is a type of figurative
in the English language.
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difficult to understand because it is often defined incorrectly.
Authors use irony to make their writing more interesting. Television
and movie producers use irony to make their shows interesting and funny.
Let’s look at a definition of irony.
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Irony is when someone says or does something, but means another thing
or intends for something else to happen.
That can be a little difficult to
understand, can't it?
Let’s make it easier. There are two parts to this definition.
1. when someone says
something but means the exact opposite
2. when something happens
that is the exact opposite of what you expected.
It is easiest to understand irony when you look at types of irony
separately. There are three types of irony: verbal
, and situational
is the most common type of irony. Verbal irony is when a
character or person says something, but means the exact opposite.
type of irony is used to create humor, make a point, or be
Verbal irony can also be called sarcasm
if the speaker is making fun of somebody. Sarcasm is very popular in
Nick just got an F on his test. Maria looks at Nick and says, "Good
job! You must have studied hard."
Does Maria really mean "good job"? No! Maria is using verbal irony to
Watch this video from Ted-Ed to learn more about verbal irony.
is a type of irony often found in humorous and
suspenseful literature or movies. Dramatic irony is when the audience
is aware of something that the character is not.
Let’s look at one example.
While watching a suspenseful
movie, the audience sees
the bad guy enter a house, turn off the electricity, and hide in a dark
room. Then, the main character walks into the dark house alone. The
character does not know that the bad guy is in the room, but the
audience does. This creates suspense or drama because the audience
knows something that the character does not.
This is one example of
dramatic irony. It is
ironic because the audience knows more than the
Watch this great video from Ted-Ed to see more examples of dramatic
The final type of irony is situational
. Situational irony
is when you expect one thing to happen but get the exact opposite.
Watch this video from Ted-Ed to learn about situational irony.
irony vs bad luck
Situational irony can sometimes be the most difficult to identify. It
is often confused with bad luck.
luck is just something unpleasant that happens. Situational irony is
when the exact opposite of what is supposed to happen, happens.
: A car is being towed.
A tow truck is being towed.
: A building burns down.
The firehouse burns down.
It rains on your wedding day.
You scheduled an outdoor wedding in July because it hasn't rained in
July for 10 years. Unfortunately, it still rains on your wedding day.
A man falls in a swimming pool.
A man takes a step to the side in order to avoid
walking in a puddle. He falls in the swimming pool.
Situational irony in literature
One great example of situational irony can be found in O. Henry's: The
Gift of the Magi
Della and Jim are very poor. They do not own many things. The two
things that are the most important to them are Della’s beautiful, long
hair and Jim’s
It is Christmas time. Della wants to buy a gift for Jim. She decides to
sacrifice her hair to buy Jim a Christmas gift. She cuts off her hair
and sells it for money.
Jim wants to buy a gift for Della. He decides to sacrifice his gold
watch to buy Della a Christmas gift. He sells his watch for money.
Della and Jim exchange gifts. Della gives Jim a gold chain for his
watch, but Jim sold his watch to buy Della’s gift.
Jim bought Della a comb for her hair, but Della cut and sold her hair
to buy a chain for Jim’s watch.
events of this story are ironic. Jim thinks Della will love her comb
because she has beautiful hair. But Della cut her hair to buy Jim a
gift. Della thinks Jim will love the gold chain because he can put it
on his watch. But Jim sold his watch to buy Dell a gift.
The ending of the story is the opposite of what was expected. That is
the definition of situational
= When someone says or does something, but means another things
or intends for something else to happen.
= Someone says something but means the opposite.
= The audience is aware of something that the characters
are not aware of.
= Something happens that is the exact opposite of
what was expected to happen.
This was an overview of irony. Now that you understand,
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