Common Metaphors – Solve the Exercise


A metaphor is a word or phrase that means one thing and is used to refer to another thing in order to emphasize their similar qualities. For example, in the sentence “Picasso was the father of the Cubist movement”, the word father is not used in its usual sense to mean someone’s male parent.

It means that Picasso was the person who started the Cubist movement, or that he was the first one to do it successfully. Father is being used in a metaphorical way. Metaphors are a bit like idioms, because the words and expressions are not being used with their literal meaning.

The following exercises look at some common metaphors that are used in different situations.

Exercise 1: Achievements, Ideas, and Theories

Metaphorically, achievements, ideas, and theories are often seen as buildings, with an idea or the process of achieving something being similar to the process of building, and the failure of something being similar to the destruction of a building. Metaphorically, ideas are also like plants, and developing an idea is like getting plants to grow.

Complete sentences 1 – 20 with a word or expression from the box. In several cases you will need to change the form of the words. The first one has been done for you.

architect * blueprint * build on * build up * buttress * collapse * construct * deep-rooted * demolish * edifice * fertile * fruitful * ground-breaking * lay the foundations * ruins * sow the seeds * stem from * take root * towering * under construction

1. The newspaper article threatened the whole _________ of government, from the President all the way down to grass-roots politicians.

2. The company directors were convinced people would want their new product, but then early research and negative feedback began to _______________ of doubt in their minds.

3. His argument was carefully _______________ and was extremely difficult to dispute.

4. Her ideas were carefully _______________ by a series of results showing that they had been put into practice and actually worked.

5. Superstitious beliefs are _______________ in many cultures, and nothing can change these beliefs.

6. He was the chief _______________ of the country’s new economic policies.

7. The new government _______________ for radical changes to the voting system, all of which would be implemented over the next five years.

8. The invention of the microchip was a _______________ achievement.

9. The contract acted as a _______________ for future cooperation between the two organizations.

10. The business was started in 1986, and over the next 20 years was _______________ into one of the most powerful companies in the country.

11. The new constitution was _______________ traditional values and a desire for progress.

12. The website is _______________, but we hope to have it up and running by the end of the month.

13. The idea seemed good in theory, but __________ when practical tests were first carried out.

14. The new technology was revolutionary and __________, but was initially seen as a simple novelty.

15. His life’s work was in __________, but it did not deter him from starting again.

16. I put forward several ideas, but to my anger and disappointment each one was comprehensively __________ by the board.

17. His books were very popular because he had a __________ imagination and a talent for telling a good story.

18. Nobody believed him at first, but a series of unexplained events meant that his ideas quickly __________ and people were more prepared to listen to him.

19. Her ideas __________ her belief in the existence of life on other planets.

20. The discussion was very __________, and we all came away from it believing that at last we were going to achieve something worthwhile.


  1. edifice
  2. sow the seeds
  3. constructed
  4. buttressed
  5. deep-rooted
  6. architect
  7. laid the foundations
  8. towering or ground-breaking
  9. blueprint
  10. build up
  11. build on
  12. under construction
  13. collapsed
  14. ground-breaking
  15. ruins
  16. demolished
  17. fertile
  18. took root
  19. stemmed from
  20. fruitful

Exercise 2: Other Metaphors

Look at sentences A, B, and C in the following groups, and look especially at the words and expressions in bold. Then rearrange the letters in italics in the final sentence to make another word or words. The final sentence should then explain what the metaphors in the first three sentences are describing.

Note that two of the final sentences use the same word. The first one has been done as an example.

1. (A) Your point of view is indefensible.
(B) There was a lot of conflict over what to do next.
(C) The team clashed over what steps to take next.

Metaphorically, an muntrage is like a fight or a war, with people “attacking” and “defending”. (Answer = argument)

2. (A) She was one of the brightest students in the class.
(B) As a child, Einstein was believed to have a rather dull mind.
(C) She had a sudden flash of inspiration and began writing down her thoughts.

