Mini-Lesson Monday, Lesson #217 (Part 2): ‘I want an appropriate simile’: Popular Similes English Speakers Use

📗 “I am very glad to hear it indeed, and now I shall never be ashamed of liking Udolpho myself. But I really thought before, young men despised novels amazingly.”

“It is amazingly; it may well suggest amazement if they do— for they read nearly as many as women. I myself have read hundreds and hundreds. Do not imagine that you can cope with me in a knowledge of Julias and Louisas. If we proceed to particulars, and engage in the never-ceasing inquiry of ‘Have you read this?’ and ‘Have you read that?’ I shall soon leave you as far behind me as— what shall I say?— I want an appropriate simile.— as far as your friend Emily herself left poor Valancourt when she went with her aunt into Italy. Consider how many years I have had the start of you. I had entered on my studies at Oxford, while you were a good little girl working your sampler at home!”

– Jane Austen, Northanger Abbey (1817)

This is Part 2 of our Lesson #217, in which we are looking at four different types of similes that are commonly used in English (for the first two types, see Part 1 of the Lesson here).

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📝 SIMILES WITH REFERENCE TO HUMAN PERSONS OR CHARACTERISTICS

  • slept like a baby: slept very well

e.g. ‘I was so tired last night after travelling, that even though I was in a new bed I still slept like a baby!’

  • stood out like a sore thumb: be obvious, conspicuous, especially in a negative way

e.g. ‘He was so grumpy and unhappy at the party, that he stood out like a sore thumb.’

  • as drunk as a lord: very drunk

e.g. ‘The person who got into trouble with the police was both aggressive and as drunk as a lord.’

  • as mad as a hatter: crazy (not necessarily in a negative way; sometimes even as a euphemism)

e.g. ‘Did you hear that elderly lady? She is as mad as a hatter: she told the bus driver that if he didn’t speed up she would drive the bus for him at 100mph!’

  • as sober as a judge: very serious, calm, and dignified

e.g. ‘The little girl was excited about being allowed to join the adults in their celebrations, yet as soon as she was dressed up and had entered the room, she acted as sober as a judge.’

  • as wise as Solomon: very wise and knowledgeable

e.g. ‘We have learned a lot about legal matters, but by no means are we as wise as Solomon!’

📝 SIMILES THAT REFLECT ABSTRACT CONCEPTS

  • as old as the hills: very old, ancient

e.g. ‘It will be difficult for them to change that tradition now – it is as old as the hills.’

  • as pale as death: very pale (often from fear)

e.g. ‘She came out of the room looking as pale as death, and we wondered what she could have seen inside that frightened her so much.’

  • as plain as day: very obvious, clear; not needing an explanation

e.g. ‘It is as plain as day that if they want to avoid the virus they need to take the necessary precautions to protect themselves.’

  • as sure as death and taxes: certain, sure (to happen) [usually with a negative connotation]

e.g. ‘There will be many extra costs associated with my going to university – travel expenses, study materials, the price of a new laptop, etc. – it is as sure as death and taxes.’

✏️ Here is a short and easy exercise to help you use similes in English.

Find between 3-5 similes from the list above that you like, and try to use them in sentences of your own. The sentences don’t have to be perfect, but once you begin to use similes like this in your language, you will become more comfortable with using them more often and naturally!