WRITING AN ANALOGY
An analogy is an extended comparison between two things usually thought of as unlike. Analogies illustrate and explain by moving from the familiar to the unfamiliar, comparing several points, each of which has a counterpoint. For example, here is an analogy in which an engineering student explains something relatively unknown (loading a tanker) by using her knowledge of something known (filling pop bottles):
A tank truck usually holds between 4,000 and 6,000 gallons of gasoline. Depending on the tanker, three to six individual compartments hold 600 to 900 gallons of gasoline apiece. The tank that contains the compartments is elliptically shaped to distribute the pressure equally and to allow a more complete flow of air when the gasoline is delivered.
Until recently the only way to load a tanker was to climb up on top, where the openings to the compartments are located. You can easily picture this by visualizing six pop bottles lined up in single file on a table. A man wants to fill up bottle three, so he takes the cap off. He then inserts a small hose into the neck of the bottle and turns on a faucet which is connected to the hose.
A gasoline tanker is loaded in a similar way, but on a much larger scale. A man climbs on top of the tanker and opens a particular compartment by removing the cap. He then takes a hose with a four-foot metal pipe down into the "bottle" (the compartment hole), which measures four inches in diameter. A pump is then turned on, allowing the gasoline to flow into the compartment.
Know your audience
In the (admittedly unlikely) event her readers had no prior knowledge of pop bottles, however, this analogy might not be particularly informative. The writer chose this analogy based on the likely knowledge of her audience. When you construct an analogy, be certain that the familiar or known side of the analogy is really familiar and known to your reader. It is useless to explain a mineral's crystal-lattice structure by reference to analytic geometry if your reader knows nothing about analytic geometry.
All of us know many things that we can use to help a reader understand an idea better. Here a geology major shows how the oil seismograph works by comparing it to shouting at a cliff wall:
The oil seismograph is a small portable electronic instrument that detects and measures artificial earthquakes. The purpose of the instrument is to find geological structures that may contain oil. The oil seismograph instrument is not mysterious because it can be compared to shouting at a cliff wall.
Imagine yourself standing near the base of a large cliff. If you shout at the cliff face, you will get an echo because the sound waves bounce back from the "interface" where air meets rock. The sound waves travel at 1,100 feet per second. You can find out how far you are standing from the cliff by measuring the time it takes for your shout to travel from you to the cliff and back again, and then by solving a simple formula for distance.
The function of the oil seismograph is to find out how far down in the earth the horizontal layers of rock are. To discover this distance, the oil seismologist digs a deep hole (usually 100-200 feet). At the bottom of the hole, he explodes a heavy charge of dynamite. Ground waves travel from the explosion down to the layers of rock. At each major interface between the layers, the waves bounce back to the surface. The explosion is similar to shouting at the cliff. Just as sound travels through the air at a certain speed, ground waves travel through the earth, although much faster. Ground waves bounce from rock interfaces as sound waves bounce from a cliff face. And the seismologist can determine distance just as you can determine the distance between you and the cliff.
Know your limits
It is said that all analogies limp, that is, they are useful for illustration only as far as they remain reasonable. Therefore, do not try to stretch an analogy too far. Like the fabled camel who first put his nose in the man's tent, then his head and finally his whole body, pushing the man out of the tent, analogies can get out of control unless you know when to stop. Cut out or explain any points that cannot be logically compared.
For example, it might be a fair analogy to say that some professional athletes are treated like kings, that they receive special homage from the public and exemption from some rules, that they are more an expense and a pampered group than an asset to the community. But, except for comic effect, it would be overstatement to compare the equestrian charge of a king at an enemy with a football lineman's charge from the line of scrimmage. Likewise, it would be ridiculous to claim that modern athletes believe themselves divinely ordained to lead their country, or that professional athlete-ship is handed down from father to son by divine right. Just because certain similarities between athletes and kings exist, it doesn't follow that every kingly attribute manifests in modern-day athletes. Do not overconnect the subjects being compared.
Good analogies are vivid and logical, and while they cannot prove an argument, they can offer a picture that is very persuasive.
