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How to Use Sarcasm in English – Video

Sarcasm is an important part of humour in English, especially in the UK. Do you know what sarcasm is, and how to use it? In this lesson, you can learn how to use sarcasm in English. You’ll see some useful words and phrases which will help you to use sarcasm in English!

In this lesson, you can learn about how to be sarcastic in English.

Imagine your friend has an exam. Your friend is really lazy, doesn’t study at all, and fails the exam. Someone says to your friend:

  • It’s surprising that you failed, after all the hard work you did.

This is an example of sarcasm.

In this lesson, we’ll look at how you can be sarcastic in English, along with some key words and phrases you can learn to practice your new humour!

1. What is Sarcasm?

Sarcasm means saying the opposite of what you mean in order to make fun of someone.

It’s very common in the UK and often leads to confusion when you’re learning English! British humour is famous for using a lot of sarcasm with a very straight face, so many people find it hard to tell when British people are joking or being serious.

Now, you don’t need to be confused anymore, let’s take a look at some examples of sarcasm so that you can see what it looks like.

For example, imagine you see your co-worker sitting at his desk with his feet up, reading a magazine.

Using sarcasm in English - co-worker feet on desk image

You could say:

  • You look busy!
  • I see you’re working hard!

Now, your co-worker is not really busy or working hard. By saying the opposite of what he’s doing, you are using sarcasm to create humour in the situation and make fun of your co-worker.

Ready to learn how to be sarcastic?

2. When to be Sarcastic

Okay, now that we’ve looked at what sarcasm is, let’s take a look at when to be sarcastic. As sarcasm is a type of humour that responds to a situation, firstly it’s important to know which situations work well with sarcasm.

The first situation is when something bad happens to you.

Imagine that you’ve just made yourself a slice of toast. You put butter on it—and then you drop it onto the carpet! The butter is all over your new carpet.

Using sarcasm in English - toast on carpet image

In this situation you might say something like:

  • Great.
  • Fantastic.
  • Brilliant.

Of course, this is not great, fantastic or brilliant at all! You are being sarcastic. In the UK, this response is common when something goes wrong.

Remember that we only use it with small things that are annoying, not something really serious or dangerous.

The next situation is very similar. You can use sarcasm when somebody else does something wrong.

Imagine that your friend is making a drink. When he goes to sit down, he spills it all over himself.

Using sarcasm in English - spilled coffee image

You could use this opportunity to be sarcastic by saying something like:

  • Well done.
  • Great job.

As you can see, you are saying the opposite of what you think.

Another time we might use sarcasm is when somebody says something that’s so obvious that it sounds a little stupid.

Imagine that your friend says:

  • Did you know that Madrid is the capital of Spain?

You might say:

  • No!
  • Really?
  • I did not know that.

Of course, you did know that and by using a sarcastic response, you can make the situation funny.

You can also use sarcasm when something unsurprising happens.

Imagine that your friend is writing an essay for a history class. He’s not very good at history, he doesn’t study and he writes the essay very quickly, an hour before the he has to hand it in.

Unsurprisingly, he gets an ‘F’ on his essay.

When your friend tells you:

  • I got an ‘F’ on my history essay.

Of course, you’re not surprised at all. You might say something like:

  • I’m shocked!
  • No one saw that coming!

Of course, there are many other situations where you could be sarcastic, but these are the main ones to remember.

It’s important to remember that sarcasm should be used in light situations where you want to make a joke.

Be careful not to use it if the situation is more serious or if someone’s upset—you don’t want to offend them.

3. How to be Sarcastic

Now that you have a good idea of when to use sarcasm in English, let’s look at some key phrases and expressions you might use when you’re being sarcastic.

A lot of sarcastic responses tend to be short phrases or interjections. Like all humour, sarcasm depends partly on responding quickly, so it works well with short responses.

Imagine that your friend offers to help you paint your new apartment. You’re working hard. You’ve almost finished two walls already, and then you look over and see that your friend hasn’t even painted half of one wall yet.

You might say:

  • Great job.
  • Thanks for the help.
  • Take your time.

These phrases make the situation humorous through sarcasm. Be careful you don’t sound too annoyed when you say them. These phrases are useful in other situations, too.

For example, if your friend is helping you cook dinner and he burns it, you could also say:

  • Good job!
  • Thanks for the help.

As you can see, these phrases would work well in a lot of different situations.

Later, the same friend tells you he has to cook for twenty people at a dinner party this weekend. Having seen his lack of cooking skills, you say:

  • Good luck with that.
  • That’ll be fun.

If one of your friends tells a bad joke that isn’t very funny, you could say:

  • That’s so funny.
  • Hilarious.

Can you see how saying the opposite of what you mean makes something sarcastic? When you remember that, it’s very easy to be sarcastic in these situations.

By learning and using short phrases like these, you can be sarcastic in a range of situations very easily.

Why don’t you give it a go?

4. What happens if you’re Misunderstood?

Hopefully by now you’re feeling confident enough to try being sarcastic. It’s important to go out and practice your new language skills so that you improve them.

Don’t worry about making mistakes—this is natural and it happens.

Now, let’s see how you can make it clear that you’re being sarcastic. It’s important that people can understand that your sarcasm is a joke and that you aren’t just being mean.

Listen to this:

  • Thanks for the help.
  • Good luck with that.
  • I did not know that.
  • That’ll be fun.

Can you see the problem?

It’s not obvious if I’m being sarcastic or not, which can make things very confusing.

Sometimes you can use intonation to show that you’re being sarcastic. Some people make sarcastic phrases flatter or more emotionless like this:

  • Thanks for the help.
  • Good luck with that.

Other people might use a stronger intonation, drawing out the words to emphasise them, like this:

Can you tell the difference now?

  • Thanks for the help!
  • Thanks for the help.

The first was genuine and the second was sarcastic, of course!

It’s important to remember that English is a very wide language with a lot of accents and personality, so sarcasm can sound different.

Most people will know you’re being sarcastic from the context of the conversation. Facial expressions also help to show people that you’re not being serious, so it’s important to use these, too.

If you are misunderstood by someone, don’t worry! It’s easy to make it clear that you weren’t being serious.

You could say something like:

  • I’m only joking.
  • Just kidding!

This makes it clear that what you said was a joke. You could also tell them that you’re being sarcastic, by saying something like:

  • I was being sarcastic.
  • That was sarcasm.
  • I didn’t mean that, it was sarcastic.

That’s the end of our lesson. You made it all the way to the end of a short video. Well done! What an achievement!

I’m just kidding, of course!

Thanks for watching this Oxford Online English lesson!

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