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

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"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.

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  • 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
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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.

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  • "He runs like a cheetah" is not metaphoric as it is a comparison between two different things (man and cheetah) rather than a direct application of of man to cheetah. The definition of metaphor states "a [metaphor is a] figure of speech in which a word or phrase is applied to an object or action to which it is not literally applicable." – gud with Inglesh Oct 9 '14 at 2:26
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    @gud with Inglesh: Yeah yeah. As every schoolboy is taught: "A simile is like something else; a metaphor is something else". But once you go beyond the schoolboy level, most would say that similes are metaphors anyway. And even a schoolboy should know that adjectival metaphoric covers both types of usage (more specifically than figurative). – FumbleFingers Oct 9 '14 at 13:12
  • I disagree, they are both analogies, however, metaphors and similes are different by definition. – gud with Inglesh Oct 9 '14 at 20:56
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    @gud with Inglesh This string has just resurfaced. >> The definition of metaphor states 'an expression, often found in literature, that describes a person or object by referring to something that is considered to have similar characteristics to that person or object'. CED as opposed to ODO (Now Lexico). OED will no doubt contain both the narrower and the broader definitions. – Edwin Ashworth Oct 2 '19 at 15:25
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Both are analogies. "He is a cheetah is a metaphor" and "He runs like a cheetah" is a simile. Either are acceptable; it is a matter of style.

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