An analogy compares the relationship between two things or ideas to highlight some point of similarity. It is a way to clarify an idea or an unfamiliar concept by comparing it to something familiar.
butterflies : swarm :: fish : school
Butterfliles is to swarm as fish is to school.
In this example, swarm refers to a group of butterflies. Similarly, school is the specific term for a group of fish.
Look at this example:
- The example given above asks you to identify the relationship between pairs of words.
- To answer this question, you must first decode the symbols. The colon (:) stands for the phrase “is related to,” and the double colon (::) can be read as “in the same way that.” Thus, you would read the above example like this: “Appalling is to pleasing in the same way that interesting is to…”
- To figure out the missing word, you need to identify the relationship between the first two elements precisely as possible, and choose a word that will make the final pair have a parallel relationship.
- Most accurately, you might describe the relationship between appalling and pleasing as “appalling is an antonym of pleasing.”
- Now read the first word of the second pair, supplying the same relationship: “interesting is an antonym of…”
- The only word that fits this blank adequately is “boring,” the opposite of ‘interesting’. The other three options do not fit the blank as they are the synonyms of interesting.
- In the example above, the relationship between the words in the first pair is compared to the relationship of words in the second pair. This is what we call an analogy is.
What are Analogies?Back to Top
At the outset, analogy is used to refer to the relationship between the target and the source of information. It is used as a process of transferring information from a particular target to another target which is similar to the other one. To be precise, analogy is treated as the identification of relationship between two terms/conditions.
Analogy plays a notorious role in problem solving, creativity, decision making, perception, memory, and communication. The Great Greek philosophers Plato and Aristotle gave a wider vision to analogy. They defined analogy as a shared abstraction, since they did not share necessarily a logical relationship, but also an idea, a pattern, an attribute, an effect or a function.
As stated above, analogy has a wide range of purpose in many subjects and fields. We could notice the use of analogies in various studies and subjects like mathematics, science, trials, information technology, economics, political science, mental ability, philosophy, etc.
Analogies ExamplesBack to Top
You will be given a pair of words that have a certain logical relationship to each other, and you will have to choose a parallel second pair. Now, from the given four pairs of words, you need to choose a pair of words that has a similar relationship as the given pair.
At first glance, the words in analogy may seem to have nothing to do with each other, but the words are always logically related and have the same kind of relationship. To finish an analogy, you need to decide what relationship exists between the first two things or ideas. Then apply that relationship to another pair of words and see if it is the same.
To get the exact pair with the similar relationship, let us analyze each option in detail. It is always advisable to find out the exact relationship the words in question shows. The given pair is ‘Basil : Herb’. BASIL is a type of HERB. “Is a type of” is the relationship. Hence the next pair should also share the same relationship. Shall we try?
The first option is “wheel : car”. Could you guess the relationship in this pair?
- Wheel is a part of a car. The relationship is Part-to-whole. This pair does not have any similarity with the given pair.
The second option is “water : reservoir”
- A reservoir is a place where you find water. This relationship is also not parallel to the given pair of words.
The third option is “oak : tree”
- Oak is a type of tree. This pair of words has the same relationship as the first pair. Let’s consider the fourth option too.
The fourth option is “boat : sail”
- Boat is a means of transportation used to sail. This is an “object to function” analogy, and this pair of words does not share the same relationship as the first pair.
As option C has the same relationship as the given pair, it is the correct option.
Types of AnalogiesBack to Top
It is of course very evident that we should draw certain logic/relationship between the first pair of words to discern analogy of any pairs. Do you wonder what those logic relationships in analogy are? The most common analogy relationships you will encounter are:
|Type of Analogy Relationship|
|Synonym||is similar in meaning to||lucky : fortunate|
|Antonym||is similar in opposite to||lament : rejoice|
|Part to Whole||is a part of||stanza : poem|
|Category/Type||is a type/kind of||college : art|
|Object to Function||is used to||ruler : measure|
|Performer to Related Action||does/performs||chef : cook|
|Cause and Effect||is a cause or indication of||tornado : destruction|
|Degree of Intensity||is a small or large||irritate : enrage|
|Symbol and Representation||is a symbol of||dove : peace|
Synonyms are words that have the same or nearly the same meaning as another word. In this type of analogy, you will need to find words that are parallel in meaning. Here is an example for you.
