Analogy vs. Metaphor vs. Simile (Grammar Rules)

Learn when you're using an analogy vs. metaphor vs. simile with Grammar Rules from the Writer's Digest editors, including a few examples of correct usages.
Publish date:

Learn when you're using an analogy vs. metaphor vs. simile with Grammar Rules from the Writer's Digest editors, including a few examples of correct usages.

Image placeholder title

If you have trouble with understanding the difference between an analogy, metaphor, and simile, don't worry: They're easy to mix up. But we're going to work to untangle these terms like a tangled up water hose.

(Click here to view our 12 most popular grammar posts.)

Analogy vs. Metaphor vs. Simile

Analogy is a comparison of two things to help explain an idea or concept. A good example is that a penguin is to birds as a panda is to bears (in that both are a representative type within a classification of animals). Or a coach is to a football team as a manager is to a business (in that both direct the operations of a team to execute a plan).

Metaphor is a word or phrase that takes on the meaning of something else. For instance, a person may say that a penguin is a panda, or that a football coach is a business manager (even though neither statement is true). It's a figure of speech often employed in poetry.

(Simile vs. metaphor: Smackdown!)

Simile is a phrase (that usually uses the word "like" or "as") that compares one thing with another thing to make a description more vivid. While a metaphor claims "a penguin is a panda," a simile would claim "a penguin is like a panda," or that "a penguin is as colorful as a panda."

Make sense?

Here are a few examples:

Metaphor: Time is a thief.
Simile: Time is like a thief.
Analogy: Time is like a thief in that thieves steal physical objects and time steals moments of our lives.

Metaphor: Joe is a pig.
Simile: Joe is as dirty as a pig.
Analogy: Joe's sense of personal hygiene is on the same level as a pig that rolls around in dirt and mud all day.

All three use comparisons, but they're not exactly the same. One point to remember is that metaphors and similes are figures of speech, while an analogy is a type of argument. A metaphor is something, a simile is like something, and an analogy explains how one thing being like another helps explain them both.

Learn more in the online course, Grammar and Mechanics, from Writer’s Digest University:

Image placeholder title

Five Reasons to Write Flash Fiction: Understanding the Literary Love Child of the Short Story and Poetry

In this article, award-winning author Nancy Stohlman breaks down the difference between flash fiction, prose poetry, and short stories and explains what keeps readers on the hook.


The “Secret Sauce” Necessary to Succeed at a 30-Day Writing Challenge

In this article, author and writing coach Nina Amir lays out her top tips to master your mindset and complete a 30-day writing challenge.


Crashing Into New Worlds: Writing About the Unfamiliar

Award-winning crime author Stephanie Kane explains how she builds characters unlike herself and navigates their worlds to create vivid and realistic stories.


Plot Twist Story Prompts: Without a Trace

Every good story needs a nice (or not so nice) turn or two to keep it interesting. This week, have a character leave without a trace.


Vintage WD: The Truth about True Crime

In this article from July 2000, true crime novelist and former New York Times correspondent Lisa Beth Pulitzer shares with us some key insights for breaking into the true crime genre.


New Agent Alert: Barb Roose of Books & Such Literary Management

New literary agent alerts (with this spotlight featuring Barb Roose of Books & Such Literary Management) are golden opportunities for new writers because each one is a literary agent who is likely building his or her client list.


Evoking Emotion in Fiction: Seven Pragmatic Ways to Make Readers Give a Damn

Evoking emotion on the page begins with the man or woman at the keyboard. Dustin Grinnell serves up seven straightforward tactics for writing tear-jerking stories that make your readers empathize with your characters.

Poetry Prompt

Wednesday Poetry Prompts: 546

Every Wednesday, Robert Lee Brewer shares a prompt and an example poem to get things started on the Poetic Asides blog. This week, write a spooky poem.


Learn Better World-Building Strategies Through World of Warcraft and the New Shadowlands Expansion

WD editor and fantasy writer Moriah Richard shares five unique ways in which writers can use World of Warcraft to better build their worlds—without playing the game.