Irony, sarcasm, and cynicism. Differences.


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- Did you know that most English learners know more grammar than the native speaker but can barely speak?

- Is that so? Now that's pure irony.

Welcome to Speak English Now podcast, with your host, Georgiana. The podcast that will help you speak English fluently with no grammar and no textbooks.

Hi! I'm Georgiana. Thanks for joining me for a new Speak English Now podcast episode.

Today we have a very interesting topic:

  • I'm going to talk about three concepts that are often confused: irony, sarcasm, and cynicism.

- Next, you'll practice verb tenses with a short story about two kids who have a problem on a frozen lake.

Okay, let's get started.

Yes, many language learners indeed know more grammar than the average native speaker, yet they can barely speak fluently. That's why I recommend my mini-course, where you can understand how to develop your speech, among other things.

Go now to SpeakEnglishPodcast.com and sign up now. It's free!

What is the difference between irony, sarcasm, and cynicism?

We are going to analyze these concepts one by one, and of course, I will give you some examples; you learn very well with examples! And it's not irony :)


The irony is an "expression that implies something contrary or different from what is said, usually as a mockery."

Okay. To make it clear, a "mockery" is an action or words with the intention of laughing at something or someone. It can also be a simple joke.

The irony is sometimes directed at oneself or a situation.

Let's look at an example:

- How was the date with that girl you met?

- Ah, fantastic! It couldn't have gone better. She said she would call me... But she didn't ask for my phone number.

When in the dialogue, he says, "it couldn't have gone better," he is obviously saying the opposite of reality and uses it as a subtle mockery of himself.

Irony also occurs when there is an outcome that is not expected. For example:

- A fire in a firehouse.

- The financial advisor going bankrupt.

- A dietician with overweight problems.

All these situations have their dose of irony.

Now let's look at sarcasm.

Sarcasm is very similar to irony, but what differentiates it is the intention. Sarcasm is a cruel irony with which someone or something is offended or mistreated".

The person using sarcasm seeks to ridicule, humiliate or insult.


- The report won't be ready today. I think I'll finish it next week.

- Ah, Tom...! You are always such a hard worker!

In this example, sarcasm is used to attack Tom's work and make it clear that he works slowly.

Finally, cynicism.

I am not going to go into the philosophical doctrine of cynicism from Ancient Greece, but how it is commonly used.

There are two ways of understanding cynicism.

First, a cynical person is someone who has no shame. He or she lies unashamedly and defends dishonorable behavior and actions. In other words, someone who has no principles and acts without ethics or morals. For example, a politician is found to be corrupt, and he, instead of apologizing, says: "Well, this is commonplace. All politicians, in one way or another, do similar things."

Second, cynicism also refers to extreme skepticism. The cynic no longer believes in anything. He doesn't believe in politics, he doesn't believe in relationships, in friendship, etc. This leads to not trusting anything, having no principles, and being suspicious of everything. In a way, it can lead to behaving like the previous explanation about cynicism.

I have a friend who thinks this way. In some things, she is not wrong. Perhaps the opposite of this kind of cynicism is extreme positivism.

Okay, now we know these three concepts a little better. Information is power, and use power responsibly. :)

Get the transcript on my website: speakenglishpodcast.com/podcast

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