Using metaphors to speak English more fluently

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Do you know what a metaphor is? I’d like to show you how English speakers commonly use metaphors in everyday conversations. Metaphors make our language more interesting and beautiful. I’ll give you many examples of metaphors and show you how they are used. I’ll teach you some easy metaphors like “busy bee” and “melting pot”, and even show you an extended metaphor written by Shakespeare. If you’re learning about metaphors in school, it’s also important to understand the difference between metaphors and similes and to know their definitions. Practice these expressions and use them when you’re speaking to your friends and classmates. After the lesson, test your understanding of metaphors by taking the quiz at


Hi. I’m Gill from, and today in this lesson, we’re going to look at metaphors, which are a different way of using language, really. But these metaphors are used a lot in everyday life. You could also call them idioms. They’re a little bit like idioms. And there are a lot of them.

But I just want to mention that there are metaphors and similes, and they’re similar in a way, but different. So, a metaphor says one thing is another thing. So, for example, in my first sentence, here: “Thanks for helping me – you’re an angel!” Okay? An angel is supposed to be a good person who helps people, but you’re talking here to an ordinary human being and calling them an angel because they’ve helped you. Okay. So, you’re saying: “You are an angel.” So, “you” equals “angel”. So, in a metaphor, it’s saying something is or somebody is something else. The other type of style of speaking is called a simile, and we’ll have another lesson on that; a separate lesson. And with a simile, you don’t say “A” is “B”, you say “A” is like “B”. So, with this one, you’d say: “You are like an angel.” Or: “You are as good as an angel.” But with the metaphor: “You are an angel.” So that’s the difference between metaphors and similes. So, please look at the other lesson about similes to see some examples of that. Okay?

Right, so concentrating on metaphors. “Thanks for helping me – you’re an angel!” if someone helps you. You could say this to somebody if they help you. “Thank you – you’re an angel.” It’s a nice compliment, a nice thing to say to somebody who’s helped you.

Second example: “The people in that club are just a bunch of sheep!” Okay? “A bunch”, that’s just sort of casual, informal word. “A bunch”, it means a group. A group. A group of people. You can have a bunch of flowers. That’s the normal use for “bunch”. Bunch of flowers, several flowers held together. But this is people who are being called sheep. They’re not literally sheep. People are not sheep; sheep are animals, people are humans. But this is saying the people in that club are a bunch of sheep. They’re behaving like sheep, because what sheep do, they all stick together, they all stay together, and they all follow each other. They all do the same thing. So this happens with people sometimes. They… They don’t have their own independent ideas; they just copy what everybody else does. So that’s the meaning of this… This one. The people in that club are just a bunch of sheep. Okay.

This one is probably more of a positive thing to say to somebody: “You’re such a busy bee!” It maybe sounds a bit patronizing, perhaps. But if someone is really busy, you can say they’re a busy bee. And the two b’s is a sort of poetic thing, again. But busy bee. The thing about bees is… The bees that buzz around, they… They’re always busy. They’re collecting pollen from flowers, and going back to the hive, and they’re making honey. So they seem to be busy all the time. So, to call a person a busy bee is that they are also running around and doing things, and being very busy and working a lot, and never stopping. Okay.

Here’s another one: “London is a melting pot of people and cultures.” Okay, so London is a melting pot. It’s not literally a pot with food in it. It’s a melting pot of people and cultures. The people and cultures aren’t being thrown into a pot. London, the city, just contains a lot of people from different cultures and different countries. Okay.

Here’s a good one from if you’re… If you’re working in an office or somewhere and you have some ideas, and you tell them to your boss: “I had some good ideas but my boss shot them down.” Okay? So to shoot something is like with a gun, [shooting noises], all these good ideas that you’ve just produced, and your boss doesn’t like them or he doesn’t like you maybe. But he shoots down your… All your ideas, and they come falling to the floor. Not literally. Again, it’s not literally true. Not literally true. It’s just a picture in your mind, like your boss with a gun, shooting down your ideas. So he doesn’t like any of your ideas, he just shoots them. Destroys them. So, you had some good ideas, but my boss shot them down. Okay?


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