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BTS Teaches You About Similes, Prepositions

BTS Teaches You About Similes, Prepositions
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The music group BTS, originally from South Korea, has developed a large international following. It recently won many awards at the MTV European Music Awards, including Best Pop, Best K-Pop and Best Group, among others.

Smooth like butter
Like a criminal undercover

In today’s Everyday Grammar, we will explore some of the words from Butter, a popular BTS song. You will learn about linking verbs, similes, prepositions and more.

Let’s start with a few important terms and ideas.

Linking verbs, prepositions, similes

Linking verbs are verbs that connect a subject to an adjective or noun that says something about the subject. Linking verbs include the verb be, as well as verbs related to senses such as look, feel, smell and so on.

Consider this example:

BTS is awesome!

This statement links the subject, BTS, with an adjective, awesome. In this case, awesome means extremely good.

A preposition is a word or group of words that tells you information about a noun, noun phrase, or pronoun.

Common prepositions include words such as on, over and under.

But for today’s report, there is an important preposition you should know about: like.

Like, the preposition, and like, the verb, have different meanings. Like, the preposition, means similar to someone or something.

Consider the following statement.

He is smooth like butter.

The pronoun, he, is the subject. The main verb, a linking verb, is be. The adjective smooth follows the verb be.

Then there is the group of words like butter. In this case, the preposition like comes before the noun, butter.

Smooth has a few different meanings. It can mean having a smooth, flat surface. It can also mean relaxed and confident in a pleasant way.

Regardless, the entire statement He is smooth like butter is a kind of statement known as a simile.

A simile uses the word like or as to describe someone or something by making a comparison to someone or something else.

In everyday speech, many - but certainly not all - of these similes involve linking verbs, as in:

This song is smooth like butter!

This candle smells like butter!


Now let’s listen to a few lines from the BTS song Butter.

Smooth like butter
Like a criminal undercover
Gon' pop like trouble
Breakin' into your heart like that (Ooh)

Note that similes are the organizing idea for the song. The first line says smooth like butter.

The subject and main verb are not stated. If they were stated, one can guess the words would have been something like this:

I am smooth like butter.

This involves the subject, I, and the linking verb, be.

Then another simile appears: like a criminal undercover.

Once again, one can guess that the subject and main verb – the linking verb be – are not stated.

If the subject and linking verb were stated, the line might be something like this:

I am like a criminal undercover

As the song continues, many more similes appear:

Smooth like butter
Pull you in like no other
Don't need no Usher
To remind me you got it bad
Ain't no other
That can sweep you up like a robber

Note that the preposition like introduces either a noun, as in butter, a pronoun, as in no other, or a noun phrase, as in a robber.

Later in the song, many of the similes do not involve linking verbs. To be clear: similes do not have to involve linking verbs. However, many everyday structures do involve them.

Closing thoughts

The next time you listen to popular music, try to find examples of similes. Make note of how the speaker uses the word like, and make note of the verb the speaker uses. Does the speaker use a linking verb with the simile? Or do they use a different kind of verb?

With careful study and hard work, your ability to express comparisons in English will become smooth... like butter.

I’m John Russell.

John Russell wrote this lesson for VOA Learning English. Susan Shand was the editor.


Words in This Story

butter – n. a solid yellow substance made from milk or cream that is spread on food or used in cooking

linking verb – n. grammar: a verb (such as appear, be, become, feel, grow, or seem) that connects a subject with an adjective or noun that describes or identifies the subject

simile – n. grammar: a phrase that uses the words like or as to describe someone or something by comparing it with someone or something else that is similar

preposition n. grammar: a word or group of words that is used with a noun, pronoun, or noun phrase to show direction, location, or time, or to introduce an object

sweep up – phrasal verb to pick up (someone or something) in one quick, continuous motion

relax – v. to stop feeling nervous or worried