Rhetorical Figures in Spanish Literature (Part 1)

Image taken from Pixabay.

Rhetorical figures are intentional deviations from the conventional sequence of words in a literary work, whose purpose is to create a sensorial meaning or rhetorical effect.

Some rhetorical figures can be associated with figurative language, as it usually encompasses a non-literal usage of words, meant to evoke a variety of emotions from readers.

Rhetorical figures appear oftentimes in literature, though they are also very common in everyday conversations.

In that sense, Spanish literature is very rich in figuras retóricas (rhetorical figures) that embellish it, but they could be certainly tricky to identify for inexperienced readers.

Though there are hundreds of rhetorical figures in literature, in this first part of my post, I will explain the most common ones in Spanish: hyperbole, metaphor, simile, paradox, personification, and synesthesia. Then, we will be sharing some examples belonging to famous Spanish-speaking authors.


La hipérbole is a rhetorical figure used to describe a person, an object or an event by grandifying or exaggerating their characteristics. It helps make any description more vivid.

“Los veinte años que llevó de no dormir se le corrompieron de golpe al tomar el primer sueño del que ya no iba a despertar.”

Twenty years of no sleeping were spoiled all of a sudden after getting the first sleep from which he would no longer wake up.

(Fragment of “Moriencia”, by Augusto Roa Bastos).


Metaphor and simile

Comparison is the basis for many rhetorical figures. This is the case of la metáfora (metaphor) and el símil (simile), but they are used differently.

La metáfora is a figurative comparison in which the usage of direct comparison words such as como (like, as) is not present. It is used to compare a real thing with an evoked or imagined one having similar characteristics.

On the other hand, el símil is a direct comparison between one thing and another, typically preceded by como. Let’s see an example of both:


“Unas veces me siento

como un acantilado

y en otras como un cielo

azul pero lejano.”

Sometimes I feel

like a cliff

and sometimes like a sky

blue but distant.



“A veces uno es

manantial entre rocas

y otras veces un árbol

con las últimas hojas.”

Sometimes one is

spring between rocks

and sometimes a tree

with the last leaves.


(Fragments of “Estados de Ánimo”, by Mario Benedetti).



Una paradoja is a logically self-contradictory statement meant to elicit an emotional response from the reader.

“Yo te amo para comenzar a amarte, para recomenzar el infinito y para no dejar de amarte nunca: por eso no te amo todavía.”

I love you to start loving you, to restart the infinite and to never stop loving you: that is why I don’t love you yet.

(Fragment of “XLIV” from “Antología”, by Pablo Neruda).



La personificación is used to confer a human behavior, quality or characteristic to non-human characters like animals, nature or inanimate objects.

“El lunes te agarró la muerte, Paula. Vino y te señaló, pero se encontró frente a frente con tu madre y tu abuela y por esta vez retrocedió.”

Death grabbed you on Monday, Paula. It came and pointed at you, but it came across your mother and your grandmother and for this time it backed up”.

(Fragment of “Paula”, by Isabel Allende).



La sinestesia is used to describe a physical sensation in terms normally reserved for another kind of sense.

“… y además hay el gusto del pulóver, ese gusto azul de la lana que le debe estar manchando la cara ahora que la humedad del aliento se mezcla cada vez más con la lana”.

Moreover, there is the taste of the sweater, this blue taste of the wool that must be staining his face now that the humidity of his breath is mixing more and more each time with the wool.

(Fragment of “No se culpe a nadie”, by Julio Cortázar)

In Part 2, we will examine many other rhetorical figures and the way they are used in Spanish. Stay tuned!

Cooking in Lockdown: Banana Bread

The recent COVID-19 crisis has brought out the cook or cocinero in most of us. There are so many people sharing recetas or recipes online as well as some very funny fracasos or fails in the kitchen. I am not much of a baker, but a recent accumulation of plátanos or bananas motivated me to make banana muffins.

