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Tutor Zach McLaughlin 's Column

Expressing surprise in English

Freitag, 4. Juni 2021, 01:07

This week’s column topic is What surprised you recently?, so for anyone studying English, here are some ways to express surprise!

Let’s start with the word surprise, which is both a noun and a verb.

Ex. It surprised me!

Ex. It came as a surprise to me!

Surprise has two adjective forms, which are called participial adjectives. The -ing form, surprising, describes the thing that causes surprise. The -ed form, surprised, describes your feeling. Remember to avoid saying “I’m surprising” because that’s almost always wrong!

Ex. Your story was pretty surprising!

Ex. I was pretty surprised when I heard your story!

Other words and phrases that can express surprise include…

to catch/take by surprise (active), to be caught/taken by surprise (passive)

Ex. The total cost took me by surprise.

Ex. I was caught by surprise when I heard the total cost.

shock (n./v.), shocking/shocked (adj.) (= surprised and usually disturbed/upset)

Ex. The Toronto Maple Leafs game 7 loss was quite shocking.

astonish (v.), astonishing/astonished (adj.) (= surprised and amazed)

Ex. The Montreal Canadiens round 1 comeback was astonishing

startle (v.), startling/startled (adj.) (= surprised and a little frightened)

Ex. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to startle you!

Ex. We were all a little startled after lightning hit the tree in front of the house.

out of the blue, out of left field, out of nowhere (= surprising and unusual)

Ex. An old friend that I hadn’t seen in over 10 years just called me out of the blue.

Ex. All of these new policies suddenly came out of nowhere!

You may notice that adverbs of degree, such as pretty, really, or somewhat, are often used with words and phrases that express surprise.

Ex. I was pretty surprised when I found out!

Ex. Losing her job was somewhat shocking for her.

You can also use an exclamation mark (!) at the end of a sentence to emphasize the fact that something is surprising. Exclamation marks make the emotion in a sentence stronger.

I hope this will help you to express surprise in English!


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