For example, can I say, I like your use of the word riverine as metaphor? Or, must I say, I like your use of the word riverine as a metaphor? Grammarly seems to think that the article "a" is required, but I am certain I have heard it used without an article.

  • I usually hear X as metaphor for Y. But Grammarly did not like leaving out the article. Oops. They do catch typos, but also insist on vanilla. Jul 31, 2022 at 22:10
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    Metaphor is one of those words like rock or stone that can be either count or mass: They threw rocks/stones at us versus That's made of rock/stone. One could speak of The Conduit Metaphor, or Metaphors We Live By, as count nouns, or as a mass noun in Metaphor is basic to human thought. Jul 31, 2022 at 22:22
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    – tchrist
    Jul 31, 2022 at 22:51

2 Answers 2


Grammarly is too prescriptive. The article is often present but is not obligatory. For example, when attributing the nature of metaphor to something there is no need for an article. To take one of many examples from ngram:

Google ngram,
“Clothing As Metaphor” is a book examining the way clothing may represent religion, society, power and other things.

In the same way one might write “accountancy as crime” when examining the ways in which accountancy can be illegally misused.

Cambridge gives a good example in

an expression that describes a person or object by referring to something that is considered to possess similar characteristics
Ghosts may seem to elude serious scholars except as metaphor or atmosphere, but there is a surprising abundance of books about them.

And another:

(the childish or adolescent as identification model and metaphor for a social sensibility that is both point of departure and recipient for the works.

Google ngram shows increasing usage of “as metaphor” towards the end of the last century and provides many examples similar to the above.


Oxford's dictionary defines it as [countable, uncountable].

When used as an uncountable noun or as a countable plural noun, it does not require an article.

Having said that, you appear to be using the word as a countable singular noun, which always requires an article.

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    I agree with your answer, particularly the part about how the asker's example appears to be using the word as a countable singular noun, thus requiring an article. As a nouncount noun, it tends to refer to it more generally as a rhetorical scheme or literary device (e.g., "I like your use of metaphor in the piece, your use of the word 'ravine' as a metaphor for the deep division between them, for example."). Aug 1, 2022 at 14:39

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