How to Identify Personification

Personification is a literary device used to give human traits to animals or nonliving objects. Widely used in poetry, personification gives the reader a sense that nonliving objects have personality or thoughts; this makes the poem or story more interesting and sometimes more meaningful. Other playful literary devices found in poetry include metaphor and simile, which both compare two things; hyperbole, which is a dramatic exaggeration and alliteration, which uses the same sound to begin several words.

Step 1

Find a description of an animal or nonliving object in the passage.

Step 2

Look for words in the description that can be used to describe a human. These may be emotion words, such as "happy" and "confused," or they may describe body parts such as eyes or feet.

Step 3

Determine which of these descriptive words can be applied only to humans; these are the descriptions that constitute personification. For example, "The door stretched its arms wide to welcome us home" is an example of personification because doors don't have arms. On the other hand, "The dog was hungry" is not personification because hunger is not only a human trait, but also a trait of animals.

Step 4

Read between the lines to determine whether personification exists in a poem or story. The author may not explicitly describe human characteristics for an animal, but a talking animal is an example of personification because only humans can talk.


Think of the word "person" when you think of "personification." If the author is describing a nonperson having traits that only a person has, it's personification.