6 Figures of speech in English Literature with examples pdf

Figures of Speech

What are figures of speech? What are 6 figures of speech in literature pdf?

The Figures of speech are explained in detail with pdf. You can learn all figures of speech with examples and definitions.

We have laid stress upon the qualities of simplicity in writing, because they are of the first importance and are the very aspects in which untrained writers are most likely to fail.

They feel that in order to write well they must employ unusual and high surrounding words. But we must remember that words are only to be used for the sake of sense.

Keeping in mind that the only real use of words is for the expression of thought, we wish you now to consider how the thought may be expressed with special clearness, force and beauty.

What are called Figures of Rhetoric or Figures of Speech?

An important means of doing this is by the use of what are called Figures of Rhetoric or Figures of Speech. A figure of rhetoric is a form of expression that departs in some way from direct, literal statement.

This may be in the choice or application of single words so as to make them mean more than in ordinary use. Aristotle said that Homer was the only poet who had found out “living words”.

This was because of Homer’s use of daring metaphors, such as, ‘An arrow impatient to be on the wing’, and ‘A weapon thirsting to drink the blood of an enemy.

Often the figure goes beyond any mere choice or arrangement of words, into the very structure and essence of thought. Such a figure may be a well-chosen comparison called in rhetoric a simile.

Thus we may say in direct, literal statement. The ship was helpless in the heavy sea. This is the plain, bare fact. But can we not picture that in some way, so as to make it more impressive?

Suppose we use a comparison and say: The ship was tossed like a chip on the waves. Now has not the cold, literal statement come to life? Do you not see the great ship flung about as a plaything by the wild waters? Such a figure appeals to the imagination, and thus renders the expression of the thought more vivid and interesting.

Observe that the thought is there; otherwise the figure would be empty and bombastic. There is some fault with a figure of speech which cannot be translated at will into clear, plain, literal statement. That fault is, that the figure has not a clear thought behind it. Keeping this in mind, you may trust an intelligent common sense to tell you when figure of speech is, or is not appropriate.

Language is figurative when the words used are not to be understood in their simple and literal signification, but in one suggested by the imagination of the speaker, and therefore appealing to the imagination of the hearer. Figures serve not merely to embellish language, but often to give it a point and force that it could not otherwise have.

Figurative and ordinary language may both be accurate and true to nature, but whereas one is bare presentation of the truth, the other is the truth aglow with colour, beauty and life. The purpose of speaking in figurative language is to give increased power and effect to what is said. Recapitulating the whole discussion.

When words are deflected from their normal use or invested with a special significance for the sake of increased effect, a departure is made from the plain ordinary mode of speaking, and this departure is termed a figure of speech. Thus, if instead of saying “It is wonderful” we say “How wonderful” or “He fights like a tiger instead of “He fights with great ferocity, “or” I shall leave your roof for “I shall leave your house”, we use language that is figurative. In the first case, the exclamatory form makes the words much more expressive. In the second case, the comparison with a tiger immediately calls up in the mind a vivid picture of this ferocious beast, and the words acquire a greater force than by the mere statement of an abstract quality. Abstract terms blur the lines of a picture because they are difficult to visualize. In the third instance, the mention of the roof brings more effectively home to us the protection implied by living in the same house.

From where figures of Speech is deviated?

“A Figure of Speech is a deviation from the plain and ordinary mode of writing, with a view to greater effect”. (Bain). By figures of speech we mean stylistic devices adopted by an author or a speaker with the object of giving clarity, tone, force or colour to his writing, or speech. In order to secure emphasis, vividness, beauty, or some other special effects, the ordinary arrangement or application of words is often found inadequate. In such cases, we intentionally adopt some special way of expressing our ideas: and these special ways of expression are called “Figures of Speech”. For instance, the phrase “as slowly as a snail” is much more vivid than the mere adverb “slowly”.

In order to make it more emphatic, an unfeeling, merciless man can be described as having “a heart of stone”. Instead of saying “She is very lovely”, we may say, “She is lovely as a rose” in order to secure greater vividness,

Such figures are intended to impress an idea on the understanding more strikingly or to touch the feelings more effectively. At the same time, they often add beauty; but in ordinary prose they should not be introduced merely for ornament. The ornamental use should be left to poets. Students should remember that over-decoration smacks of bad taste and, therefore, it is best to refrain from using too many similes and metaphors. “Whenever writing is tortured and twisted in order that a striking effect may be produced, it ceases to be agreeable; it smells of the lamp and like paint and powder when too evident, repels rather than attracts”. However, a simile or metaphor or an antithesis, if judiciously used, enhances the beauty of writing. Figurative language is intentional departure from normal, regular language to gain strength and freshness of expression, to create a picture quality and a poetic effect.

Figures of speech may be divided into six classes accordingly as they are based on

(1) Resemblance

(2) Contrast

(3) Association

(4) Construction

(5) Indirectness of Speech

(6) Sound


These are by far the most numerous and important. The resemblance is generally between things widely different in nature, and is usually of such a character as to require the play of imagination to detect it. In a figure which assists the understanding by illuminating an idea as by a sudden flash of light, it will be invariably found that the word or words used figuratively deal with the commoner and more familiar perceptions or thoughts. In the use of figures of resemblance, the mind draws upon the simple and concrete in thought and speech to define, elucidate or illustrate the abstract and less known.

What are 6 Figures of Speech?

The chief figures of resemblance are:

(1) Simile

When two unlike objects are compared and the comparison is introduced by the words as, as–so, like, we have a simile as:

My faith is as firm as a rock.

(2) Metaphor

It is an informal or implied simile in which the words “like’ ‘as’ are avoided. For example, “He is like a Giant. (Simile) “and “He is a Giant. (metaphor)”.

(3) Personification

Personification consists in attributing life and mind to inanimate things. ‘The mountains sing together, the hills rejoice and clap hands.

(4) Apostrophe

An apostrophe is a figure of speech by which some person (generally absent or dead) or some abstract idea personified is addressed. It consists in addressing something absent, as if present.

(5) Hyperbole

Hyperbole (Greek = overshooting) is a figure of speech in which the bounds of strict veracity are over-shot not for the sake of deceit but on account of emotion and for the sake of emphasis or humour.

(6) Euphemism

The prefix eu — is the Greek adverb = well, favourably. When something bad, shocking or ugly is glossed over from motives of delicacy or politeness, we have euphemism (literally, ‘speaking well’).

Vision, Allegory, Parable and Fable also come under the category of figures of resemblance.