Learn ESL
Image default

What is Irony and What is Sarcasm?

What is Irony and What is Sarcasm?
What is Irony and What is Sarcasm?

What is Irony and What is Sarcasm?


1: The use of words that mean the opposite of what you really think especially in order to be funny.

  • A writer known for her clever use of irony.
  • “What a beautiful view,” he said, his voice dripping with irony, as he looked out the window at the alley.
  • She described her vacation with heavy irony as “an educational experience.”

2: A situation that is strange or funny because things happen in a way that seems to be the opposite of what you expected [count].

  • It was a tragic irony that he made himself sick by worrying so much about his health.
  • The (awful/bitter) irony is that in trying to forget her, he thought of her even more.
  • That’s just one of life’s little ironies.
  • The irony of the situation was apparent to everyone.
  • He has a strong sense of irony.

A simple way of putting it is that irony usually signals a difference between the appearance of things and reality. For instance, here is how Wikipedia defines it: “Ironic statements (verbal irony) often convey a meaning exactly opposite from their literal meaning. In ironic situations (situational irony), actions often have an effect exactly opposite from what is intended.”

Confusion is such that there is even a website, IsItIronic.com, where you can post your own question about whether or not something is ironic. Readers will cast their own vote – you can see the percentages of the votes – and the website will provide the final yes or no verdict.

Here are some examples of irony (or the lack of):

  • Is it ironic that I posted a video about how boring and useless Facebook is on Facebook? Reader’s Verdict: 93% NOT IRONIC; 7% IRONIC. Final Verdict: NOT IRONIC.
  • Is it ironic that the name of Britain’s biggest dog (until it died recently) was Tiny? Reader’s Verdict: 75% IRONIC; 25% NOT IRONIC. Final Verdict: IRONIC.
  • Is it ironic that I can’t go to church because I have a theology test to study for? Reader’s Verdict: 95% NOT IRONIC; 5% IRONIC. Final Verdict: NOT IRONIC.
  • Is it ironic that someone steps into a puddle and you make fun of them… and the next thing you know – YOU step in one!? Reader’s Verdict: 94% IRONIC; 6% NOT IRONIC. Final Verdict: IRONIC.

Has Alanis Morissette spoiled irony for us forever? Perhaps my generation is just in recovery from her 1995 lyrics. What do you think – do you understand the meaning of irony? Do people around you?


The use of words that mean the opposite of what you really want to say especially in order to insult someone, to show irritation, or to be funny.

  • Biting/dry sarcasm
  • A voice full of sarcasm.

Sarcasm Examples:

  • When someone says something very obvious

For example, your friend says “I think that London is the capital of England.” Now, everyone in the world knows that London is the capital of England, so your friend has made a very obvious statement. This is a great opportunity to use sarcasm. You could say:
Friend: I think that London is the capital of England? You: Is it? “Wow! You are really intelligent!” or “Aren’t you the intelligent one!”

  • When somebody does something wrong:

Imagine that someone has done something wrong or made a mistake; for example, your friend took a test and got a really low score because they didn’t study. Time for some sarcasm!
Friend: I only got 15% on my history test.
You: “Well done! I’m very impressed!” or “I wonder why?” or “That’s a big surprise!”

  • When something bad happens to you:

When you get some bad news or when something bad happens to you, you can use sarcasm:
For example, when you drop your cup of tea on the carpet you can sarcastically say, “Oh, great!” or “That’s just wonderful!” or “Smooth move!” or “Isn’t that just great!”

  • When something unsurprising happens:

Imagine that your friend went to a business job interview wearing shorts and a T-shirt. You knew that he would never get a job dressed so casually.
Friend: I didn’t get the job; I failed the interview. You: “What a surprise!” or “Hmm, I wonder WHY?” or “Well, that’s a shocker!” or “Ya think?” or “And you’re surprised?”

More Sarcasm Examples:

  • I’m trying to imagine you with a personality.
  • I work 40 hours a week to be this poor.
  • Is it time for your medication or mine?
  • Well, this day was a total waste of makeup.
  • Whatever kind of look you were going for, you missed.
  • Not the sharpest tact in the bunch, are we?
  • Nice perfume. Must you marinate in it?
  • Earth is full. Go home.
  • Suburbia: where they tear out the trees and then name streets after them.
  • This isn’t an office. It’s Hell with fluorescent lighting.
  • I majored in liberal arts. Will that be for here or to go?
  • Don’t bother me. I’m living happily ever after.

Impact of Tone of Voice

Sarcasm sometimes depends on the tone of voice. These examples of sarcasm are replies to people or situations and would only be sarcastic with a sarcastic tone of voice:

  • When something bad happens – That’s just what I need, great! Terrific!
  • When you expected something to happen, especially after warning someone about it – Well what a surprise!
  • When someone says something that is very obvious – Really? No! You sure are clever!
  • When someone does something wrong – Very good, well done, nice!
  • When something happens that you don’t want or need – That’s just what we need!

Sarcastic Quotes by Famous People

  • “Some cause happiness wherever they go; others whenever they go.” – Oscar Wilde
  • “Sometimes I need what only you can provide: your absence.” – Ashleigh Brilliant
  • “I feel so miserable without you, it’s almost like having you here.” – Stephen Bishop
  • “I never forget a face, but in your case I’ll be glad to make an exception.” – Groucho Marx
  • “The trouble with her is that she lacks the power of conversation but not the power of speech.” – George Bernard Shaw
  • “I didn’t attend the funeral, but I sent a nice letter saying I approved of it.” – Mark Twain
  • “Weather forecast for tonight: dark.” – George Carlin
  • “You see, money’s not everything in life is it? But it keeps you in touch with your children…” – Johnnie Casson
  • “The early bird may get the worm, but it’s the second mouse who gets the cheese.” – Steven Wright
  • “What’s on your mind, if you will allow the overstatement?” – Fred Allen
  • “I always wanted to be somebody, but now I realize I should have been more specific.” – Lily Tomlin
  • “Reader, suppose you were an idiot. And suppose you were a member of Congress. But I repeat myself.” – Mark Twain
  • “I like long walks, especially when they are taken by people who annoy me.” – Fred Allen
  • “Children really brighten up a household – they never turn the lights off.” – Ralph Bus
  • “Honesty is the best policy — when there is money in it.” – Mark Twain


Now you see lots of different examples of different kinds of sarcasm and sarcastic comments. Write five of your own examples of sarcasm. You may use a resource such as a book or the internet to help you but try to write it from your own mind. Remember, sarcasm has to do with the tone of your voice.

Related posts

Sounds of the Plural S in English


Best Ways to Start and End Your Presentation or Speech


How to Get Positive Feedback


Leave a Comment