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Language tip of the week: surprising

Liz Potter
Written by Liz Potter

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 for describing  things that make someone feel surprised:

surprising making you feel surprised:

  • A surprising number of holidaymakers don’t bother with insurance.
  • It’s surprising what you can achieve with very little money.

amazing very surprising:

  • She told me an amazing story. 
  • It’s amazing how stupid people can be.

astonishing extremely surprising:

  • This is an astonishing piece of news.
  • It’s astonishing how much the place has changed.

astounding very surprising and often impressive, in a way that is hard to believe:

  • He came back from two sets down to achieve an astounding victory.
  • Within a month, the book had sold an astounding two million copies.

startling very surprising and unexpected:

  • No one made any response to this startling suggestion.
  • The study yielded some startling results.

incredible so surprising that it is difficult to believe:

  • They all have incredible stories to tell.
  • He has an incredible amount of energy.

unbelievable so surprising that it is difficult to believe:

  • It seemed unbelievable that misfortune should strike yet again.
  • Ben is a wonderful man with unbelievable talents.

Although incredible and unbelievable mean the same, unbelievable is more likely to be used to talk about negative things, while incredible is generally used about positive things.

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

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Liz Potter

Liz Potter

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