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How to recognise sarcasm in English! (Part 2 of 3)

Sarcasm is an important part of language; and it’s often used in English. But what is it, exactly?

Sarcasm consists of saying the opposite to what you really mean. It’s a form of speaking that’s quite typical in many English-speaking countries, and it’s important to be able to recognise it. But how can you recognise sarcasm?

Here are our top tips.

  1. Tone of voice

When people are speaking normally (i.e. not sarcastically), the intonation often goes up and the pitch might be slightly higher when responding to a question. Listen to speaker B’s response.

A: What was it like?

B: Oh, it was great! [rising pitch]

However, when someone is being sarcastic, the pitch may drop at the end.

A: What was it like?

B: Oh, it was great! [falling pitch]

  1. Word length

When people are being sarcastic, they might elongate some sounds in the words they use, often for comic or theatrical effect. See if you can notice the difference between these two mini-dialogues:

A: You just trod on my foot!

B: Oh, sorry! [high pitch + short syllable sounds]

A: You just trod on my foot!

B: Oh, sooorrrrry! [low pitch + elongated syllable sounds]

  1. Drama

People speaking sarcastically may become a bit theatrical – often as a way of being funny. For example:

A: So, how do you feel about the breakup with Jenny?

B: How do I feel? Oh, great! Absolutely fine! I mean, it’s amazing. I’m just so happy. I feel wonderful!

  1. Laughter

People speaking sarcastically may also use a type of sarcastic laugh – a mock, cynical form of laughter that isn’t real or genuine. For example:

A: Did you have a good time at the casino?

B: Ha, ha. If you call losing all your money having a good time, yeah, I had a great time.

  1. Context

To help you decide whether someone is being sarcastic or not, you also need to think about the context. For example, if your friend spends most of the conversation saying what a terrible time she had on her birthday, when she tells you that her presents were “great”, you can probably guess that she’s being sarcastic.

  1. Body language

Finally, look at the speaker’s body language. If they’re saying that something is “nice”, but they’ve got their arms crossed and an angry, silly or funny expression on their face, you can be sure that they’re being sarcastic.

Good luck!

For more sarcasm check out Part 1 of our blog post https://learnhotenglish.com/learn-about-sarcasm-in-english/

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