Metaphorically, ngeelcneilti is like a light. The more you have, the brighter the light is.

3. (A) I was wondering if I could rely on your support.
(B) Would you mind lending me a hand with my assignment?
(C) The government helped to prop up the college by offering it a financial grant.

Metaphorically, when you sitsas someone, it is like supporting them physically (for example, with your body).

4. (A) He is often regarded as the greatest writer of the twentieth century.
(B) Everyone agreed that there were some weighty issues to be discussed at the meeting.
(C) The novel received some good reviews, but many people thought it was rather lightweight.

Metaphorically, something that is taprmotni is like something that is big or heavy, and something that is ntaprmotniu is small or light.

5. (A) They only succeeded by using their political muscle.
(B) She didn’t have the backbone to accept his challenge.
(C) I know it’s difficult, but you have to put your back into it if you want to succeed.

Metaphorically, making an trofef is like using a part of your body.

6. (A) You look confused: let me throw some light on the matter.
(B) Her work greatly illuminated this aspect of the subject.
(C) I don’t want to be kept in the dark, so please let me know what is happening.

Metaphorically, when you have gwednloke about something, it is like shining a light on it (and when you lack this, it is like being in darkness).

7. (A) His new career opened the door to a whole new way of life.
(B) Having a University degree is arguably the key to success in life.
(C) Age should be no barrier to success.

Metaphorically, having the roitpoytupn to do something is like having a door or other entrance opened for you.

8. (A) We unearthed some useful facts and figures.
(B) Her latest book is a goldmine of useful information.
(C) We left no stone unturned in our search for the truth.

Metaphorically, when you oeidrvsc things such as facts and information, it is similar to finding them by digging or searching in the ground.

9. (A) He originally set out to become a priest, but became involved in politics instead.
(B) At the age of 24, things took an unexpected turn for him.
(C) After six years in the same job, I decided to move on.

Metaphorically, a ilef or raecer path is like a journey.

10. (A) They put a lot of pressure on him to make change his mind.
(B) The country was dragged reluctantly into war.
(C) I’m sorry to press you for an answer, but we need to know your plans.

Metaphorically, when you ecfro someone to do something, it is like putting physical pressure on them (for example, by pulling or pushing them).

11. (A) He was very sharp-witted and could always be relied on to come up with an astute comment when asked.
(B) She has a keen intellect and makes sure that everyone knows it.
(C) He was an incisive critic who always researched his subject thoroughly before passing comment on it.

Metaphorically, eengintecill is like a knife, a blade, or another sharp object.

12. (A) We covered a lot of ground at the meeting.
(B) I’d like to return to the point I was making earlier.
(C) After three hours, we finally arrived at a decision.

Metaphorically, a veoantcirosn or nosisidscu is like a journey, with the people who are speaking going from one place to another.

13. (A) We need to address the social ills that are at the root of crime.
(B) The country was paralyzed by a series of natural and man-made disasters.
(C) Drugs such as heroin and cocaine are seen as a cancer at the very heart of society.

Metaphorically, a beprmol is like an illness.

14. (A) The speaker received a very warm welcome from the audience.
(B) We had several good ideas, but they poured cold water on all of them.
(C) I was disappointed because his response was rather lukewarm.

Metaphorically, anesismuht and nicetxetem are like heat, and a lack of these is like cold or wet.

15. (A) The biography mainly dealt with his years at the top.
(B) Many people commented on his rapid ascent up the ladder.
(C) His greed and lack of integrity eventually led to his downfall.

Metaphorically, being fucsuscsel is like being high up, and uraelfi is like falling or being low down.


(These are suggested answers, and you might choose other words which are equally suitable)

  1. argument
  2. intelligence
  3. assist
  4. important / unimportant
  5. effort
  6. knowledge
  7. opportunity
  8. discover
  9. life or career
  10. force
  11. intelligence
  12. conversation / discussion
  13. problem
  14. enthusiasm / excitement
  15. successful / failure
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