Personal photo

La receta

I am much more of a cook than a panadera or baker, but banana bread is one of the few basic recipes I can easily make. The most important thing to remember is that your bananas should be very very ripe or maduros! The mushier and darker the banana is, the better the bread. Based on several recipes I’ve come across, over ripe bananas will provide moisture and sweetness. Other important tips to remember are that you can use harina blanca or plain white flour or harina integral or whole wheat flour. You can also substitute the milk for non-dairy options. Same thing for the type of sugar or azúcar you use. I would, however, consult online recommendations for using sugar substitutes. You can also add extras like nuts or chocolate or even more chunks of banana.


  • 8 cucharadas o 113 gramos de mantequilla sin sal (unsalted butter) a temperatura ambiente (room temperature)
  • 1 taza de azúcar granulada
  • 2 huevos
  • 1/4 de taza de leche 
  • 1 cucharada de extracto de vainilla (vanilla extract)
  • 3 plátanos muy muy muy maduros
  • 2 tazas de harina 
  • 1 cucharadita de bicarbonato de sodio (baking soda)
  • 1/4 cucharadita de sal
  • 1/2 taza de nueces o chispas de chocolate (opcional)
  • 1 molde de pan o para cupcakes/magdalenas


  1. Calienta el horno a 350° F o 180° C y acomoda la bandeja en la parte baja de tu horno. 
  2. Prepara tu molde ya sea con suficiente mantequilla o con papel pergamino (parchment paper). Si usas molde para cupcakes, puedes usar moldes de papel para magdalenas (cupcake liners).
  3. En un bol grande, combina la mantequilla y el azúcar. Puedes hacer esto con un tenedor o con una batidora (mixer).
  4. Agrega los huevos uno por uno batiendo muy bien.
  5. Agrega la leche y el extracto de vainilla, igual batiendo muy bien para que se incorporen a la mezcla.
  6. Agrega los plátanos en pedazos y mezcla muy bien. Si estas mezclando con un tenedor, es mas fácil machacar (crush) los plátanos aparte y luego incorporar a la mezcla. 
  7. Agrega la harina, bicarbonato y sal poco a poco hasta que se incorporen.
  8. Dobla (fold) las nueces o chispas de chocolate (o ambas!).
  9. Agrega la mezcla a tu molde. Si son magdalenas, llena solo 3/4 de cada molde. 
  10. Hornea por 50 minutos si es panqué y 20 si son magdalenas. Es importante checar el pan ya que cada horno es diferente. Para checar que el pan o las magdalenas están listas en el horno, inserta un palillo en el centro. Si este sale limpio, ya las puedes sacar del horno. 
  11. Deja el panqué reposar por 10 minutos antes de sacarlo del molde. 


Like I mentioned above, this recipe adapts well to white or wheat flour as well as the type of sugar. You can top it with chocolate chips or nuts or even mix these before baking. If you are vegan, I found a delicious recipe for banana and chocolate bread. You might notice some different terms. In the video, Marta uses banana and plátano and the use varies per Spanish speaking region. In Mexico, we say plátano, but most would understand if you said banana.  She also calls chocolate chips pepitas de chocolate, but you can also call them chispas de chocolates.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2pn133Fecdo?feature=oembed&w=500&h=281]

Are you more of a panadero or cocinero? What have you been making during the lockdown?

“White Collar” in Spanish

I’m wondering if there is equivalent to white-collar that is similar to meaning in English.

Example: “That man has a very white-collar appearance but his personality is that of hungry snake.”

If there is also a way to say to “Blue-collar” it would be much appreciated, as a side note: I’m re-learning Spanish as it was initially my first language when I was younger but stopped speaking it primarily during pre-school and kindergarten, I’m now relearning it again as I am a High School Student.

submitted by /u/i-guessitalright
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cara a cara con cada carro caro, creo

English speaker trying to learn Spanish. When I practice I always get these words mixed up bc they sound/look similar to me, so I made them into a somewhat coherent sentence that I can derive the meaning from to remember. “face to face with every expensive car, I think”. tell me what you guys think, am I misunderstanding any of the uses?

submitted by /u/RonnieG22
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