It typically depends on context, as well as the speaker’s tone and the listener’s attentiveness or prior experience. In a literary work, the audience generally has enough information to understand when a character is using verbal irony. Verbal irony can never be accidental. It depends on the speaker’s intent. If the speaker doesn’t mean to be irony, then they aren’t using verbal irony.
The word “irony” comes from the Greek word eiron, a stock character in ancient Greek comedy who feigns stupidity in order to deceive and defeat the alazon, an incompetent show-off. Both characters pretend to be something other than what they are: the eiron is not actually stupid, while the alazon is not actually capable.
There are two types of Irony:
- Stable – the actual meaning of an ironic statement is clear
Example: Looking at her son’s messy room, Mom says, “Wow, you could
win an award for cleanliness!”
- Unstable – the speaker does not always mean the exact opposite of what they say and the true meaning seems obscure.
Example: I’m on fire!
Verbal irony is often confused with the term sarcasm. But there are important differences between the two.
- Sarcasm involves the use of language to mean something other than its literal meaning, but always with the intention to mock or criticize someone or something.
- Verbal irony, while involving non-literal meaning of language, does not have to involve mockery or criticism.
There are also ironic similes that convey the opposite of what speakers intend to express:
- soft like concrete
- clear like mud
- pleasant like a root canal
- relaxed like a coiled rattlesnake
The irony can be discovered by examining the original nature of the objects involved. It relies on timing to achieve their effect. If the ironic statement comes too early or too late in the conversation, is not suited to the circumstances, or is spoken with incorrect tone, it will only serve to confuse the other person or may just be considered offensive.
Other examples of verbal irony:
- A student who goes to the restroom every day during class asks the teacher if he can go. Her response is “Sure, it’s not like we do anything important in this class.”
- A small child does not flush the toilet, and the mother says, “I really appreciate when you flush the toilet! Thank you for remembering your manners!”
Verbal Irony in Literature:
- In Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, Marc Antony gives a speech in which he repeatedly refers to Brutus as “an honorable man,” when Brutus just participated in murdering Caesar.
- In Beauty and the Beast, an animated Disney movie, Belle refuses to marry Gaston by saying “I just don’t deserve you!”
Verbal Irony Worksheets
This bundle contains 10 ready-to-use Verbal Irony worksheets that are perfect to test student knowledge and understanding of Verbal irony which occurs when speakers say the opposite of what they mean and it is often sarcastic in nature.
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Use With Any Curriculum
These worksheets have been specifically designed for use with any international curriculum. You can use these worksheets as-is, or edit them using Google Slides to make them more specific to your own student ability levels and curriculum standards.