As you become more advanced in English, you will need to learn ways to replace “very” as you speak. It’s perfectly fine to say that you’re very happy, but you will present a more refined image of yourself if, instead, you say that you’re delighted, thrilled, or ecstatic. There’s nothing wrong with saying you’re very tired, but your speech will be more vibrant if you say you’re drained, exhausted, or dead on your feet. Learning specific vocabulary like this is one way to move away from using “very” all the time. However, another way is to use similes. (Pronounced: SIM-ih-lee.) In this post, I’m going to teach you 12 common animal similes in English to help you avoid cluttering your speech with “very” when you converse.
First, we’ll briefly review what a simile is, and then we’ll review the animal similes, including example sentences. At the end, there will be a quiz where you can test what you’ve learned. If you master the quiz, brag about it in the comments so I can give you a virtual high five! :o)
Don’t believe me about “very”? See what Robin Williams has to say in Dead Poets Society!
First, What Is a Simile?
A simile is a comparison between two separate things using the words like or as. Here are a few examples of similes from literature:
“Only then did he find himself rolling head over heels like a shot rabbit.”
– Joseph Conrad, The Secret Agent
“The late afternoon sky bloomed in the window for a moment like the blue honey of the Mediterranean.”
– F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby
“O my [Love] is like a red, red rose
That’s newly sprung in June.”
-Robert Burns, “A Red, Red Rose”
“The full green hills are round and soft as breasts.”
– John Steinbeck, The Grapes of Wrath
“…Suddenly there came a tapping,
As of someone gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.”
– Edgar Allen Poe, “The Raven”
“Old Marley was as dead as a door-nail.”
– Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol
English Animal Simile 1: Busy as a Bee
Claire: I’m so excited to start here! Any tips for how to get on the boss’s good side?
Frank: I think the secret is making sure you look busy as a bee when he comes around. When he’s out in the field, I don’t do much.
Walter: What are you going to do with the kids tomorrow? I have no idea how I’d handle a classroom full of toddlers!
Tammy: We’re going to do an arts and crafts project that should keep them busy as little bees!
Claudia: A bunch of us are going to Alf Leyla tonight. You should come!
Michelle: I’d love to, but this project has me busy as a bee. Maybe next weekend!
English Animal Simile 2: Poor as a Church Mouse
Wanda: Do you know if Judy has contributed anything to our fundraiser?
Haley: I doubt it. She’s as poor as a church mouse. I don’t think you should ask her for anything.
Phil: Tony’s medical expenses have left him poor as a church mouse. Let’s start a collection to help him get back on his feet.
Eric: If you sleep with me, I’ll make sure you get that promotion you’re after.
Monique: Go pound sand. I’d rather be poor as a church mouse than go to bed with you.
English Animal Simile 3: Sly as a Fox
Danny: That Mr. Knox is sly as a fox! I can’t believe he tricked me into this!
Margery: Don’t beat yourself up too much about it. He’s gotten the better of half the businessmen in the county.
Audrey: What am I going to do? I’m really in trouble this time!
Richard: I have no idea. You’re going to have to be sly as a fox to get out of this one.
Brad: Do you think Mrs. Thorne will believe my excuse for being late?
Kevin: Not a chance. She’s sly as a fox and will see right through you.
English Animal Simile 4: Strong as an Ox
Martina: What are you looking for in a man?
Alice: I’d like to find someone kind, gentle, and strong as an ox. I love a man with big arms and broad shoulders.
Dylan: Are you strong enough to carry that?
Walt: Are you kidding me? I grew up on a farm. I’m as strong as an ox!
Calvin: Don’t let Ginger fool you with her little old lady routine. She’s strong as an ox!
English Animal Simile 5: Stubborn as a Mule
Nick: I know your wife said she wouldn’t come to the party if we invited Harriet, but can’t you convince her?
Adrian: I’ll try, but she’s stubborn as a mule. I doubt I’ll be able to change her mind.
Paula: How are your kids these days?
Ethel: They’re fine, but my oldest is stubborn as a mule. It’s impossible to get him to do anything he doesn’t want to do.
