Review Quiz: Top 20 Figures of Speech

figures of speech
" Figures of speech," says John S. Nelson, "are neither mere ornaments inessential to meaning nor perverse tools of manipulation hostile to reason" ( Tropes of Politics: Science, Theory, Rhetoric, Action, 1998). Luciano Lozano/Getty Images

This quiz should help you understand and remember the terms and concepts introduced in our article on the Top 20 Figures of Speech. For each of the following questions, select the one figure of speech that's most clearly illustrated by the short passage. (To review a definition and see more examples, click on the highlighted term.)

When you have completed the quiz, compare your answers by scrolling to the bottom of the page.

  1. Well, son, I'll tell you:
    Life for me ain't been no crystal stair.
    It's had tacks in it,
    And splinters,
    And boards torn up,
    And places with no carpet on the floor—
    Bare.
    (Langston Hughes, "Mother to Son")
    (a) synecdoche
    (b) metaphor
    (c) irony
    (d) pun

     
  2. Turn off your television sets. Turn them off now! Turn them off right now! Turn them off and leave them off. Turn them off right in the middle of this sentence I'm speaking to you now.
    (Peter Finch as television anchorman Howard Beale in Network, 1976)
    (a) antithesis
    (b) litotes
    (c) anaphora
    (d) understatement

     
  3. Substituting the word “euthanasia” for “mercy killing" or "killing the terminally ill"
    (a) hyperbole
    (b) euphemism
    (c) assonance
    (d) oxymoron

     
  4. I had so much homework last night that I needed a pickup truck to carry all my books home!
    (a) synechdoche
    (b) onomatopoeia
    (c) pun
    (d) hyperbole

     
  5. Let's just say that Ms. Kardashian is not the brightest bulb on the Christmas tree.
    (a) paradox
    (b) litotes
    (c) apostrophe
    (d) chiasmus

     
  1. The chug-a, chug-a, chug-a of the train echoed down the hill, while a cloud of smoke rose up to the blue western sky.
    (a) simile
    (b) metonymy
    (c) anaphora
    (d) onomatopoeia

     
  2. But the prisoner would not answer, he only lay with wide, dark, bright, eyes, like a bound animal.
    (D. H. Lawrence, England, My England)
    (a) oxymoron
    (b) euphemism
    (c) anaphora
    (d) personification

     
  1. You have a lot of work to do, so I'll lend you a hand.
    (a) assonance
    (b) apostrophe
    (c) irony
    (d) synecdoche

     
  2. Pitching pennies with the Pittsburgh Pirates in a pitter-patter of rain outside the Pitti Palace.
    (James Thurber, Lanterns and Lances, 1961)
    (a) chiasmus
    (b) alliteration
    (c) pun
    (d) oxymoron

     
  3. O Western wind, when wilt thou blow
    That the small rain down can rain?
    Christ, that my love were in my arms,
    And I in my bed again!
    (Anonymous, "O Western Wind")
    (a) litotes
    (b) paradox
    (c) apostrophe
    (d) anaphora

     
  4. The heart of a fool is in his mouth, but the mouth of a wise man is in his heart.
    (Benjamin Franklin)
    (a) hyperbole
    (b) chiasmus
    (c) litotes
    (d) anaphora

     
  5. We talked with each other about each other
    Though neither of us spoke —
    (Emily Dickinson)
    (a) metonymy
    (b) paradox
    (c) synecdoche
    (d) personification

     
  6. The earth laughs beneath my heavy feet
    At the blasphemy in my old jangly walk
    (Billy Corgan, "Thirty-three")
    (a) euphemism
    (b) simile
    (c) antithesis
    (d) personification

     
  7. I dig my toes into the sand.
    The ocean looks like
    A thousand diamonds strewn
    Across a blue blanket.
    (Incubus, "Wish You Were Here")
    (a) chiasmus
    (b) simile
    (c) onomatopoeia
    (d) synecdoche

     
  8. In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread.
    (Genesis 3:19)
    (a) simile
    (b) irony
    (c) metonymy
    (d) assonance

     
  1. Why do we wait until a pig is dead to cure it?
    (a) pun
    (b) personification
    (c) anaphora
    (d) synecdoche

     
  2. "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way."
    (Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities)
    (a) antithesis
    (b) litotes
    (c) simile
    (d) understatement

     
  3. My wishes raced through the house high hay
    And nothing I cared, at my sky blue trades, . . .
    (Dylan Thomas, "Fern Hill")
    (a) simile
    (b) irony
    (c) metonymy
    (d) assonance

     
  4. And he was rich, yes, richer than a king,
    And admirably schooled in every grace:
    In fine—we thought that he was everything
    To make us wish that we were in his place.

    So on we worked and waited for the light,
    And went without the meat and cursed the bread,
    And Richard Cory, one calm summer night,
    Went home and put a bullet in his head.
    (E. A. Robinson, "Richard Cory")
    (a) chiasmus
    (b) litotes
    (c) antithesis
    (d) irony

     
  1. Prospective buyers are advised not to rely heavily on the front brakes, which are not connected.
    (advertisement for a replica 1925 Rolls-Royce WWI Armored Car)
    (a) antithesis
    (b) simile
    (c) anaphora
    (d) understatement

 

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Here are the answers to our review:

  1. (b) metaphor
  2. (c) anaphora
  3. (b) euphemism
  4. (d) hyperbole
  5. (b) litotes
  6. (d) onomatopoeia
  7. (a) oxymoron
  8. (d) synechdoche
  9. (b) alliteration
  10. (c) apostrophe
  11. (b) chiasmus
  12. (b) paradox
  13. (d) personification
  14. (b) simile
  15. (c) metonymy
  16. (a) pun
  17. (a) antithesis
  18. (d) assonance
  19. (d) irony
  20. (d) understatement