Thursday, 14 March 2019

Figures of speech: An activity

An extract from a post on

A common figure of speech often uses an inanimate object to give a figurative instead of a literal meaning.

Very often we use similes and metaphors to express an idea or concept. Idioms are another type of figurative speech.

Figure of speech examples

We often use an object to create emphasis. For example, “It’s raining cats and dogs” and “I’ll give you a hand.”

If you are a writer, you are using words and expressions both literally and figuratively all the time. You might be trying to create verbal irony, express human qualities or add colour to your text.

Some forms use word order or repetition, such as, “In the wrong place at the wrong time.”

Others can use a chiasmus, where the second part of the expression is balanced against the first. For example, “you should work to live, not live to work.”

Exaggeration, or hyperbole in literary terms, can quickly turn literal language into figurative. “I have a million things to do at the office today”, or, “it cost me an arm and a leg.”

The opposite, of course, is understatement. “It’s only a scratch” when referring to a deep or nasty wound. Or, “It’s a little fresh today” when the temperature is well below zero. Or, “Tiger Woods was a half-decent golf player in his prime.”

Other figure of speech examples include euphemisms.They are a very common form of saying something in a way that is not as blunt or direct. He passed away instead of he died. I’m going to let you go to replace you’re fired. Or, it fell off the back of a truck, when in fact, it was stolen.

Some expressions use alliteration, where a consonant sound is repeated. Examples include, “I’m as busy as a bee” and “It’s as dead as a doornail.”

Cartoon by Ella Baron in the Times Literary Supplement on Twitter.

Did you know? Figures of speech in the picture above:

1. Put all eggs in one basket = Having all of your resources in one place; putting your money or hopes or future into one thing

2. Wear one's heart on one's sleeve = display one’s emotions openly

3. An ace up one's sleeve = a surprise or secret advantage, especially something tricky that is kept hidden until needed.

4. The joker in the pack= If you describe someone or something as the joker in the pack, you mean that they are different from the other people or things in their group, and can be unpredictable.

5. Don’t trust one's own shadow= not believe or trust people easily

6. Coming out of one's ears= (figurative) very numerous or abundant. (As if people or things were coming in great numbers from many sources including unlikely ones.)

7. Spill the beans= reveal the secret

8. Red herring= A red herring is something that misleads or distracts from a relevant or important question. It may be either a logical fallacy or a literary device that leads readers or audiences toward a false conclusion. 

 9. Big cheese= the most important person

10. Time flies= time passes quickly

11. Piece of cake =very easy to be done

12. Can't make an omelet without breaking an egg= If you say you can't make an omelette without breaking eggs, you mean that it is impossible to achieve something important without there being some bad effects. Note: `Omelette' is usually spelled `omelet' in American English.

13. Like a cat chasing its tail= chase (one's) tail To take action that is ineffectual and does not lead to progress. Refers to how a dog or a cat can exhaust itself by chasing its own tail.

14. Tie the knot= to get married

15. To be born with a silver spoon in your mouth or born with a silver spoon in your mouth= If you think that someone has a lot of advantages because they have a rich or influential family, you can say that they have been born with a silver spoon in their mouth.

16 Bird’s eye view= a view from a high angle as if seen by a bird in flight or an overall or cursory look at something

17 A stitch in time saves nine= if you sort out a problem immediately, it may save extra work later 

18 Tough nut to crack (plural tough nuts to crack) = A problem that is challenging to solve. (idiomatic, by extension) A situation, person, group, etc. which is difficult to deal with. (idiomatic) A place, opportunity, etc. to which it is difficult to gain entry. An amount that is difficult to finance.

19 Ride one’s coattails= To benefit from someone else's success; to use someone else's success as a means to achieve one’s own.

20 Get cold feet= hesitate or have second thoughts about sth

21 Sth is full of holes= Unsound or flawed; having many faults that do not stand up to scrutiny or criticism. Alludes to a leaky, porous vessel—hence the related expression, "doesn't hold water."

22 The cherry on the cake= A desirable feature perceived as the finishing touch to something that is already inviting or worth having. Related Idioms : a bite at the cherry. an attempt or chance to do something.

Taken from here.

23 Kick the bucket = to die, pass away

24 Hit the nail on the head= do or say something that is precisely right

25 Cat got one's tongue= Used when someone has nothing to say.

26 An earworm= (informal) a song that you keep hearing in your head

27 Pull your socks up = If someone tells you to pull your socks up, they want you to improve your behaviour or work.

Now visit these websites to find out about the surprising origin of most of these idioms. Then, use this information to write as many example sentences as possible in the comments below.

The Idioms - Largest Idioms Dictionary


Idioms and phrases - The Free Dictionary


  1. 1) She is often described as the jocker in the pack by plenty of her classmates, because of her uncommon style.
    2) What she learned from her serious fight with her so-called best friend is not to trust her own shadow.
    3) Jenny spilled the beans about her sister's secret marriage by her mistake.
    4) She thinks that she is the big cheese nd contributes more to the voluntary organisation that we are both members in, but that's not true at all.
    5) How time flies when you are absorbed in reading an inspirational book!
    6) It wasn't a piece of cake for them to come to a compromise.
    7) They were trying to memorise all these historical dates at the last minute, but it was like a cat chasing itw tail.
    8) John and Rachel are currently organising their wedding ceremony, as they will tie the knot in a few months.
    9) He is believed to have been born with a silver spoon in his mouth, since his mother is a layer and his dad works as a politician.
    10) Sam is thought to to be a tough nut to crack when it comes to team works or projects.
    11) To get a promotion, George rode his colleague's cottails, instead of making a personal effort.
    12) They got cold feet about their decision to settle to London permanently, because they considered how their family relationships will be affected.
    13) Since Catherine's dad kicked the bucket, her psychology has been completely damaged.
    14) He felt that a cat got his tongue in the ECPE speaking exam.
    15) His maths teacher insists he pull his socks up and so does his mother.

  2. 1.She was depressed for years because her husband kicked the bucket.
    2.We had started to give up trying finding the answer to the problem, when Mark hit the nail on the head.
    3.It was a piece of cake to win the battle.