What's the difference between sarcasm and irony?

Sarcasm and irony are very popular tones used in many and all forms of literary texts, yet there is a lot of confusion as to which is which - however the distinction between the two is actually quite easy! Firstly, you should think of irony as an overarching technique used by writers to enhance their writing, and sarcasm is simply a specific form of irony. Whilst irony can be situational (ie. ending up in the one place you said you'd never return to), dramatic (used a lot in plays - means a situation in which the audience knows something the characters on stage don't), or verbal, sarcasm is strictly verbal. Furthermore, sarcasm's main goal is to ridicule or attack someone, whilst irony is not necessarily mean spirited at all.  Let's try some examples:

a) Person A: "I'm going to join the gym this year!" Person B: "Great idea! That worked out so well last year!"

This example would be sarcasm; Person A is being mocked by Person B.

b) A parking enforcement officer gets a parking ticket.

This is an example of situational irony. It's not attacking anyone (so can't be sarcasm), yet still displays irony.  

Answered by Dana C. English tutor

23769 Views

See similar English IB tutors
Illustration of a video tutorial

Need help with English?

One to one online tuition can be a great way to brush up on your English knowledge.

Have a Free Meeting with one of our hand picked tutors from the UK’s top universities

Find a tutor

Related English IB answers

All answers ▸

How to approach an unseen English Paper 1?


Discuss the role of digression in “Dom Casmurro” by Joaquim Maria Machado de Assis


Write a literary commentary on one of the following texts


What should I focus on when analysing the use of symbolism and imagery in W.B Yeats's 'Wild Swans at Coole'?


We're here to help

+44 (0) 203 773 6020support@mytutor.co.ukContact us
Facebook logoTwitter logoGooglePlus logoLinkedIn logo

© MyTutorWeb Ltd 2013–2021

Terms & Conditions|Privacy Policy