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The Experiment is a collection of short series that are a little different to our usual programmes - but still help you improve your English.

Our seventh series, What they really mean shows how misunderstandings can be caused by common ways we use language. Each episode shows you how to avoid these misunderstandings.

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What they really mean: Sarcasm

The British summer's fantastic, isn't it?

Mark thinks Chloe is trying to trick him. In fact, she's just being sarcastic. This is where people say the opposite to what they mean. Watch the video to find out how to identify sarcasm. 

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Chloe
Ah, it’s nice to see the weather’s fantastic again.

Claire
Sounds like it’s going to be a lovely day. Or is it? Let’s watch and find out.

Chloe
Ah, it’s nice to see the weather’s fantastic again.

Mark
Really? I didn’t think it was going to be that good today.

Chloe
Oh, it’s a beautiful day.

Mark
Maybe they got the forecast wrong.

Chloe
I can’t wait to go outside and do my shopping.

Mark
Well I’ve had enough of being stuck inside today. I’ll get your shopping for you.

Mark
I am not going out there!

Chloe
The British summer is fantastic, isn’t it?

Claire
What’s the matter?

Mark
I think Chloe was trying to trick me… all that talk about how beautiful a day it is and I fell for it.

Claire
Chloe wasn’t trying to trick you. That was sarcasm. Sarcasm is where people say the opposite of what they mean, and they use it to talk about things they don’t like - it can be confusing. Chloe was talking about the weather, but we can use it to talk about all kind of things. You’ll see more examples at the end of the programme. Now one way that you can tell when people are being sarcastic, is they often use a different intonation – falling rather than the rising tone people usually use when they are happy or excited. Sometimes people stretch words making them longer if they are being sarcastic. Listen to the difference between: “I can’t wait to go outside!” and “I can’t wait to go outside”. You should also think about the context – people often use sarcasm when it’s obvious that they mean the opposite to what they are saying. Once you can tell that someone is being sarcastic, why not join in? Let’s try it again.

Chloe
Ah, it’s nice to see the weather’s fantastic again.

Mark
Yes, it’s great, isn’t it?

Chloe
Oh, it’s a beautiful day.

Mark
I love days like these.

Chloe
I can’t wait to go outside and do my shopping.

Mark
Yes, that will be great fun, won’t it?

Chloe
It’s brilliant when you make me cold tea.

Mark
Oh, it’s so much fun looking for the TV remote when you’ve lost it

Mark
You are great at tidying up after yourself.

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Did you like that? Why not try these?

 WTRM Episode3_YT cover.jpg Lower_intermediate_the_weather_cover.jpg QuestionTags_master_class_YT_cover.jpg

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What is sarcasm?
Sarcasm is where people say the opposite of what they really mean, often when they don't like something.

When do people use it
People usually use it to talk about something that they don't like. Often the context will make it obvious that they mean the opposite of what they are saying.

Is intonation important
Yes, when people are being sarcastic, they often use a falling intonation. They may also make the words that they are saying sarcastically sound longer by stretching them.

Examples

'It’s brilliant when you make me cold tea.' This can mean: 'I hate it when you make me cold tea.' 
'Oh, it’s so much fun looking for the TV remote when you’ve lost it' This can mean: 'I don't like looking for the TV remote when you've lost it'
'You are great at tidying up after yourself' This can mean: 'You are terrible at tidying up after yourself.'

To do

Try our quiz to see how well you've learned today's language.

Sarcasm

4 Questions

Choose the correct answers

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Downloads

You can download a transcript of this episode here.

End of Session 34

Join us in Session 35 of The Experiment for more of What They Really Mean - a video series on understanding more than just the words people use. We will be looking at disguised requests. 

Here are all of our Experiment series videos