Ive seen a lot of places saying anything with "like" or "as" is ALWAYS a simile but are there any exceptions? E.g.

1) I am as sly as a fox - simile

2) I am a bird that flies high in the sky - metaphor

3) As a bird I fly high in the sky - feels like a metaphor because I am saying I AM a bird, not like a bird. But because it has AS is it is automatically a simile?

If the 3rd example is a simile can anyone think of any examples of metaphors that use "as"?

Thanks for the help

  • 3
    With 3), "as" would mean "because I am", like saying "As an Englishman, I love to apologise". That makes it just a lie rather than a simile or metaphor. Commented Jul 6, 2016 at 13:28
  • If 3 is a lie then does that then make 1 a lie too in that they are both factually incorrect? Commented Jul 6, 2016 at 13:29
  • 2
    Well, 1) isn't a sentence so it's hard to say. But no: with a simile you are saying "thing A" is like "thing B". If you were to say "Thing A is thing B" then that's not a simile: it's just not true. Perhaps "lie" is too emotive a word to use - you could say "logically incorrect" instead. Commented Jul 6, 2016 at 13:32
  • Sorry Max I meant 1 and 2. Not 1 and 3. If 3 is just a lie and not a metaphor then by the same logic, is 2 a lie too? Commented Jul 6, 2016 at 13:33
  • Well, metaphors are generally not true - but what makes them a metaphor is that it's obvious that they're a metaphor: ie there's a mapping between what you say and what you actually mean. If you say "I am a bird" then that's simply not true. If you say "I'm as happy as a bird" then that's a simile. If you were to say "This project has become an albatross around my neck" then there's a mapping between your feelings about the project and the idea of having a giant heavy bird hanging from your neck, ie the project makes you very tired and sad. Commented Jul 6, 2016 at 13:39

3 Answers 3


A man like me has trouble understanding this question.  As a native speaker, I cannot understand the confusion.

As the example above shows, the prepositions "like" and "as" are not limited to forming similes.  They have literal use. 

There is nothing that prevents the literal, ordinary use of such preposition within an extended metaphor: 

He's a bird in the morning, but a worm come the evening.  As a bird, he flies high in the sky.  He could be anywhere.  Before the sun sets, he buries himself in solitary darkness, going nowhere, seeing nothing. 

Without context, your third example doesn't manage to establish a metaphor.  In the context of a fantasy (say, one in which wizards can change shape or ghosts can possess animals) the statement can be easily taken as purely literal.  In a more prosaic context, it can be read as the sort of explicit comparison known as a simile.

We use "metaphor" to mean an implicit figurative comparison.  We use "simile" to mean an explicit figurative comparison.  This means that you cannot use the word "as" to establish a metaphor.  When it establishes a comparison, that comparison is explicit.  When it does not establish the comparison, that comparison may be implicit and therefore may be a metaphor. 

That the words "like" and "as" establish similes is a good rule of thumb, but it's not a law of nature.  "He eats in the manner of a bird" or "She sleeps the way a cat does" manage to stand as similes without using those magic words.  The notion that similes use "like" and "as" is much like the notion that nouns are people, places and things -- a reasonable approximation when you're first learning to identify them, but an approximation that you're expected to leave behind once you gain a deeper understanding.


This theory, "There are no metaphors with the words 'like' or 'as'" is a hard thing to prove, as "proving" that something doesn't exist really just means "I wasn't able to find it yet". It's definitely a good general principle, but it is rock-solid true?

I can't find any on the following pages I found which list metaphors. I'm putting that forward as evidence that there aren't any, rather than proof.





To answer your title question shortly: No, it isn't. You can't have metaphor and comparison at the same time. Let me put an example for the explanation.

To express my freedom I could say

a) I am like the bird in the sky. [simile],


b) I am bird in the sky. [metaphor]

When speaking in the known context (freedom), both will work, but the comparison using "as" is weaker, because it admits that it is not the same. I am not a bird and therefore is my freedom somehow inferior to the one of the bird.

Where possible, the metaphor can amplify the suggested idea when compared to the simile by replacing the comparison by a direct statement. This way, I put my freedom to be equal to the one of the bird. However, in order to do this, the metaphor abandons the correctness of the sentence, because it directly states obvious nonsense. (I swear, I am not a bird.)

Therefore, as soon as you use the words "as" or "like", or other comparative construct mentioned by Gary you are moving from metaphor to simile - trading the expressive strength for the correctness.

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