. So if you’re ever in doubt about the difference between the two, always look for those key words that would show that it is not a metaphor.
A metaphor consists of two parts: a tenor and a vehicle. The tenor in the example above would be John. This is the noun that is being given the characteristics of the second noun. In the above example, ‘a pig’ is the vehicle. The vehicle is what is used to describe the tenor, or it’s the second noun that is being compared to the first.
When writing a metaphor, remember that the thing you’re describing, the tenor, comes first. You wouldn’t say “A pig is John” because you’re describing John, not the pig. Also, a metaphor is only a metaphor if the vehicle and tenor are both nouns. It doesn’t work in the English language if it’s constructed any other way.
The main thing to keep in mind when writing your metaphor is what point you’re trying to get across. If you’re trying to describe how beautiful something is, saying such and such is a swamp is not a good idea. The comparison must make some sort of sense. The main purpose of using a metaphor is to describe something in a way that will get the readers to understand better.
Be creative when choosing your metaphor descriptions. Saying that someone is a pig, like in my example, is overused. People look forward to seeing what you can come up with, something that’s different from the metaphors that are overused.