A simile compares two unlike things using the words “like” or “as.” Here are some common examples of simile:

You’ve probably heard or read these examples before. The goal in writing is for you to create similes that are new and creative. These are simply used as examples to show you what a simile might look like.

In the movie Annie Hall, Alvy says to his girlfriend Annie, “A relationship, I think, is like a shark, you know; it has to constantly move forward or it dies. And, I think what we’ve got on our hands is a dead shark.” Not exactly what you want to hear from your significant other, but it leaves no room for doubt about Alvy’s thoughts on the relationship. This is one advantage of using similes in writing: they are more precise than other forms of figurative language and often easier to interpret.

Read a short poem called “Flint” by Christina Rossetti.

An image of flowers that look like fluffy pink explosions. A poem is written over the flowers: “Pinks and purples, not drowning but waving. Dancing and reminding as I pass them by. A candelabra of purple wallflowers: shooting fireworks in the sky in a blaze of mixed up metaphors.”

Source: “Firework Flowers,” Joanna Paterson, Flickr


An emerald is as green as grass,
A ruby red as blood;
A sapphire shines as blue as heaven;
A flint lies in the mud.
A diamond is a brilliant stone,
To catch the world’s desire;
An opal holds a fiery spark;
But a flint holds a fire.

take notes icon This poem uses common similes to describe precious stones. “Green as grass,” “red as blood,” and “blue as heaven” are typical, even unimaginative, ways to describe these gems. Answer the question below using your notes. When you’re finished, check your understanding to see a possible response.

What are these similes implying about the precious stones in contrast with the flint?

Check Your Understanding

Sample Response:

The precious stones are described by obvious similes because their value is obvious. The flint’s value is buried within and unlimited; it can be used to make fire.

Similes are also used in fiction to compare two dissimilar things. Let’s look at some similes from novels. Then do the exercise that follows.

The café was like a battleship stripped for action.

—Ernest Hemingway, The Sun Also Rises

A hot wind was blowing around my head, the strands of my hair lifting and swirling in it, like ink spilled in water.

—Margaret Atwood, The Blind Assassin

Her eyes look like lamps blaring up just before the oil is gone.

—William Faulkner, As I Lay Dying

She was a pale blonde with skin like clean and polished bone.

—John Steinbeck, East of Eden

The air smelled sharp as new-cut wood, slicing low and sly around the angles of buildings.

—Joanne Harris, Chocolat

For the next exercise, match the correct objects and descriptions by dragging and dropping each phrase at the top into a blank oval below. Refer to the quotations above to help you match each pair.

icon for an interactive exercise