Easy does it! A stitch in time saves nine. If you have ever wondered what the main difference is between idioms and metaphors, this is a good moment to make things clear to you. Let’s plunge into the world of these colorful figures of speech that play with language and take on a meaning of their own.
An idioms definition says that it is an expression with a symbolic meaning, while the most common metaphors are figures of speech with implied comparisons.
Combining certain words together, an idiom makes the point quite in a unique manner. For instance, let’s say there is a sentence: “No worries—helping you out is a piece of cake for me.”
In this case, one grasps the expression “a piece of cake” as “it’s easy.” The word “cake” by itself, however, can hardly be associated with easiness. The context makes this phrase a common idiom.
On the other hand, a metaphor is often used as an analogy between two things or ideas, defined by using another words. For example, you definitely know at least one of the most common metaphors, such as “a heart of gold,” “ feeling blue,” “a diamond in the rough,” etc.
There are a dime a dozen of idioms examples and metaphors about life in the English language. These words with a figurative context are especially challenging to understand for those whose native language is not English.
Even though there is a number of foreign expressions from other languages, such as spanish idioms, chinese idioms, or french idioms, we will focus on those with the English provenance.
Figurative language is very useful, as it evolves imagination, a sense of humour, and allows to express thoughts in a brighter manner. No wonder there are so many songs with metaphors, funny idioms, euphemisms, funny metaphors, proverbs, idioms for kids, love metaphors, hyperboles, etc. Figures of speech often add emphasis, making an expression more vivid, or concise.
This, in turn, has prompted us to create a short list of idioms and certain examples of metaphors. Using them both in your written and spoken English may significantly enrich your daily language.
1. Elephant in the room
Have you ever happened to ignore a truth that is very obvious yet left unspoken? Often, people don’t like hard feelings and sensitive subjects, since they cause tension, awkwardness, or even anxiety.
However, completely ignoring the issue or pretending it doesn’t exist is no less embarrassing. This is when a problem, which is as disturbing as an elephant in the room, is silently waiting to come out.
E.g. : Emily seemed to be the only one who didn’t mention a huge elephant in the room at the last family gathering.
2. Point of no return
Imagine that all you can do is move forward, since there is no point to turn back. Of course, you can get back to the start, yet it will be too costly. So, you decide that it’s too late to stop and start from scratch, thus you just keep going further.
E.g. : Ecologists are afraid that the level of planet pollution has passed the point of no return.
3. A stitch in time saves nine
Procrastinators, this one is dedicated to you. By putting things off, you probably don’t expect them to multiply. Though, as this idiom teaches us, if you do things on time, you are likely to have much less work to do later.
Surely, this saying is not a one-size-fits-all formula. A common sense should always prevail, as sometimes you can save time by putting things off for a later date.
E.g. : Wow, you’ve repaired your car right after the first sign of discomfort. A stitch in time saves nine. Way to go!
4. Slippery slope
Scary as it sounds, the slippery slope idiom usually involves a number of events taking place and causing a much worse consequence with an undesirable result.
E.g. : Drug and alcohol abuse dragged him down a slippery slope.
5. Left high and dry
Heading down a slippery slope, you have a high risk to be left high and dry. Frankly, no one should have to go through this, as this idiom involves the lack of help and hope to top it all off.
This is where “a friend in need is a friend indeed” expression comes in handy like never before.
E.g. : He thought he had been left high and dry until he met Dave.
6. Kick the bucket
Continuing the series of depressive idioms, let’s recall such an inimitable aspect of human’s life as death. When this happens to come, this is where this idiom would fit the context.
So, this is a slang phrase and sarcastic way to mention someone’s death. Don’t use this phrase in a serious conversation if you don’t want to hurt someone’s feelings.
E.g. : We are too young to kick the bucket!
7. Kill two birds with one stone
This idiom especially is for inventive minds. Why not do more than one thing at the same time if we can, right? Applying this reasoning, you may accomplish two aims at once almost effortlessly.
E.g. : Listening to an audiobook while jogging kills two birds with one stone.
In the meantime, a metaphor is what we use to compare two unrelated things that have a figurative common ground. Metaphors allow us to make writing or speaking more vivid and memorable by calling upon our senses. For example, someone might say, “I am going through a roller coaster of emotions.”
It does not mean that a person is actually riding a roller coaster at the moment. However, due to intense emotional experiences, people are prone to comparing life difficulties with a long roller coaster ride.
Here are some common metaphors you might want to use.
1. To drown in a sea of grief
Using this metaphor, you draw an imaginative picture of “drowning in a sea,” while the scope of grief as an emotion can be related to a sea.
2. To fish for compliments
Again, this has nothing to do with the literal process of using a fishing pole. Rather, such a metaphor refers to lacking self-confidence, so others have to encourage, praise, and reassure you.
3. To break one’s heart
Being an emotional center, a heart is usually regarded as the most sensitive and poetic human part. This way, this metaphor means causing a great pain to someone who is in love with you.
4. Words cut deeper than a knife
Evidently, this phrase is far from physical injury. Here is the same logic as “breaking one’s heart.” The damage, however, can be no less painful.
5. The icing on the cake
It can have both a positive and negative connotation. The metaphor refers to a special event, which goes on top of, adds to, or complements something. An already-good situation turns out to be even better, while a misfortune gets only worse with this sarcastic remark.
6. Light up one’s life
When you say someone’s smile “lights up your life,” you probably mean that it fills you with joy and contentment, rather than literally provides electricity.
7. Hope is on the horizon
One of the most life-affirming metaphors ever. Having something on the horizon applies to a big expectation of a better future, especially coupled with such an encouraging word as “hope.”