At LanguageHumanities, we're committed to delivering accurate, trustworthy information. Our expert-authored content is rigorously fact-checked and sourced from credible authorities. Discover how we uphold the highest standards in providing you with reliable knowledge.

Learn more...

How Do I Identify Sentences with Metaphor?

G. Wiesen
G. Wiesen

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 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 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.

Metaphors are comparisons.
Metaphors are comparisons.

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.”

"Love is a rose with thorns" is a common metaphor for love.
"Love is a rose with thorns" is a common metaphor for love.

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.

Discussion Comments


There are different types of metaphor and they're all a little different. For example, there is hyperbole, which is a metaphor with exaggeration. For example, "the spilled sugar made a mountain on the kitchen table" is hyperbole. Not only is the sugar being compared to a mountain, but the spill is also being exaggerated.


@ZipLine-- I think this is in act 1 and it is a metaphor: "Kind gentlemen, your pains are register'd, where every day I turn

the leaf to read them."

Here, Shakespeare is talking about memory. He is referring to his memory as a kind of book where he has registered everyone's pains. He "reads" them every day, meaning that he remembers them every day.

Sometimes, a sentence with a metaphor doesn't use "like" or "as" to tie the two ideas together. But when you see a word or idea that seems out of place or different, it might be a sign that a metaphor is being used. It doesn't make sense that someone's pain be registered in a book, right? So from there, you can think about where people's experiences and pains may be stored, which is memory.

Some writers are exceptional at using metaphor, like Shakespeare. So don't be disheartened. Read it more carefully and think about the words used.


Can anyone tell me a metaphor from Macbeth? I need to find it for an assignment. I've been looking at act one but haven't found one yet. I'm not good at this.

Post your comments
Forgot password?
    • Metaphors are comparisons.
      By: Irochka
      Metaphors are comparisons.
    • "Love is a rose with thorns" is a common metaphor for love.
      By: margo555
      "Love is a rose with thorns" is a common metaphor for love.