This passage is from The Children's Bach by Helen Garner.

At night, when they had put the children to bed, Athena and Dexter walked. They were ruthless about going, and would barely even check that the boys were asleep before they set out. They gossiped and reported to each other the day’s residue. ‘See that house?’ said Dexter. ‘Outside there this morning, on my way to work, I unwisely engaged in a conversation with a senile know-all. I’m glad you think it’s funny.’

Does "I'm glad you think it's funny" have to be used sarcastically? Or can it also be used literally to say, "I'm glad someone got some enjoyment from it"?

I think it is being used sarcastically. Am I right?

And does "see that house" mean "Did you see that house?" and in this sentence "did" is omitted?

  • Unless it meant "I'm glad you agree it's funny" - for which there's no evidence - then that will always be sarcastic. Either way, how is the topic Literature, not language? Commented Mar 24, 2021 at 1:23

5 Answers 5


One of the big problems in written English is representing spoken conversation.

When someone speaks, they typically emphasize certain words. HTML even provides a tag for this:

The placement of stress emphasis changes the meaning of the sentence. The element thus forms an integral part of the content. The precise way in which stress is used in this way depends on the language. — HTML Standard

Consider how the meaning changes when the emphasized word changes:

  • "I'm glad you think it's funny" — even if everyone else was shocked by your reaction.
  • "I'm glad you think it's funny" — because I'd feel bad if you didn't.
  • "I'm glad you think it's funny" — because no one else does.
  • "I'm glad you think it's funny" — even though in reality it isn't.
  • "I'm glad you think it's funny" — because I thought all the others were boring.
  • "I'm glad you think it's funny" — because I wouldn't want you to feel sad about it.

This is especially a problem when authors assume the reader will somehow know their intent and don't use appropriate typographical conventions. Some of the above examples might not fit the rest of the conversation, but several of them do and without more clues the reader can't be sure which was intended.

Great authors of course seldom need to supply the emphasis, because the way everything else is written leaves the reader with no thought that they could have meant anything else other than what was obviously intended.

But most authors aren't great though, and they really should indicate emphasis wherever there is a chance of ambiguity.

And yes, any of those examples could have a sarcastic meaning.
Again it is up to the author to provide appropriate context so that the reader will naturally know this without having to think about it.

I just looked at the book itself, and interestingly it does use italics for emphasis:

Paragraph from published book, showing "you" in italics.

Notice the stressed "you".
That makes it roughly correspond to the third example.

Stressing this one word makes the meaning a lot clearer.
Athena must have reacted to his story with a laugh or smile, and Dexter is responding sarcastically, indicating that he didn't find it funny and doesn't think she should either.

  • Lots of thanks, so do you mean where ever we put the stress it meant somehow sarcastically but with different meaning? Commented Mar 22, 2021 at 18:36
  • 3
    @ViserHashemi whether or not something is said sarcastically is context-dependent. The stress changes the meaning, but determining whether the intention is sarcastic or not requires understanding the particular situation. In this context, the phrase is said sarcastically because according to Dexter, there is nothing funny about what happened when he talked to the "senile know-it-all."
    – verbose
    Commented Mar 22, 2021 at 21:43

You're right, "I'm glad you think it's funny" is used sarcastically. It is almost always used in that way. For example, if I trip and fall and you start laughing, I might say to you: "I'm glad you think it's funny." Presumably Athena is laughing at Dexter's having been caught in a tedious conversation, and he is responding to her laughter with this sarcastic statement.

"I'm glad you think it's funny" could be used literally too, of course. If I wrote a comedy and gave it to you to read, and a couple of days later you returned it saying you laughed a lot while reading it, then I might say "I'm glad you think it's funny." In the conversation between Dexter and Athena, however, the situation does not suggest that Dexter is saying those words literally.

"See that house?" is just a way of pointing out the house. It is an elliptical way of saying "Do you see that house?," which in turn means simply "Look at that house." It is not past tense Did you see that house?, as you suggest. Dexter is indicating to Athena which house he means right now, not asking her whether she has seen that house some time in the past.


This is Australian spoken English and the phrase is fairly common. I would argue "I'm glad you think it's funny" in this context is meant both ways by the character. It's both "I'm glad you think it's funny" [because I don't] and "I'm glad you think it's funny" [because at least one person got enjoyment out of it]. They're not outraged, after all ... they were inconvenienced for 10 minutes and it was annoying, but now they're gossiping and laughing with their friend (and partner) about it.

  • 2
    As an Australian myself, I think you've captured an important element in this passage, i.e. the implicit ambiguity in the expression. There's a laconic and/or sardonic humour in a lot of Australian dialogue, and it's often not perceived or understood by those from a more "literal" culture (e.g. the U.S.A.) or by those for whom English is a second language. Commented Mar 23, 2021 at 3:05
  • I agree. I interpret the phrase as indicating that the speaker didn't find the situation amusing at the time, but can see how others more distant from that situation might find it amusing.
    – cjs
    Commented May 24, 2022 at 3:06

This is meant sarcastically. A more accurate word than sarcasm would be antiphrasis. Antiphrasis is the rhetorical device of saying the opposite of what is actually meant in such a way that it is obvious what the true intention is.


It's sarcasm.

It can be broken down/understood this way:

You think its funny.

This could be a neutral statement, or a criticism.

In this case it feels like a criticism.

Notice the phrase "You think". Not it is funny or isn't, but "you think it is". They are drawing attention to the other person's belief/interpretation of it, not discussing the subject itself, or whether it is actually funny or not.

This is very common in English writing and speech, "You think its a good idea" where I appear to differ, implies strongly "I disagree with your conclusion".

So the implication of this as a bare statement, would probably be that the speaker doesn't agree and is criticising the other person: "You think it's funny (but I don't)."

I'm glad you think (something).

When you are clearly not glad or impressed at what the other person does, or thinks, but you say you are glad they did this stupid or wrong thing, that's sarcasm. It emphasises the criticism and disapproval. There is almost no other interpretation of this structure.


"I like how you support the government even though they failed on COVID" - means more likely, I don't like the support, I think you are wrong/stupid/ignorant, and I want you to know exactly that's how I feel.

Putting these together:

I'm glad you think its funny.

Depending if the 2nd part is criticism or not, the statement is sarcastic or not. It's much more likely the 2nd part is criticism, from the context, so its very likely this is sarcasm.

But I want to emphasise that it could be used both ways, in everyday life. Compare these:

  • "So you spent our child's food money for the week on alcohol? I'm glad you think its a good idea." - sharply underlining disapproval by using sarcasm.
  • "So you're applying for jobs after all? I'm glad you think it's a good idea." - could be genuine or sarcasm, hard to tell.

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