Take the 2-minute tour ×
English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

To make a metaphor about somebody's running speed, should we say "he is a cheetah" or "he runs like a cheetah"? Why?

share|improve this question
Related: english.stackexchange.com/questions/3868/… –  aedia λ Jul 25 '11 at 4:09

2 Answers 2

up vote 16 down vote accepted

"He is a cheetah" is indeed a metaphor, as in fact he is not a cheetah.

"He runs like a cheetah" is more precisely a simile, even if he does not copy every part of the cheetah's style of running, because of the explicit comparison using like.

Both suggest he is fast. Either will probably convey your message.

share|improve this answer
Thanks for your answer, but I actually didn't understand the difference between metaphor and simile. I'm gonna ask it in another question. :) –  Saeed Neamati Jul 29 '11 at 12:33
@Saeed Neamati: A simile uses an explicit comparison with words such as "like" or "as". –  Henry Jul 29 '11 at 13:30
Whereas a metaphor says that thing A "is" thing B, even though it literally is not. "He is like a cheetah" is a simile. "He is a cheetah" is a metaphor. A simile is like a metaphor. :-) –  Jay Jun 20 '12 at 21:15

I think we can safely say both "He is a cheetah" and "He runs like a cheetah" are metaphoric.

The first more so, since presumably "he" is a human being. But he doesn't run on all fours like a cheetah (or as fast, if we're honest!), so he's only metaphorically running like one.

If OP wants to "make" a metaphor, he can use the first form. It will have been said many times before, I'm sure, but I certainly wouldn't call it a cliche.

The second form has probably been used even more often, so if OP only wants to "use" a metaphor, that may be the one to go for.

share|improve this answer

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.