Understanding sarcasm can help you to better understand native speakers and also help you to sound like one too!
Native English speakers often use sarcasm in their language and sarcasm plays a big part in everyday English social interaction and conversation. It occurs when someone says something contrary to what they believe or feel for the purpose of being funny. However, it's not always easy to tell whether or not someone is being sarcastic.
Remember to judge when and with whom to be sarcastic - you can offend people with inappropriate use of this language.
Let's look at some common examples of sarcasm;
After something bad or annoying happens:
Oh terrific / great / brilliant! That's just what I need.
Example. “Oh brilliant you’ve crashed the car that’s just what we need”
After something unsurprising happens:
‘Well what a surprise!’
Example. “Oh I forgot my car keys again!”
Friend: “Well what a surprise! you’re always forgetting things”
After somebody makes a mistake:
‘Oh nice one!’
‘Oh well done!’
Example. “I’m so sorry I spilt my drink over your homework”
Friend: oh well done! nice one! now it’s ruined.
After someone says something obvious:
No?! Really? You're quick / clever!
Example. “I think that London is the capital of England”
Friend. “Is it? Wow! You are really clever!”
There are no fixed rules about what language to use when being sarcastic, but the following features are quite common (but this language is used when people aren't being sarcastic too!):
“Of course, you're the real expert at driving, aren't you?”
'Yes' ... 'because':
You can use this to disagree or argue with someone by seeming to agree:
Example. “Slow down! You're driving too fast!”
Friend: Yeah right, 'cause you never drive too fast, do you?
Example. “Slow down! You're driving too fast!
Friend: “Sorry, I forgot you were the expert driver!
'If' ... 'must':
Well if you read it on the Internet it must be true!
It's really important that your conversation partner realises that you are being sarcastic. Here are a couple of ways of doing this:
Exaggerate your feelings using strong words and a lively intonation. So if something bad happens, instead of saying; Good, I'm glad that's happened TRY Great! That's just what we need!
People will also sometimes use old-fashioned English to exaggerate:
Gosh, you're quick!
I say, that's a surprise!
Sometimes, the situation will make it obvious that you are being sarcastic and you don't need to worry about people misunderstanding you. But if you are worried that people might misunderstand you, then after your sarcastic comment, say;
So then we visited an enormous steam train museum and you can just imagine what fun that was(!)
Note: Because sarcasm can hurt people’s feelings, you should be careful when you use it. Don't use it too much and don't use it on anyone who might punch you on the nose! Intonation is an important part of sarcasm.
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