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Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Literally and Figuratively

This week, I have TWO words I want to talk about: literally [lit-er-uh-lee] and figuratively [fig-yer-uh-tiv-lee]. Both words are adverbs. Literally means "actually; without exaggeration or inaccuracy".

The house was literally destroyed.

If I heard the sentence above, I would assume that there had been some disaster, a fire or a tornado or something similar, and that there was little to nothing left of the house.

Figuratively means the opposite: "not literally". When you are speaking figuratively, you are using a figure of speech, usually a metaphor.

Figuratively speaking, the house was destroyed.

In this sentence, I know that the house is still standing. Perhaps the children living there played baseball in the living room, knocking over lamps and furniture and accidentally smashing a window with a home run ball. Perhaps the family members were very messy and never put anything away after using it. Whatever the case, the sentence is an exaggeration. The house wasn't actually destroyed.

The house was destroyed.

With this sentence, a reader would have to look to surrounding sentences to find out if its author meant it literally or figuratively.

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