Literally vs Figuratively

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What’s the difference between them?

Literally

Meaning:

in a literal sense; exactly as stated; without exaggeration or interpretation.

Examples:

1. I was literally shaking with fear.

2. I literally cannot believe what I'm hearing.

3. She literally ran out of the room.

Figuratively

Meaning:

using a comparison or analogy to describe a situation or make a point without using the literal meaning of the words.

Examples:

1. She figuratively rolled her eyes when he told her the same joke for the third time.

2. I was figuratively blown away by the stunning view from the mountain top.

3. He figuratively painted a picture with his words as he described the beautiful sunset.

Learn similar and opposite words to spot the difference

Synonyms

Antonyms

Literally

1. Actually

2. Word for word

3. Specifically

4. Exactly

5. Precisely

1. Figuratively

2. Metaphorically

3. Implicitly

4. Symbolically

5. Allegorically

Figuratively

1. Metaphorically

2. Symbolically

3. Allegorically

4. Hyperbolically

5. Imagistically

1. Literally

2. Concretely

3. Practically

4. Actually

5. Verbatim

Tricks for mastery

Useful tips to understand the difference between confusing words "Literally", "Figuratively".

1. Literally means 'in an exact or actual sense' and refers to something that is true and real.

2.Figuratively, on the other hand, means 'used in a nonliteral sense; metaphorically' and is used to refer to something that is not actually true or real.

3. Use mnemonic phrases like 'Literal means true, Figurative means false' or 'The letter L in literal stands for true.'

Check the full list of commonly confused words in English

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Frequently asked questions

When should ‘literally’ be used?

'Literally' should be used when describing something that is true or happened in a literal sense. For example, when you say 'I literally ate a whole pizza by myself last night', it means that you actually did just that.

When is the appropriate context for using 'figuratively'?

'Figuratively' should be used when describing something that did not happen in a literal sense. For example, when you say 'My head is spinning from all this information', it means that you feel overwhelmed, not that your head is literally spinning.

Do the two words share the same pronunciation?

No, the two words do not share the same pronunciation. 'Literally' is pronounced /ˈlɪt̬.ɚ.əl.i/ and 'figuratively' is pronounced /fɪg.ər.ə.tɪv.li/.

What are some common mistakes people make when using these words?

One common mistake people make when using these words is using 'literally' when they mean 'figuratively'. For example, if you say 'I literally died when I saw the results', it doesn't mean that you actually died, it means that you were extremely surprised or shocked. Another common mistake is using 'figuratively' when they mean 'literally'. For example, if you say 'I figuratively ate a whole pizza by myself last night', it doesn't mean that you felt very full, it means that you actually ate a whole pizza.

Fill in the gaps to check yourself

1. She was ____ dancing on the tables.

2. He was so excited about the news that he ____ jumped for joy.

3. His words were ____ like a dagger to her heart.

4. The storm outside was ____ shaking the house.

5. Her words were ____ like music to his ears.

6. His speech was ____ painting a vivid picture.

1. She was literally dancing on the tables.

Explanation: The word literally is used to emphasize that an action actually happened. In this case, the person was not just saying that they were dancing but they literally were doing it.

2. He was so excited about the news that he figuratively jumped for joy.

Explanation: The word figuratively is used to emphasize that an action is not actually happening. In this case, he was not actually jumping for joy but it is a metaphor to express his extreme excitement.

3. His words were figuratively like a dagger to her heart.

Explanation: The word figuratively is used to emphasize that an action is not actually happening. In this case, his words were not actually like a dagger to her heart but it is a metaphor to express the hurtful nature of his words.

4. The tornado outside was literally shaking the house.

Explanation: The word literally is used to emphasize that an action actually happened. In this case, the tornado was not just figurative or metaphorical but it was actually shaking the house.

5. Her words were literally like music to his ears.

Explanation: The word literally is used to emphasize that an action actually happened. In this case, her words were not just figurative or metaphorical but they were actually like music to his ears.

6. His speech was figuratively painting a vivid picture.

Explanation: The word figuratively is used to emphasize that an action is not actually happening. In this case, his speech was not actually painting a picture but it is a metaphor to express the visual and memorable quality of his words.

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List of Commonly Confused Words

Finding your way around the English language can be hard, especially since there are so many confusing words and rules. So, a list of the most confusing words in English is an extremely useful tool for improving language accuracy and sharing the ideas clearly.