Understanding Figurative Language & Word Differences | Reading

October 21, 2015 thetasctest

Understanding Figurative Language & Word Differences | Reading

In a previous TASC Test Assessing Secondary Completion™ post, you learned that figurative language is the use of words that express a different meaning from the literal interpretation. Figurative language challenges readers to look beyond stated words and phrases to what is actually being said.

Below are examples of figurative language found in common literary techniques:


Euphemisms use inoffensive or agreeable words to replace harsh or rude language.

Example 1: My dog didn’t make it.

Example 2: My dog is no longer with us.

Example 3: My dog has passed on.

These three euphemisms all mean, “My dog died,” but deliver a softer message through figurative language.


Personification gives non-human objects human traits. 

Example 1: The leaves danced in the wind. 

Example 2: Autumn has a warm smile. 

Example 3: The trees whistled as the breeze blew through.

Leaves can’t literally dance, autumn doesn’t have a smile, and trees can’t whistle, but these three examples of personification made non-human objects come to life with human traits through figurative language.


A metaphor applies an imaginative object or action to a word or phrase.

Example 1: An icy stare between enemies. 

Example 2: She shot daggers out of her eyes at me. 

Example 3: Her eyes filled with fire.

Stares are not actually icy, someone’s eyes cannot literally shoot daggers, and our eyes don’t possess fire within them; yet these three examples of metaphors strongly describe what is happening through figurative language. 


A simile, a specific type of metaphor, likens one thing to another with the use of like or as.

Example 1: She is as cute as a kitten. 

Example 2: Her smile is as bright as the sun. 

Example 3: He ran like a cheetah.

By comparing someone to a kitten, a person’s smile to the brightness of the sun, or someone’s speed to a cheetah’s, we grasp what the author wants us to understand through dramatic, figurative language.

Continue your understating of figurative language to improve your reading comprehension for the TASC test and beyond.

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