To many native English speakers, using irony in a sentence is almost second nature. But many native speakers also don’t use irony correctly or fully know what it is, no thanks to the famous song by Alanis Morissette. Irony is a powerful rhetorical device, but you must know how to use it correctly. In this article, you’ll learn what irony is, and we even provide examples of how to use irony in a sentence and effectively communicate with other English speakers.
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What Is Irony?
In the broadest terms, irony is a rhetorical device or literary technique that uses words to describe something that is the opposite of what is true, what is said, or what is expected. Irony heavily depends on emotion and is used to convey emotion rather than a simple message.
Irony may have many different effects, such as:
- Create humor
- Emphasize a particular idea or object
- Create suspense
The resulting effect depends on the type of irony used. Let’s explore the different types of irony.
Different Types of Irony
There are three main types of irony:
- Dramatic irony
- Situational irony
- Verbal irony
Let’s take a look at all three types.
Dramatic irony — also known as tragic irony — occurs when the audience knows something that the characters of a book, play, or film do not. This is an example of irony as a literary technique rather than a rhetorical device.
One of the best examples of dramatic irony is in Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare. In the play, the reader knows Juliet isn’t really dead, but Romeo thinks that she is, a great irony that leads to the tragic fate of both lovers.
Situational irony involves an outcome of a situation that contradicts what is expected by the people carrying out the action.
Situational irony is the type that people misunderstand the most.
Here are a few situational irony examples:
- A swimmer drowning
- An English teacher has poor grammar
- A pilot has a fear of heights
- A vegetarian wears (not wares) a leather jacket
In all of these situations, you expect the person acting to have the opposite outcome. There are several types of situational irony, just like cosmic irony. This type of irony forces the audience to really think to understand the underlying meaning of the story.
Verbal irony is a figure of speech that refers to a sentence where the speaker’s words are not in harmony with the speaker’s intent — or, in other words, when someone says one thing but means the opposite. This type of irony heavily depends on the tone of voice to come across accurately.
An example of verbal irony would be a child having a messy bedroom and their mother entering and saying something like: “Wow, it looks great in here!” Clearly, it doesn’t look great if the room is messy, which is conveyed through the mom’s intonation.
Now that you’re an expert on irony, let’s look at some examples of irony in a sentence.
Examples of Verbal Irony in a Sentence
Although it’s a good idea to master every type of irony, as an English speaker or someone who is just learning the language, verbal irony is an essential type of irony to know, as it is the type that you’ll be using in everyday conversations.
To illustrate how to use irony effectively, here are a few examples of irony in a sentence.
- “Amber died right after she killed her husband for insurance money.”
- Saying during a thunderstorm, “What a beautiful day.”
- “Our brain gives us knowledge, but we have so little knowledge about the brain.”
- Saying “Oh great” as a response to a negative situation.
Examples of Situational Irony
As you now know, situational irony occurs when the opposite of what is expected happens. Here are some basic examples of situational irony:
- A fire station burning down: Imagine a fire station burning down due to a fire, this would be a classic example of situational irony.
- A pilot afraid of heights: Imagine a commercial airline pilot who suffers from acrophobia (fear of heights). This would be an example of situational irony because it is unexpected for a pilot to be afraid of heights.
- A plumber’s house with leaky pipes: Imagine a plumber’s house where the pipes are always leaking. This is a classic example of situational irony.
Verbal Irony vs Sarcasm
While irony and sarcasm may seem indistinguishable, they are different concepts, and there’s a subtle yet essential difference between them.
You can find the main difference between irony and sarcasm in the tone. Sarcasm can be considered a form of irony. It uses verbal irony to deliver a message negatively. The delivery of sarcasm is often meant to be a cutting remark to mock someone.
Here’s an example of how sarcasm differs from verbal irony using a scenario where someone responds to a person who has just woken up and apparently has not yet brushed their hair.
Verbal irony: “I love what you’ve done with your hair.”
Sarcasm: “I see that you’ve really put a lot of effort into doing your hair this morning.”
As you can see, in both remarks, the opposite is true of what is said. However, in the sarcasm example, a jab is taken at the person the comment is directed towards.
Takeaway: Although sarcasm is a form of verbal irony, not all verbal irony qualifies as sarcasm.
FAQs – Irony
Ironic sentences are ones in which the opposite of what is expected to happen, does. For example, “I’m writing a paper on irony and I don’t understand it.” is an ironic sentence because the writer is expected to be writing about something they understand, but they themselves don’t understand irony.
Irony is the use of words to express something different from, or the opposite of, their literal meaning. It can be used to make a point, or to create humor.
Irony is a figure of speech that uses words to convey the opposite of their literal meaning. It’s often used to create humor or to emphasize a point. There are many types of irony: verbal irony, situational irony, dramatic irony, word irony, cruel irony, socratic irony, heavy irony, gentle irony, supreme irony, structural irony, and more!
Verbal irony is when you say one thing but mean another. You can use it to make a point or to be humorous. For example, if someone asks you how your day is going and you reply “Just splendid!” when you actually had a terrible day.
An example of situational irony would be if a man was stranded on an island and he was desperate for water, but the only water on the island was salt water.
Imagine a scene where two people are talking about somebody who’s extremely clumsy. One person says “I bet they’ll trip and fall down the stairs someday.” The other person responds “Oh, they’re not that bad.” The audience knows that the first person is right – we’ve seen this character trip and fall several times before. So when the second person denies it, we know that something bad is going to happen.
Irony is a type of figurative language in which words are used in such a way that their intended meaning is different from the actual meaning of the words. It often involves an incongruity between what is said and what is meant, or between what is expected to happen and what actually happens.
Wrap Up: Irony Gives the English Language Character
Irony is a crucial element of the English language. While it may be confusing and take a while to master, irony is a powerful tool that elevates how you communicate with others and demonstrates a proper grasp of the language. And if you are curious if you used irony correctly in your sentence, throw it into our sentence fixer tool.
Hopefully, the examples above of irony in a sentence give you a better understanding of the function of this literary device and give you an idea of how to use it.