How To Define Sarcasm in English: 15+ Phrases Not to Be Taken Seriously

Ellison Claptonreviewed byNataliia Afonina / more about Editorial Process12 min
Created: Feb 3, 2023Last updated: Jan 11, 2024
How To Define Sarcasm in English

Sarcasm is an integral part of Western culture. We can see it in every movie and every iconic TV show, from Friends to The Big Bang Theory. Remember how Leonard was teaching Sheldon to identify sarcasm? He even made a special sign to show it every time someone was sarcastic! And you can see, it was just a sitcom. In real life, things can be a bit more complicated. 

It might be challenging to identify sarcasm, especially if you are not yet fluent in English. However, you don’t need to worry because we’ve got you covered! This article is fully dedicated to examples, definitions, and other important information about sarcasm. So please, make yourself comfortable, and we will start without further ado.

What is sarcasm in English?

Collin’s Dictionary defines sarcasm as a speech or writing that means the opposite of what it seems to say. It is mainly used as an insult or mockery, and some people can consider it as a passive-aggressive way of saying something. But it is not enough to just define sarcasm. Understand its types and how to use them in daily conversations is also essential. So, what kinds of sarcasm can we see? 

  • Self-deprecating. In layman’s terms, this type of sarcasm is aimed at making fun of oneself. It usually shows the confidence of the person who uses it because not everyone is good at self-irony. A great example of sarcasm like that is the phrase, “It was a genius idea for me to call my mom when I was as drunk as a skunk.”
  • Brooding. This type of sarcasm is fantastic for those who like to complain about things a lot. It sounds polite at first glance, but the proper intonation shows the real attitude. One of the best sarcastic examples of brooding sarcasm are phrases that start with the words “I am so happy” or “I can’t wait to…” For example, “I am so happy to spend all my money on this useless thing.” 
  • Deadpan. This is our favorite type of sarcasm in English. It allows you to say literally anything, and people will easily believe it for some time. The point is to state the phrase without any laughter or emotions in a severe tone. For example, when someone asks you why you are late, you can say that you’ve had an unexpected meeting and sacrifice in your cult. 
  • Polite. It is the trickiest type of sarcasm, and people who use it are typically not the most pleasant interlocutors. Polite sarcasm is used to offend someone, but make it sound like a compliment for the first time. For example, when a person says, “Wow, you look wonderful! Never thought that this dress would look so good on a figure like that!” don’t be too quick to thank them. 

Of course, many more types and examples of sarcasm in English exist. It is hard to remember them all, but you should understand one important thing – you can use sarcastic phrases only when appropriate. Some people consider sarcasm offensive, so ensure you know the right time to vocalize it. 

Why do people hate sarcastic jokes?

Sarcastic examples

It is no secret that some people don’t like sarcasm. Especially when their interlocutors use it almost every time. What is the explanation for this phenomenon? Why do people not like sarcasm? Let’s find out together. 

One of the old Psychology Today articles says that sarcasm is hostility disguised as humor. And in some ways, we agree with this statement. Many people use polite sarcasm (remember, we told you about it) to bully another person. It is terrible and devastating, but unfortunately, this is the world we are living in. So the first reason that explains why people hate sarcasm is that it can offend them. 

The other two reasons are a bit similar yet very different. They both depend on the sarcastic skill of the person who uses such jokes. For example, if you are really good at sarcasm (especially the deadpan type), it will be difficult for your interlocutors to identify it on time, and as a result, they will be angry with you. On the other hand, if you are bad at sarcasm, but still use it in every conversation, it can be annoying for others. So our next goal is to help you find a way out from both situations – learn how to determine sarcasm and be good at it. 

How to define sarcasm easily

Identifying sarcasm in real-life conversations is pretty simple. Now that you know the types and meanings of sarcasm, it will be much easier to recognize it. And if you are still unsure about it, here are the main things to pay attention to: 

  1. The person you expect sarcasm from. It is more likely to hear sarcastic jokes and comments from someone you know than from a stranger. 
  2. The intonation. When you hear a common phrase said in a way too excited or deliberately bored tone, you can be sure it is sarcasm. 
  3. The context. If you see the situation becoming intense, or something bad happening, and your interlocutor tells you this is precisely what they wanted, you can be sure they are not.

