A figure of speech is a deviation from the ordinary use of words. It is used to emphasise ‘or increase the effectiveness of words in a sentence. For example, if we say, ‘There are four pillars to the verandah.’ here the word pillars is used in its ordinary sense. But when we say, an independent judiciary is a pillar of Pakistani democracy, here pillar is used in figurative sense. By using these figures of speech, you can add power to your English writing and speaking. Here is a simple analysis of some of the important figures of speech commonly used:
It is a figure of comparison in which two dissimilar things belonging to two different planes are compared. The simile is usually introduced by such words as: like as, so, such as, just as.
- She sways like a flower in the wind of our sing.
- Errors, like straws, upon the surface flow.
- So like a shattered column lay the king.
- O, my love is like a red, red rose.
- Your face is as a book where man may read strange letters.
A metaphor is an implied simile without using words such as: tike, as, just as, and so on. In it, the two objects of completely different orders are identified.
- Our eldest son is the star of the family.
- The camel is the ship of the desert.
- The soldier was a lion in the battlefield.
- Life is a tale.
- Revenge is a wild justice.
In personification, inanimate (lifeless) objects and abstract notions are spoken of as having life and intelligence.
- Death lays its icy hand on kings.
- But patience, to prevent that murmur, soon replies.
- The sea that bares her bosom to the moon.
- Let no ambition mock their useful toil.
- Authority forgets a dying king.
- Melancholy marked him for her own.
By this figure the speaker addresses some inanimate things or some abstract ideas as if it were a living person. It therefore includes personification:
- Frailty, thy name is woman!
- O Death! Where is thy sting?
- O World! O Life! O Time!
- Sail on, O Union, strong and great!
- Ethereal minstrel! pilgrim of sky!
This consists in the repetition of the same sound or syllable at the beginning of two or more words:
- Glittering through the gloomy glads.
- Full fathom five thy father lies.
- A load of learning limbering in his head.
- A strong man struggling with the storms of fate.
- Wilful waste makes woeful want.
- Rum seize thee, ruthless king.
- An Austrian- army awfully arrayed.
- A reeling road, rambles round the shine.
HYPERBOLE OR EXAGGERATION:
In hyperbole a statement is made emphatic by overstatement. Such language is not meant to be taken literally:
- She shed an ocean of tears.
- Belinda smiled, and all the world was gay.
- I loved Ophelia; forty thousand brothers could not make up their sum.
- The sky shrunk upward with unusual dread.
- Ten thousands saw I at a glance.
- All the perfumes of Arabia will not sweeten this little hand.
It is a figure of speech which combines two seemingly contradictory elements:
- He is regularly irregular.
- This is like a living death.
- And having nothing, he had all.
- Our sweatest songs are those that tell of saddest thoughts.
- His honour rooted in dishonour stood.
- The kind cruelty of the surgeon’s knife.
By this figure of speech we speak in gentle and favourable terms of some person, object, or event which is ordinarily seen in less pleasing light.
- He was gathered to his forefathers (= he died).
- He was Her Majesty’s guest (= in prison) for two years.
- Discord fell on the music of his soul.
- He were no less a loving soul although he was so broken-hearted.
This is a Greek word signifying a ladder. This figure raises the sense by successive steps to what is more and more important and impressive.
- I came. I saw. I conquered.
- I laugh, I run, I leap, I sing. I dance for joy.
- I thought. I built it. I lived here forever.
- We planned, we laboured, we succeeded in our mission.
- They moved, they stopped their rivals, and they won the match.
ANTICLIMAX OR BATHOS:
This is just opposite to climax and signifies a ludicrous descent form the higher to lower
- He lost his wife, his daughter, his son and his watch.
- Here thou great Anna! Whom three realms obey. Dost sometimes counsel take — and sometimes tea.
A paradox is a statement which, though outwardly contradictory, is perhaps really well founded:
- There is no one so poor as a wealthy miser.
- There is plenty in poverty.
- He that loses his life shall save it.
This consists in a play on the various meanings of a word and is mostly used in humorous sense:
- Is life worth living? That depends on the liver.
- Yes, the leopard changes its spots, whenever it does from one spot to another.
- An ambassador is a man who lies abroad for the good of his country.
Sometimes, a statement is made more emphatic by the use of words denoting the opposite of what is really meant. This is called irony.
- She speaks ironically other unnatural sisters as “the jewels of our father.”
- Yet Brutus says he is ambitious, and Brutus is an honourable man.
When words echo their sense through their sound effect we have the Figure of onomatopoeia.
- And beauty born of murmuring sound.
- I heard the water lapping on the crag.
- The murmurous haunt of flies on summer eves.
- The moan of doves in immemorial elms.
- The curfew lolls the knell of parting day.
- Grunt, grunt goes the hog.
- Our echoes roll from soul to soul.
This means the setting of one thing against another. This figure of speech consists in an explicit statement of an implied contrast.
- Man proposes. God disposes.
- To err is human, to forgive divine.
- Speech is silver, but silence is golden.
- He can bribe but he cannot seduce, he cannot deceive.
- A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.
The language of epigram must be marked by wit and brevity.
- We all have sufficient strength to endure the misfortunes of others.
- Experience keeps a dear school, but fools will learn in no other.
- Hypocrisy is the homage vice pays to virtue.
- Treason doth never prosper; what is the reason?
Why, if it prosper; none dare call it treason.