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Language tip of the week: surprised and shocked

In this weekly post, we bring more useful content from the Macmillan Dictionary to English language learners. In this series of language tips to accompany the Real Vocabulary theme we look at how you can expand your vocabulary in English by using different words and expressions instead of core vocabulary items.

This set of language tips will explore the words and phrases we use to talk about feelings. This week’s tip looks at adjectives and phrases that mean feeling surprised and shocked:

taken aback surprised and shocked, especially by something that someone says or does to you:

  • He seemed somewhat taken aback by her directness.
  • Taken aback, she could only stare at him.

Although it is possible to say that something takes you aback, the phrase is usually used in the form (be) taken aback.

startled suddenly surprised or frightened by something:

  • He seemed startled to see me.
  • We were startled by a strange sound outside.
  • He shot a startled glance at her.

stunned very surprised and shocked:

  • We were all stunned at her refusal to help. 
  • After the attack, stunned villagers wandered the streets.
  • Danny looked at her in stunned silence.

thunderstruck very surprised or shocked:

  • Committee members sat in thunderstruck silence for several moments.
  • To say I was shocked would be an understatement. I was absolutely thunderstruck.

Did you know that Macmillan Dictionary includes a full thesaurus? This page lists more ways to say ‘feeling surprised or shocked‘.

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Liz Potter

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