Recent developments in cognitive linguistics have highlighted the importance as well as the ubiquity of metaphor in language. Despite this, the ability of second language learners to use metaphors is often still not seen as a core ability. In this paper, we take a model of communicative competence that has been widely influential in both language teaching and language testing, namely Bachman (1990), and argue, giving a range of examples of language use and learner difficulty, that metaphoric competence has in fact an important role to play in all areas of communicative competence. In other words, it can contribute centrally to grammatical competence, textual competence, illocutionary competence, sociolinguistic competence, and strategic competence. Metaphor is thus highly relevant to second language learning, teaching and testing, from the earliest to the most advanced stages of learning.