These three tips will help you identify sarcasm in regular conversations. But what if someone uses sarcasm example sentences in texts? You can’t see their face or hear their intonation. Luckily, there are some ways to define sarcasm in writing. You need to pay attention to the context as well and also see something unusual in messages, e.g., emojis that are opposite to the context, far too many punctuation marks, etc. You will never see sarcasm in polite official emails because it is really inappropriate. But when chatting with your friends, be careful!

Four golden rules of sarcasm

Now that you know what sarcasm means and how to identify it, it is time to understand how to use it in your daily conversations. We are ready to provide you with four main rules that will help you master every sarcastic line. They are pretty simple, and we are sure you will take the most out of them. So, here are the main rules of sarcasm. 

  1. Don’t forget about intonation. It is a key part of every sarcastic joke. Without proper intonation, you won’t be able to show your interlocutor your real attitude toward the situation, which can cause plenty of misunderstandings. 
  2. Know the difference between the types of sarcasm. It is okay to use sarcasm for fun, but it is not okay to use sarcasm for bullying. Always remember to ensure that your remarks don’t do any harm. 
  3. You can insult yourself, but you can’t insult others. Self-irony is amusing if you know how to make fun of yourself. But again, making fun of someone else, especially in a mean way, is terrible. So if you want to master sarcasm but not become a bully, don’t do it. 
  4. Forget about laughing. As we already said, deadpan is the best type of sarcasm. It is harmless and fun, and it is pretty easy to identify it. So to master it, you need to forget about any emotions and talk as seriously as possible. 

These four rules will help you learn how to use sarcasm and make it as inoffensive as possible. And with all this knowledge about sarcasm, it is now time to memorize some of the best examples of sarcastic phrases you can use in your next conversations. 


The best sarcasm examples in English

You already know that there are four main types of sarcasm in English. And they are usually suitable for different situations (some aren’t appropriate at all). So to help you better understand different kinds of sarcastic phrases, we’ve prepared a list of sarcasm example sentences. Below, you can find all the details. 

  • Self-deprecating sarcasm examples

Let’s start with the most harmless type of sarcasm. Since it is aimed at making fun of the person who’s telling the joke, it can’t be insulting to anyone else. And if the person uses such sarcasm, they know how to make fun of themselves. Here are the most popular self-deprecating phrases you can hear or use.

You know, even I wouldn’t date me, so why should he? 

It was the best I could do – stand there quietly and look stupid. 

Can you show me that genius who chose to leave the umbrella at home when it's raining cats and dogs? You are right, it was me. 

At least we have something in common; he hates me, and I hate me as well. 

It was my brightest idea to wear a white dress to my friend's wedding. 

  • Brooding sarcasm examples

This kind of sarcasm will suit everyone. It is almost unharmful (only if you are not complaining about another person) and can also be funny. But you need to be careful with it – in some cases, it might be inappropriate. Here are some of the best examples of brooding sarcasm. 

Oh, you are just leaving the house? That’s fine, I don’t mind standing in front of the club alone like another call girl. 

What are you talking about? Working on my birthday instead of having a party is my biggest dream! 

No, I am really happy to be here! You know how I like talking to my ex’s family. 

Working on Christmas? With the only person in the world that I hate? That’s undoubtedly what I wanted! 

I am so happy to go to that party! There will be every person who has been bullying me since the third grade! Isn’t it great?

  • Deadpan sarcasm examples

Remember the main rule for this type of sarcasm? You should be completely serious. Really, with the infamous poker face, without any emotions or laughter. It will help you confuse your interlocutor (and sometimes make them believe you are a psychopath). And the best thing is that you can say literally anything! Here are some examples. 

Q: Hey, Jake! I need you to work 14 hours instead of 8 because your colleague is sick.

A: I’m sorry, but I can’t. I was planning to join the Satanists – they have a great party today. 

X: Have you seen Hannah? 

Y: You didn’t know? She’s on the audition for the new Tarantino movie. It is called “I will never be on time for my work.”

L: Can you sit with your brother this evening?

M: I would love to, but I can’t. My new religion, which is called Never-Sit-With-Your-Brother, doesn’t allow me to do so.

