a big surprise/ a great surprise

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Arcona

Senior Member
German
Hello,

I'm wondering if there really is the difference in meaning between "a big surprise" and "a great surprise", that I see.

1. It was a big surprise to hear that you are in Berlin.

2. It was a great surprise to hear that you are in Berlin.

My impression:
"a big surprise" = I'm simply astonished
"a great surprise" = a wonderful surprise

But can "a great surprise" also just mean: "I'm very astonished."?

I'm looking forward to your opinions.
 
  • srk

    Senior Member
    English - US
    Arcona said:
    But can "a great surprise" also just mean: "I'm very astonished."?
    It can, but you run the risk of having "great" heard as "wonderful," as you yourself hear it. Stressing the word "great" makes this even more likely.

    It was a great surprise
    . It was wonderful one.
    It was a great surprise. I was astonished.
     

    e2efour

    Senior Member
    UK English
    I don't think it is possible to identify any differences. In the corpuses big seems to be used more often than great.
    In COCA, the American corpus, there are 287 examples of a big surprise, 71 of a great surprise and 31 of a wonderful surprise.

    Some combinations sound more likely to me, e.g. I would say to my great surprise and not to my big surprise. This is confirmed in the corpus.
     
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