There have been times in the past, especially as a new teacher and even in training, where I have been asked to teach something like a lesson on ‘Similes and Metaphors.’ Those lessons still haunt me to this day because similes are easy. Most of you know and understand them well, but when it comes to understanding and locating a metaphor in writing, more or less nine out of ten students will scratch their heads, give that bemused look and say “Huh” when asked to do so. As a teacher, you walk away thinking “try again.”

So, here is a little pictorial idea for you to help you memorize it.


Think about what is written on this soldier’s helmet. 3 little words to describe war. 3 short words that are so accurate as well, I am sure. 3 words that are a metaphor.

If they were a simile it would say something like, “war is like a version of hell.” The words “like a” make it a simile.

But “War is Hell” merges the two ideas together to create one, rather than comparing them. The “War is hell” one is easy to spot though, so maybe we need to stretch you a little here?

Another example therefore, might be “the traffic was murder this morning.” Clearly, this is the same principle as before with the war one. There are two images, of a city full of cars trying to get to work and a murder scene. Mix the two together [rather than comparing them] and you get a metaphor. Easy.

Now, things get more stranger. Try this one for size.

Capital isn’t in the stock market–it’s in what we stock for ourselves. No one’s going to throw us a line until they see how good of a boat we can or could build.

Where is the metaphor there? It is a harder one to spot for sure. For a start the first sentence begins with a negative up to the hyphen [-] and then adds to itself for detail. Has the metaphor been seen yet?


If you then read the next sentence you notice two images again that are being brought together. There are no references to “like a” so no similes here. But two images that are being merged in a way, those of being thrown “a line” and “a boat we can … build.

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The trick is to see the two images in your head. Do not worry if this seems hard. It is hard. This is one of the hardest things in GCSE English, but get this right and the rest is a cake walk. [Did you see what I did there even without intent?]

2 images, a line being thrown and a boat being built. Look back to the sentence again that they came from and you will see No one’s going to throw us a line until they see how good of a boat we can or could build.” 

So now, you are ready to write about the metaphor. How do you do that? Well, you use your PEE [D] chains mentioned before and mention the effect it has on the reader. Beware though, for there may be more than one effect for we all see things differently. Throwing a line can be a fishing term as well, for example. Below is how I view the metaphor mentioned:

Capital isn’t in the stock market–it’s in what we stock for ourselves. No one’s going to throw us a line until they see how good of a boat we can or could build.

The writer uses a metaphor here [point made] to compare the difference between a banker’s attitude to giving help to a client [further point made] and their offer of help itself. In using the term “throw us a line” [evidence used] the writer paints an initial picture in the mind of the reader of a line being hauled from a ship, but the desired effect is that the reader should respond positively because this is a term for giving someone financial help when they are in need.

. By then using the term “until they see how good a boat” [further evidence used – second part of metaphor] a person can build, they are making the reader merge the two images to create an immediate and direct meaning. [further point made]. In doing this, [development to follow] this allows the reader to see not only the fact that one has to speculate to accumulate, but also that lenders will assist where prudent finances exist. [end of PEE chain]. 

Now, with all those brackets, that is not an easy paragraph to read, but I added them to help you see what the marker/teacher has to look for. Without all these elements in, you are not hitting the C grade mark, let alone a higher mark.

Now you have a go at writing a PEE [D] chain for this metaphor. It is a statement by the artist, Pablo Picasso. Add it to our Facebook page.

Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.