  • Polite sarcasm examples

Finally, let’s discuss the most dangerous type of sarcasm. We highly recommend you never use it in your speech (because we don’t want you to insult anyone). And if you hear such sayings from your friends or acquaintances, try to avoid these people in the future. Here are the most unpleasant sarcastic phrases to say or hear. 

Look at you! You finally get some sleep. Now you look a little better than that trash can we saw yesterday. 

Oh my god, congratulations. I never thought you would pass that exam. 

Jesus Christ, darling, look at your skin. You need to reconsider your daily menu.

Master sarcasm with Promova language-learning platform

If you want not only to learn what an example of sarcasm is in English but master this skill as well, you need to be good in this language. There are plenty of options available for you right now, and we know how you want to spend hours searching for the best one (see, that’s sarcasm!). But if you are not, say no more! We suggest the best language-learning venue to help you to achieve all your goals. 

Promova is an international platform that allows students from different countries to master various foreign languages. There are plenty of options on offer, so you can easily find the one that suits you best. Let’s see how you can learn the sarcastic meaning and example sentences in different ways:

  1. Personal lessons. Promova offers students unique one-on-one lessons with professional tutors. They will be happy to help you master English (or any other language) and become fluent in it. All you need to do is pass the quick test to determine your proficiency level, and then enjoy your studying process! 
  2. Group lessons. Promova offers convenient and fun group lessons for those who prefer not only to study but also to make new friends and practice with different people. Join a group of 6 students max, meet people from all over the world, and study language simultaneously.
  3. Conversation Club. If you are confident in your language level and just need to practice speaking or discuss interesting topics, we are happy to invite you to our free Conversation Club. Choose a suitable discussion subject, register for the meeting, and enjoy.

The last option available for Promova students is the convenient mobile application. It is available on both Google Play and App Store, giving you free access to numerous topics. You can learn English anywhere and anytime you want. Just install the app, pass a quick test, and start your studying immediately. 


To sum up, we can say that sarcasm is really good, but only if you know the rules of using it. Just remember that the goal of sarcastic phrases and jokes is to be funny, not to harm anyone. So keep it in mind the next time you use this type of humor in your conversations. We hope this article was helpful, and we will be happy to see your favorite sarcastic phrases in the comments section! (And you can be sure that this is not sarcasm).


What is the best sarcasm definition?

Most dictionaries define sarcasm as a remark that means the opposite of what it seems to say. It is mainly used as a way of mocking someone. It is important to understand when it is appropriate to use sarcastic remarks. You can usually say them to your friends or family (but only to close members), not to your boss or teacher. 

How to identify sarcasm easily?

If you need to identify sarcasm in real-life conversations, you need to pay attention to different details. For example, the intonation of your interlocutor, the context of the situation (if you see that the circumstances are bad, but they say they are happy about it), etc. When people use sarcasm in texts, they usually add specific emojis or punctuation marks to show that it is a sarcastic message. 

Why do people hate sarcasm?

There are three main reasons. Primarily, people don’t like sarcasm when it does harm – this way, they consider it offensive. The second reason is that sometimes it is hard for people to identify sarcasm (the power of deadpan), and they become angry about it. Finally, it can be annoying, especially when someone uses sarcastic remarks every time you talk to them.

What are the most common sarcasm types in English?

There are many types of sarcasm in English, but the most common ones are self-deprecating (mocking yourself), brooding (complaining about something by saying you are happy with it), deadpan (making jokes with a serious face), and polite (offensive) sarcasm. Some are pretty funny, while others can be really harmful, so you need to know the difference between them.


JESSEJan 16th, 2024
This is my first article on your blog and I liked it so much!
PromovaJul 25th, 2023
Thank you for your question! Non-native English speakers may find sarcasm challenging to understand due to its cultural nuances and reliance on implied meaning. To improve comprehension, learners can expose themselves to native English materials like movies, TV shows, and conversations to observe how sarcasm is used in context. They can also practice with native speakers or language partners to develop their ability to recognize sarcasm.
finley figueroaJul 25th, 2023
what are the potential challenges for non-native english speakers in understanding sarcasm, and how can they improve their comprehension?