Figurative Language and Context Clues

Figurative Language: when a writer describes something by comparing it to something else

Why do authors use figurative language?

→ Figurative language is a tool that helps readers visualize what is happening in the story more vividly.


A comparison of two unrelated things using the connecting words “like”, “as”, “than”, or “seems”.

Ex. “His hand was as cold as ice.”

Ex. “She sings like an angel.”


A comparison of two different things without using connecting words.

Ex. “Her hair was silk.”

Ex. “Love is war.”


Giving human qualities or actions to an inanimate object.

Ex. “The rainbow smiled at us.” → rainbows can’t actually smile

Ex. “The snow flurries danced across the sky” → snow can’t actually dance

There are many other types of figurative language too!


The repeating of the same beginning sound in a group of words.

Ex. “The dog drank daintily from her dish.”

Ex. “The serpent slithered through the slime.”


A deliberate exaggeration used to emphasize a point

Ex. “My cat weighs a ton.”

Ex. “The skyscraper touches the clouds”


Words that imitate real sounds.

Ex. “The bees buzzed.”



A saying whose meaning can’t be understood from the individual words in it.

Ex. “Tickled pink”

Ex. “Under the weather”

What are context clues?

Context clues are words or phrases around an unfamiliar word that can help you understand what the unfamiliar word means.


“Pick up your room, my mother says

She says it everyday

My room’s too heavy to pick up

That’s what I always say”

→ What does the phrase “pick up” mean?

- to clean (in this case, it doesn’t mean to lift like it would normally mean, and you can tell by how the author uses the lines in the poem before and after “pick up” to show that the mother is telling the child to clean their room everyday)


She thinks the antique is valuable, but it is worthless.

→ If you don’t know what valuable means, think about what worthless means. Since the sentence has the word “but” in it, we know that worthless and valuable are antonyms, so valuable must mean something that is worth a lot.

Make sure to use context clues when you read and you stumble upon a word you don’t know!


The apartment’s furnishings, including the fairy lights, the grey sofa, the expensive carpet, and the beautiful paintings hung up on the wall, were quite magnificent.

→ If you don’t know what furnishings means, the rest of the sentence gives specific examples of furnishings so the reader knows that furnishings mean decorative accessories or furniture for a room


She has a vast amount of knowledge about many science topics, including chemistry, biology, computer science, and physics.

→ If you don’t know what vast means, then you can use the context clues of the second part of the sentence: if she knows that many different science topics, you know that “vast” means a lot, or a large quantity in this context.


The FBI thwarted the criminal’s plan to burn up the building, managing to stop him before he could commit this horrible act.

→ If you don’t know what thwarted means, the rest of the sentence helps define the word - if the FBI stopped his evil plans, then that means thwarted means to prevent/stop someone from doing something/following through on a plan

Review: Roots/Affixes/Synonyms/Antonyms/Homophones

Synonyms: words that have the same/similar meaning

→ examples: smart and intelligent, exhausted and tired

Antonyms: word that have the opposite/different meaning

→ examples: loose and tight, distressed and content

Roots: base/root of a word, or the basic word where the word comes from. The root gives the word its main meaning. Many roots are Greek or Latin.

Affixes: prefixes and suffixes (a combination of letters added to the beginning or the end of words that alter/change the meaning of words and roots)

→ Example of prefixes: dis-, un-, re-, mis-, non-, pre-

misspelled (spelled WRONG), undesirable, prehistory

→ Examples of suffixes: -ly, -ful, -less, -able, -tion, -ness, -ment

→ careless, lustful, treatment

Homophones: words that sound the same but are spelled differently and have different meanings

Example: mail and male have different meanings but sound the same, reign and rain have different meanings but sound the same

If you think you're ready, take this quiz!

After you've tried the quiz, check your answers below!

Quiz Answers:

1. Simile

2. Personification

3. Idiom

4. Metaphor

5. Hyperbole

6. Onomatopoeia

7. Alliteration

8. A

9. B

10. D

11. C

12. A, C, E