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Figures of Speech – Introduction

This unit explains the different Figures of Speech with examples - Alliteration, Allusion, Simile, Metaphor, Personification, Oxymoron, Onomatopoeia, Anaphora, Ellipsis, Rhyme Scheme, Repetition, Apostrophe.

Figures of speech:

A figure of speech is an expressive use of language to show a special effect by using words in distinctive ways. The special effect may be rhyming sounds or any other. There are many figures of speech, here are some of them.


The repetition of an initial consonant sound*. It depends on the sound and not on repetition of letters.

*The sound of English alphabets except vowels (a, e, i, o, u).

Ex: "Guinness is good for you" - It is alliterative as words Guinness and good gives similar consonant sound.

"Climate change is observed lightly in Tamil Nadu" - Non alliterative as words Climateand Change gives different sound.


A reference to a person, place or event that happened - may be real or fiction. The reference may be to any painting, script, character etc.

Ex: "He is a real Romeo with ladies" - Here the reference is to the character "Romeo" in Shakespeare's plays Romeo and Juliet.


Comparing two dissimilar things that have certain qualities in common. It is usually done with phrase "like" or "as".

Ex: "He is as tall as Eifel tower"


An implied comparison between two unlike things that actually have something important in common.

Ex: "The streets were a furnace, the sun an executioner." (Cynthia Ozick, "Rosa") - Here the streets are compared to the furnace and the sun to the executioner. Here too the comparison is done as like simile but it is in broader sense.

NOTE: Similes mostly uses the comparison words "like" and "as". The other comparison can be attributed to metaphor.


A figure of speech in which a lifeless object or abstraction is provided with human qualities or abilities.

Ex: "The wind stood up and gave a shout." - Here the wind (lifeless object) is compared to a human standing up and shouting.


A figure of speech in which contradictory terms appear side by side.

Ex: "The best cure for insomnia is to get a lot of sleep." - Here the insomnia (habitual sleeplessness) is compared with sleeping - Contradictory words.


The use of words that imitate the sounds associated with the objects or actions they refer to.

Ex: "Ding Dong! The door bell is ringing."


The repetition of the same word or phrase at the beginning of successive clauses or verses.

Ex: "I needed a drink, I needed a lot of life insurance, I needed a vacation, and I needed a home in the country. What I had was a coat, a hat and a gun." (Raymond Chandler, Farewell, My Lovely, 1940) -

The word "needed" is repeated in the above verses.


Ellipsis is the omission of one or more words, which must be supplied by the reader.

Ex: "Wise men talk because they have something to say; fools, because they have to say something." (Plato) - Here the second sentence does not contain the word "talk".

Rhyme Scheme:

The arrangement of Rhymes in a poem. Rhyme here stands for the similarity of sounds.


It is the simple repeating of a word, within a sentence or a poetical line, with no particular placement of the words, in order to provide emphasis.


Breaking off the line to address some absent person or thing, some abstract quality, an inanimate object, or a nonexistent character.

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