Public Services and Procurement Canada
Symbol of the Government of Canada

Institutional Links


Important notice

Writing Tips has been archived and won’t be updated before it is permanently deleted.

For the most up-to-date content, please consult Writing Tips Plus, which combines content from Writing Tips and The Canadian Style. And don’t forget to update your bookmarks!

To begin your search, go to the alphabetical index below and click on the first letter of the word you are searching for.


A metaphor is a figure of speech in which two persons or things are compared, but without the use of like or as.

Metaphors with the verb be

Metaphors often use the verb be to make a comparison. In a metaphor of this kind, one thing is said to be another:

  • The sound of my husband cleaning the shower is music to my ears.
  • The sun was a ball of fire.

In the first example, the sound of someone cleaning the shower is compared to the pleasant sound of music. In the second example, the writer compares the sun to a ball of fire. In both examples, the two things being compared are connected by a form of the verb be (is, was).

Metaphors without the verb be

Metaphors do not always take the form of nouns joined by the verb be. Sometimes they are disguised as verbs, adjectives or adverbs. In the following examples, notice how the verb be is absent:

  • The sun fired up the sky with dazzling colours. [verb]
  • After a heated argument with his roommates, he stormed out of the house. [adjective and verb]
  • The Red River loops snakily through the valley. [verb and adverb]

Metaphor vs. simile

A simile is a figure of speech that uses like or as to create a comparison. A metaphor, on the other hand, creates an implied comparison without using like or as.

  • Simile: The Red River loops through the valley like a snake.
    Metaphor: The Red River loops snakily through the valley.
  • Simile: The sun was like a ball of fire.
    Metaphor: The sun was a ball of fire.
  • Simile: After the audition, Alina felt as light as a feather.
    Metaphor: After the audition, Alina floated home, her feet barely touching the ground.