Everett: Gina is stubborn, isn’t she?
Lisa: Stubborn as a mule.
English Animal Simile 6: Sick as a Dog
Jessica: You look drained. Are you feeling okay?
Jen: I was sick as a dog last night. I spent half the night with my head over the toilet.
Tommy: We’re going sailing next weekend. Do you want to come along with us?
Izzy: I’d love to, but I get sick as a dog every time I’m on the water.
Alex: How was your vacation? I’ve always wanted to go to Australia!
Trevor: Don’t ask. I spent the entire time sick as a dog, so I hardly did anything.
English Animal Simile 7: Slippery as an Eel
Matthew: Sylvester came to me with a great business opportunity. Can I run it by you?
Mariah: Be careful. That man is slippery as an eel. I wouldn’t trust him as far as I could throw him.
Tara: Why does everyone hate my uncle so much? They keep saying he stole from the pension fund, but the police looked into it and never found any evidence against him.
John: Just because he didn’t get caught doesn’t mean he didn’t do it. I’m sorry to tell you this, sweetheart, but your Uncle Jeffrey is as slippery as an eel.
Karen: This Brett character has been slippery as an eel, but I think we’re finally going to catch him this time!
Tyler: I hope you do. He’s been cheating people for years and deserves to finally get his comeuppance.
English Animal Simile 8: Dead as the Dodo
Caitlin: When I came home, poor Fluffy was belly up on the carpet. Is there any way to revive her?
Lamar: I’m afraid not, hon. Little Fluffy is as dead as the dodo.
Anne: Let’s go. This concert is as dead as the dodo.
Lacey: Let’s stick around until the next band comes on. They might liven things up a bit.
Susan: He looks dead. Do you think he’s dead?
Felix: Dead as the dodo.
English Animal Simile 9: Quiet as a Mouse
Mike: If you want to come, you’ve got to be quiet as a mouse. Understood?
Amir: Understood! You won’t hear a peep out of me!
Victor: How did you get a recording of him saying all that?
Angela: I was hiding in the closet with my tape recorder, quiet as a mouse.
Fiona: Look at her kids! Every Sunday, they sit down quiet as little mice for the whole church service!
Barbara: I don’t know how she does it. Mine sit there thwacking hymnals against the pew the whole time!
English Animal Simile 10: Drunk as a Skunk
Bethany: May I offer you something to drink? This whisky is excellent.
Yolanda: My dear, if you pour me a whisky, I’ll be drunk as a skunk within two sips. I’ll stick with beer, thanks.
Harry: I got drunk as a skunk last night, and now I feel like death warmed over!
Aaron: Ah, yes. The morning after the night before. I had plenty of those in my day!
Stephanie: I only meant to have a glass of wine last night, but I ended up getting drunk as a skunk.
Ralph: What you need now is hair of the dog. What’s your poison? A Bloody Mary, perhaps?
English Animal Simile 11: Blind as a Bat
Wayne: We can’t leave until we find my glasses. I’m blind as a bat without them.
Deborah: She walked right by the school and never noticed that monstrosity they call a statue.
Cindy: It’s little wonder. She’s as blind as a bat. I’m surprised she can make out the lines of the sidewalk.
Ursula: Don’t forget to eat your carrots. They’ll give you good eyesight.
Fred: Hogwash. My mother ate carrots every day, and she was blind as a bat by the time she hit 40.
English Animal Simile 12: Free as a Bird
Jason: I can’t believe the judge only gave me a week in jail. I thought for sure I’d get a few months.
Andy: That’s great. You’ll be back out, free as a bird, in time for my birthday party.
Emily: How are you holding up with the divorce?
Julia: Are you kidding me? I feel free as a bird!
Carson: I long to be on a beach somewhere, free as a bird and without a care in the world.
Quiz Yourself on English Animal Similes
My favorite English animal similes are slippery as an eel and poor as a church mouse. Which ones are your favorites?
Try writing sentences with them in the comments to practice, and when you’re ready, take the quiz!