Should similes, when it comes to grammar, be treated/considered as subordinating conjunctions of comparison (e.g. just as, though, etc.)? And therefore, they shouldn't be preceded by a comma (unlike coordinating conjunctions when they introduce an independent clause)?


They played energetically like a pup.

He worked on the math problem until night like an obsessed person.

She goes to sleep after the sun goes down as if she were a nocturnal animal.

Or maybe similes should be preceded by a comma when there's an adverb or adverbial clause in front of them?

  • 1
    Your impression of what constitutes a simile is mistaken. The use of commas has nothing to do with similes, but with how the sentence is constructed. All of your constructions are ambiguous, because you use phrases that would become independent clauses if you used commas. But consider this: Time is like an arrow. You cannot normally insert a comma into that sentence, even though there is a simile there. (It's possible, but it would have quite a strange and nonstandard interpretation if you did.) – Jason Bassford May 20 '20 at 6:42

The word "like" is not a subordinating conjunction, it is a preposition. And commas are not needed in front of these prepositional phrases.

In the final example "as if" is a conjunction. You could put a comma before "as", and you would naturally pause before "as if".

"Simile" is not a grammatical category. There are lots of ways of forming similes, some use grammar which would be supported by commas, some don't. Some smilies can be in completely separate sentences. (Some extended similies can last a whole paragraph or more)

  • I think "as if/as though" are subordination conjunctions? And therefore, don't require a comma? grammarly.com/blog/subordinating-conjunctions – alexchenco May 21 '20 at 12:15
  • 1
    They don't require a comma. You can put one in, if you feel it helps understanding. But "If in doubt, leave it out." Over punctuated text is confusing. – James K May 21 '20 at 15:49

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