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English - Identifying Figures of Speech and Homophones

Identifying Figures of Speech and Homophones

In the following examples, look at the underlined word(s) and decide which figure of speech has been used. A list of possibilities follows the examples.

The bee buzzed loudly and the snake slithered in the grass.

The cloud looked as dark as the slate on the rooftops.


Rather than addressing the questions first, let's nail the definition of the five suggested answers. Once your child is familiar with the terminology and backs it up by reading and picking such examples out in their own books, then they should be able to answer this sort of question easily. As parents we just need to know the terms ourselves and praise whenever our children show us examples of the figures of speech mentioned!

Alliteration is the repetition of initial sounds of words. 'Big Black Bear' would be an example.

Assonance (not mentioned above) is similar to alliteration but is more concerned with the vowel sounds in the middle of words. For instance, 'Blue shoes'.

Metaphors are used to explain something in terms of another thing. For example, 'He is a lion in battle.'

Similes are almost metaphors but they shy away from stating something is something else; they use 'like' or 'as' instead. 'She is as tall as a giraffe' is an example of this.

Onomatopoeia is the word used to explain words which sound like the noise they are describing. 'Splash' sounds like the sound it is describing, as does 'moo'; they are onomatopoeic.

Personification is a form of metaphor or simile in which a non-human thing is likened to a person. It could be a statement like 'the stars danced in the night sky' as humans dance but stars, in reality, do not.

In the examples we have, 'buzzed' is onomatopoeia. The repeated 's' sound in 'snake slithered' makes it alliteration, while the description of the sky uses 'as...' to introduce what it is like so it is a simile.


This section will address spelling as much as anything else - as ever, the best way to help your child is to get them reading and, critically, thinking about words.

Choose the correct word(s) to complete the sentences:

  1. (Their / There / They're) going to get (they're / there / their) coats before they leave.
  2. (We're / Where / Were) you going to the restaurant ?
  3. If (your / you're) chair were taller, you would be able to reach the top shelf.
  4. Is it (theirs / there's)? If not, (who's whose) could it be?

The hope would be, at year 5 or beyond, that your child would be able to see the correct version straight away. However, there are some tips to bear in mind.

Firstly, unpack the apostrophe words. 'We're', for instance, must be 'we are' so you must be able to substitute that for the original in a sentence. If not, it won't make sense. Also, 'they're' has to be 'they are' and if those two wouldn't make sense in the sentence, you need an alternative version.

This is especially important in the fourth example, where the slightly less common words 'whose' and 'theirs' are used. Both must be correct as the alternatives have apostrophes and the expanded versions would make no sense. If you can't be sure what is right, at least rule out some which cannot be accurate.

The default position for 'there' is to use that spelling for everything unless you are sure it is different. 'Their' refers to 'them' and 'they're' means 'they are'; everything else needs the spelling 'there'.

If you encourage your child to pronounce 'were', 'where' and 'we're' accurately, they should spot the difference and know that they are not even proper homophones. They don't really sound the same.

The correct answers to the questions are:

  1. They're going to get their coats before they leave.
  2. Were you going to the restaurant?
  3. If your chair were taller, you would be able to reach the top shelf.
  4. Is it theirs? If not, whose could it be?

Note: Example 3 uses the subjunctive - for sentences using 'If...' we need 'were' rather than 'was'.

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