Passive Aggressive Vs. Sarcasm – 4 Differences And A Few Similarities

While passive-aggressive and sarcasm might be easy to confuse in some situations, there are some clear differences between those two ways of expressing yourself.

There are also a few similarities, but if you pay enough attention, you should be able to tell them apart.

What does being passive-aggressive mean?

Being passive-aggressive means expressing a negative feeling toward someone or something without saying what the problem is. People who are passively aggressive often will not admit that they are being aggressive but will still be mad or angry.

What does being sarcastic mean?

A person is sarcastic when they say or do something that is clearly the opposite of what they actually want to express in order to make fun of something, bully someone, criticize a situation or grab attention.

Some people tend to be sarcastic because they think it is a smart way of being interested. We don’t usually associate being sarcastic with being aggressive as often as we do when it comes to being passive-aggressive.

passive-aggressive vs sarcasm

4 Differences between passive-aggressive and sarcasm

There are several differences between being sarcastic and being passive-aggressive, but one does not exclude the other. You can do both simultaneously if the differences I will list below are not met.

Here are four that come to my mind when I think about the differences between those two.

1. The intention 

Being passive-aggressive has the intent of being aggressive, hence, the name. While being sarcastic can be a way to be aggressive, but it is not always the case.

Sarcasm can be a way of joking about a situation that doesn’t affect anyone or a way of grabbing the attention of a discussion that is not meant to be aggressive.

2. Your mood 

When someone is passive-aggressive, is clearly mad, sad, or angry, so in a bad mood, and that’s what makes them aggressive. On the other hand, one can be sarcastic and have a good mood simultaneously. Yes, you can be sarcastic because someone bothered you, but it is not always the case. When you are sarcastic, you can also be ignorant or indifferent, which doesn’t mean that you are in a good or bad mood.

3. On purpose

Sarcasm is always done with full consciousness, and it is on purpose. While being passive-aggressive might be a habit or our default way of dealing with conflicts, and it might manifest without us realizing it.

I’m not saying that all passive-aggressive people are unaware that they are doing it, but in some cases, they might not realize it.

4. Negation

When someone is passive-aggressive, they will negate that they are doing it and will act like a frustrated person.

On the other hand, someone that is sarcastic will deny that they are sarcastic only if they want to make fun of you to see if you get it. However, most of the time, they admit that they are being sarcastic even more than that, many people will let you know that they’ve been sarcastic if you don’t get it even without being asked.

Being sarcastic it’s a way of saying something by saying the exact opposite, but you don’t necessarily want to hide what you actually want to say.

We all know those situations when someone is sarcastic and waits for the other people to respond, and if they notice that the other people are not getting it, they will say, “Common, I was being sarcastic.”

Similarities between passive-aggressive and sarcasm

One thing that is important to know when it comes to the similarities between being sarcastic and passive-aggressive is that the differences between those two can also be similarities in some situations.

For example, they can both have the intention of hurting someone’s feelings, sarcasm doesn’t always do that, but when it does, it is similar to being passive-aggressive.

Now let’s get to the similarities that we didn’t touch on.

1. Both are indirect

Being passive-aggressive and being sarcastic are indirect ways of expressing yourself. So you would not say exactly what you want to say even if they might have different purposes and outcomes.

2. People might not get it

In both cases, the other person might not get it. Since they are indirect ways of expressing yourself, the other person has to understand that what you have said is not exactly what you want to say. So you might end up with a confused person that takes you literally in front of you.

As we said in the differences section, when it comes to sarcasm, this might not be a problem since you can let them know that you were sarcastic, it might ruin a bit of what you wanted to accomplish, but it is not the end of the world.

On the other hand, when someone is passive-aggressive, they want the other person to get the idea without explicitly telling what is bothering them. So, you can imagine that someone not getting that you are being passive-aggressive is a deal breaker since it was your primary way of showing your negative feelings.

You might end up letting them know by saying it directly, but that usually is not what you want to do when you choose to be passive-aggressive.

Read Also: Humility Vs Low Self-Esteem


I hope this article helped you and you know when someone is being passive-aggressive or it is just sarcastic since there are a few clear differences between them.

You should be careful when you decide which is which because they can be both simultaneously.