3 Types of Irony in Film - Verbal Irony, Dramatic Irony, Situational Irony - StudioBinder

We encounter irony every day: in our favorite movies, TV shows, and in our own lives. Most people have a general understanding of irony but there are also a lot of misconceptions about it. For example, were you aware that there are 3 different types of irony?

In this article, we’re going to define irony in all its variations. Whether you’re writing a short story or a screenplay, irony can be a powerful storytelling tool. You’ll be able to recognize the different types of irony and understand how they work. The next step is to carry this understanding straight into your next writing project.

Ironic Meaning

Irony is fundamental in storytelling

Irony is the opposite of expectation. When what we expect to happen doesn’t happen, it creates conflict

When we know the truth about a dangerous situation and we watch someone else get close to that danger, it creates suspense.

When someone says one thing but means another, it creates complexity.

All of these elements (conflict, suspense, complexity) are fundamental building blocks in storytelling. You don’t need to be an expert on irony to be a good storyteller. But it sure helps. Let’s define irony before we move on to the various types of irony.

Irony Definition

What is irony?

Irony is when perception or expectation is different than reality. This incongruity can be found in language (what we say vs. what we mean) or circumstances (what we expect to happen vs. what actually happens).

What are the three types of irony?

  • Verbal irony
  • Situational irony
  • Dramatic irony

Irony can be sad and tragic, or it can funny and satirical. In other words, there are limitless ways you can wield irony in your stories.

There are 3 different types of irony: verbal, situational, and dramatic. Each has a different definition and function in storytelling.

Let’s move on to some quick definitions of these main types along with a few subtypes or irony that provide even more complexity and depth to ironic storytelling.

VERBAL IRONY DEFINITION

What is verbal irony?

Verbal irony is when someone says something, but means the opposite.

Ex. When you get an "F" on your term paper and say, "Wow, I did a really good job on my term paper!"

That is verbal irony.

Types of Irony: Verbal irony example

Within this general definition, there are 4 subtypes of verbal irony:  

  • sarcasm
  • understatement
  • overstatement
  • Socratic irony

Each one brings a particular element so understanding which one to use and for what purpose is essential. You can find links to each of these in navigation at the bottom of the page.

SITUATIONAL IRONY DEFINITION

What is situational irony?

Situational irony is when we expect one thing, but get the opposite.

Ex. When you buy a can of Coke but it has Pepsi inside.

That is situational irony.

Types of Irony: Situational irony example

Within this general definition, there are 4 subtypes of situational irony: 

  • cosmic irony
  • poetic irony
  • structural irony
  • historical irony

Each one brings a particular element so understanding which one to use and for what purpose is essential. You can find links to each of these in navigation at the bottom of the page.

DIFFERENT TYPES OF IRONY: DRAMATIC

What is dramatic irony?

Dramatic irony is when we have more information about the circumstances than a character.

Ex. When you know a trap has been set and watch someone walk into it.

That is dramatic irony.

Types of Irony: Dramatic Irony example

Within dramatic irony, there is only one subtype: tragic irony. The difference between these two types of irony is slight but it’s an important distinction to make. 

BENEFITS OF USING IRONY

Why use irony?

Irony is born when “what seems to be” is different from “what is.” This contrast between expectation and reality is what makes irony such a rich device to use in storytelling.

Irony adds a layer of complexity and richness to the conflict. Now there is depth to your story that might not have been there before.

Writers use conflict to tell stories and irony to make better stories.

UP NEXT

Dive deeper into irony

We've covered the basics on the 3 types of irony but there is so much more to learn. If there is a particular form of irony you want to explore further, just follow the navigation below. Each one of these subtypes of irony belongs in every writer's toolkit.

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