What Is an Analogy?1.jpg
"Analogies prove nothing, that is true" wrote Sigmund Freud, "but they can make one feel more at home." In this article, we examine the characteristics of effective analogies and consider the value of using analogies in our writing. [1]
l Definition
l Functions
l Examples
l An Important Format
l Analogy vs. Metaphor vs.Simile
l Analogy vs. Comparison&Contrast
l External Links
l References

  • Analogy is a kind of rhetoric which compares the similarities of two things of different classes. Based on the likeness between things in some circumstances or respects, when the things are otherwise entirely and essentially different, prove their other similarities. [2]
  • Analogies are often used to illustrate new or complex concepts by showing the similarity between something familiar and something else. [3]
  • The pairings can be antonyms, synonyms, descriptive (blue is to sky as red is to fire truck), part to whole (arm-body), or item to category (milk-beverage). [10]


  1. Use what is in common between the two to emphasize features of the one which is usually an abstract, remote or difficult subject to reader understand it more easily and vividly. [4]
  2. View a common experience in a new way.
  3. Analogy can be used with other methods of development to explain a process, narrate an event, or describe a person or place. [5]


A) Appropriate praise to a child is what the sun is to a flower.[6]

Here, it uses the likeness between “the function of praise” and “the function of sunshine” to clarify the important influence of appropriate praise to a child.

B) A skilled carpenter will drive home a nail with a few firm, deft blows, hitting it each time squarely on the head.

A good language master will choose words that drive home his point firmly and exactly.[5]
Here, it compares “using exact words” with “hammering a nail”. The latter one is a familiar subject to us, while the former one is a relatively abstract one. By finishing the analogy, the readers can gain better understanding of what is discussing.

Some more...
In the following example of an effective analogy, science writer Claudia Kalb relies on the computer to explain how our brains process memories:

Some basic facts about memory are clear. Your short-term memory is like the RAM on a computer: it records the information in front of you right now. Some of what you experience seems to evaporate--like words that go missing when you turn off your computer without hitting SAVE. But other short-term memories go through a molecular process called consolidation: they're downloaded onto the hard drive. These long-term memories, filled with past loves and losses and fears, stay dormant until you call them up. ("To Pluck a Rooted Sorrow," Newsweek, April 27, 2009)

Does this mean that human memory functions exactly like a computer in all ways? Certainly not. By its nature, an analogy offers a simplified view of an idea or process--an illustration rather than a detailed examination. [7]


The United States-based SAT college entrance test includes "analogy" questions: A : B :: C : X?
In this analogy format, : reads "is to" and : : reads "as" . [3]
For example:

Rain is to drop as snow is to flake

And this is usually given in the format:


This means “A is related to B in the same way that C is related to D”

See more... [8]
l "MTV is to music as KFC is to chicken." (Lewis Black)
l "Memory is to love what the saucer is to the cup." (Elizabeth Bowen, The House in Paris, 1949)


² Similarities

Metaphors, analogies, and similes are very similar in nature. All of them are the most common comparisons which used to draw a vivid picture. Each is a kind of comparison of one familiar thing with another in order to promote understanding, which has been a rhetorical device for thousands of years. [9]

² Differences

1. Metaphor
  • Definition: A metaphor expresses the unfamiliar (the tenor) in terms of the familiar (the vehicle). When Neil Young sings, "Love is a rose," "rose" is the vehicle for "love," the tenor. [10]
  • Property: A metaphor claims total identification, which means to imply that two very different things have the same properties. One substitutes for the other, making them essentially identical.[10]metaphor.png
  • Metaphor is more assertive than an analogy. A metaphor is an implied analogy. [11]
  • Example:
“You are my sunshine.” (A well-known extended metaphor from Shakespeare)

2. Simile
  • Definition: A simile is a figure in which two fundamentally unlike things are explicitly compared, usually in a phrase introduced by like or as. [12]simile.png
  • Similes are similar to metaphors. But it uses the word like or as to make acomparison:"He's crazy like a fox."[9]
  • Simile is the most literal and straightforward. A simile is an expressed analogy.[11]
  • Example:
Instead of “you are my sunshine,” a simile would state this as “you are like sunshine to me.”

3. Analogy
  • Analogies make comparisons between two sets of items
  • Property: A analogy claims a similarity of relationships. So they do not have to be precisely the same, point by point. [10]analogy.jpg
  • Length: An analogy is usually a lot longer than either a simile or metaphor because you're using it to compare one situation to another. Analogy can be an effective tool because it allows you to point out the similarities between two situations where a simile or metaphor won't quite cut it. Use it when a simile or metaphor won't establish enough of the meaning you're trying to convey. [9]


Analogy is a special kind of comparison and a more concrete way to explain things.
l Like comparison and contrast, analogy shows similarity. Both are methods of explanation that set things side by side.

l Unlike comparison and contrast, analogy aims at what is common and the major similaries between two things of different classes. While the comparison and contrast may show the differences between the two things as well. [13]


.An exercise: **http://www.quia.com/quiz/168422.html?AP_rand=776201637**
.False analogy: **http://grammar.about.com/od/fh/g/falseanalogyterm.htm**
.30 Writing Topics: Analogy: **http://grammar.about.com/od/topicsuggestions/a/Thirty-Writing-Topics-Analogy.htm**

[1] **http://grammar.about.com/od/rhetoricstyle/f/qanalogy07.htm**
[2] **http://www.brainyquote.com/words/an/analogy129980.html**
[3] **http://www.wordiq.com/definition/Analogy*
[4] A New English Course, student's book 5
[5] **http://grammar.about.com/od/topicsuggestions/a/Thirty-Writing-Topics-Analogy.htm**
[6] **http://baike.baidu.com/view/2905468.htm#3**
[8] **http://grammar.about.com/od/ab/g/analogy.htm**
[9] **http://www.netplaces.com/improve-your-writing/how-to-write-what-you-mean/analogy-simile-and-metaphor-as-descriptions.htm**
[10] **http://www.netplaces.com/public-speaking/refining-touches/analogies-metaphors-similes.htm**
[11] **http://grammar.about.com/od/ab/g/analogy.htm**
[12] **http://grammar.about.com/od/rs/g/simileterm.htm**
[13] **http://grammar.about.com/od/rhetoricstyle/f/qanalogy07.htm**