Literary Terms


Figurative Language in Poetry

Poetry is full of figurative language. That's one of the reasons that poetry is so much fun.

In this lesson, you will practice identifying figurative language in poetry.

Let's start with a short review:

A simile is a comparison using "like" or "as".

Jerry's Mind
by Kelly Roper

Jerry's mind wandered during class
Like a balloon floating up in the air.
While he daydreamed about eating lunch
His stomach growled loud like a bear.
His classmates laughed like hyenas,
Which made him feel like a fool.
From now on he'd listen to his mom
And eat breakfast before coming to school.

This poem makes several comparisons using the word "like".

These comparisons are called similes.



No Difference
by Shel Silverstein

Small as a peanut,
Big as a giant,
We're all the same size
When we turn off the light

Rich as a sultan,
Poor as a mite,
We're all worth the same
When we turn off the light.

Red, black or orange,
Yellow or white,
We all look the same
When we turn off the light.

So maybe the way
To make everything right
Is for God to just reach out
And turn off the light!

Similes can also be made using the word "as".

How many similes can you find in this poem?


A metaphor is a comparison without using "like" or "as".

The Sea
by James Reeves

The sea is a hungry dog,
Giant and grey.
He rolls on the beach all day.
With his clashing teeth and shaggy jaws
Hour upon hour he gnaws
The rumbling, tumbling stones,
And 'Bones, bones, bones, bones!'
The giant sea-dog moans,
Licking his greasy paws.

This poem compares the sea to a dog, without using "like" or "as".

The whole poem is built around this metaphor.

The Sea is a Hungry Dog photo by Mertalou | Dog photos, Dogs, Art


Hyperbole is when you exagerate something for empahsis.

by Sharon Hendricks

A mountain of baby carrots,
a turkey the size of a cow.
a river full of gravy
a dog that says meow
Every pie known to man
and gallons full of ice cream.
By the time my dinner is over
I surely won’t be lean.

This poem exaggerates the amount of food at a Thanksgiving dinner.

This is an example of hyperbole.



Personification is when a writer makes a non-human object (or idea) seem like a person.

by Lil Pluta

I know that clouds aren't people,
but they're looking glum today.
So I say that they are pouting,
as I watch the sky turn gray.

Now, the sky is not a person,
but I feel its raindrop tears.
So I say that it is crying,
and then the sun appears.

The sun is not a person,
but its warmth spreads like a grin.
So I say the sun is smiling,
and the sky cheers up again.

This poet uses personification to explain personification.

Clouds don't pout; the sky doesn't cry, and the sun doesn't smile. But imagine that they do: That's called personification.




Instructions for the Quiz

Identify the figurative language technique that is being used.

Warning: This quiz is slightly challenging. Here are some helpful hints:

Metaphors usually use a form of the verb "to be", such as is, was, are, were, etc.

However, metaphorical comparisons can also be made with words such as of, whose, that, etc.

Hyperbole is so common in everyday speech that it's sometimes easy to overlook if you aren't paying attention.

If the poet is being overly dramatic, the anwer is probably hyperbole.

Also, look for words like

Very few things last forever or cannot be counted, so if you see one of these words, the answer is probably hyperbole.