SMART: INTELLIGENT :: ECSTATIC : ____________
The first pair of words “smart and intelligent” means the same thing. So this relationship is a synonym. Hence from the given options, we need to find the word with the similar meaning as ecstatic. When you read carefully, you could find out all the choices except B “blissful” are antonyms of ecstatic. Hence ‘B’ is the right answer.
Some analogies are based on antonyms-words that have opposite meanings. In this type of analogy, one word in each pair means the opposite of another. Here is an example for you.
HUMBLE: ARROGANCE :: MISERABLE: _______________
To complete this analogy, let’s first determine the relationship in the first pair of words. Humble is the opposite of arrogance. Now, we need to choose the word that means the opposite of miserable. An antonym for miserable is elation. Therefore, option C is the correct answer.
This type of analogy expresses a part to whole or part of relationship. The first word will be a part of the second word or vice versa. For example, galaxy: universe. In this pair, galaxy is a part of the whole universe. Let’s look at another example.
PARAGRAPH : ESSAY :: ACT : _____________
The first pair of words in the analogy above shows the part to whole relationship. The paragraph is the part of an essay. Similarly, act is the one of the main divisions of a play. Option A is the right answer. The pattern can also be reversed “Essay : Paragraph :: Play : Act”
In this type of analogy relationship, one word is the element/member of a group that the other word describes.
FOLK : MUSIC :: BOLERO : _______________
Folk is a type of music. Similarly, Bolero is a type of dance that originated in Spain. Therefore, option C is the right answer.
This type of analogy tests whether you can determine the function of a specific thing or tool. The first word will be a part of the second word or vice versa. For example, the function of a shovel is to dig. Make sure the function word (certainly a verb) is the primary function of the object (noun) that makes up the other word of the pair.
NEEDLE : SEW :: SHIELD : ______________
If we establish the relationship between the given words, we would say that a needle (object/noun) is a slender piece of metal used for sewing (function/verb). Now, figure out why one uses shield for. It is a large piece of metal carried by soldiers for protection. Therefore, option B is the correct answer as the function of a shield is to protect.
6. Performer to Related Action:
This kind of analogy usually links a person or object with the action they commonly perform. For example, consider the pair doctor: diagnose. Here the doctor’s job/profession is to diagnose a patient and give treatment.
We all know that burglar is one who steals. Always remember that when solving analogies of such types, we must look for the word pair in which the action given must describe the explicit action of the person/professional. We are then looking for a word that describes an Arbitrator. An arbitrator is a person who is chosen to judge and decide a disputed issue. Therefore, the correct answer is option D.
In this type of analogy, one word in the pair describes a condition or action, while the other word describes an outcome or effect to that action or condition. For example,
VIRUS : ILLNESS : : FLOOD : ______________
The relationship between the given words can be stated that virus causes illness. So, to solve this analogy, we need to identify the direct result of the flood. Option A and C can be eliminated as rain and hurricane are not the results of flood, it is the other way round. Similarly, option D can be eliminated as drought is a long period of time when there is little or no rain. Option B is the correct answer because destruction is the result that follows flood.
Another type of analogy relationship is ‘Degree of intensity.’ That is, the words in each pair have similar meanings, but one word is stronger, more intense, than the other. For example, being fanatic is an extreme range of being enthusiastic. Though both words are similar in meaning, one word is more intense than the other one. The relationship between these two words depends on the degree of intensity of their meaning.
WELL : ROBUST : : THRIFTY : ___________
In the given pair, the second word describes a feeling that is more intense than the first word suggest. Someone who is extremely well is robust. Do you understand? Now, choose a pair of words that have similar relationship. On analyzing the options, it is option C “miserly” that is more intense than thrifty. ‘Miserly’ describes a person who is extremely ‘thrifty or frugal’ in nature.
9. Symbol and Representation
This type of relationship represents or symbolizes the other word.
OLIVE BRANCH : PEACE :: LAMB : ______________
Olive branch usually stands for peace; while lamb represents meekness.
Once you figure out the type of analogy relationship, it is quite easy for you to discern the meaning of analogies.