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ESL forum > Ask for help > Please help me     

Please help me

le ngoc qui

Please help me
Hi everyone,
I don ´t know when to write "big surprise" or "great surprise". Please help me with this. 
Thanks in advance.

25 Aug 2012      

David Lisgo

"I had a big surprise." As in size.
"I had a great surprise." As in something wonderful.
I ´m sure you will soon get much better answers.

25 Aug 2012     

le ngoc qui

Hi David,
Thanks for your help. But I think this is an unsatisfactory answer. Anyway, I ´m grateful to you.

25 Aug 2012     


I agree with David :)

25 Aug 2012     

United States

I always use big surprise in the following ways:
After I got to work, I found out that I was to receive a raise next month.  It was a big surprise to me as I thought I wasn ´t doing that great of a job.    I found out that a big surprise was in store for me on the last work day of the week.     Sometimes I may use it for size but in a funny way that may be mean if the person heard it.     I rarely use "a great surpise" or hear someone in America saying "a great surprise."

25 Aug 2012     

United Kingdom

Dear Qui,

Here is what my Collocation Dictionary says:


Oxford Collocations Dictionary for Students of English, 2nd edition

surprise noun

1 feeling of surprise


great , total , utter

mild , slight , some


After the initial ~ I got to like the place.


His eyebrows rose in mock ~.

genuine , real

verb + surprise

express , register , show


He feigned ~ when I went up and said hello.


She was quick to hide her ~.


The president ´s remarks caused ~ and embarrassment.

2 sth that you did not expect


big , complete , genuine , great , huge , major , real , total


lovely ( esp. BrE ) , nice , pleasant , wonderful

nasty , unpleasant , unwelcome


I have a little ~ for you!


a bit of a ~ , quite a ~

hold few, many, no, etc. ~s

She feels that the future holds few ~s.

© Oxford University Press, 2009


25 Aug 2012     

United States

I think "great" in general is a more British word, when referring to size. In the US, we use it mostly to mean "very good, wonderful".

25 Aug 2012     

le ngoc qui

Hi everybody,
Thanks for helping me a lot. 

25 Aug 2012     


expanding on David...
I would use ´big ´ to indicate the measure of the surprise. If it was very surprising, very unexpected (not necessarily related to the ´content ´ of the surprise)
I would use ´great ´ only when the surprise is a very good one, a very positive one, meaning I would use ´great ´ for the content of the surprise, not related to how unexpected it was.
In a simplified example: If my entire family forgot my birthday (even though I ´ve been hinting about it for over a week) I might say it was a big surprise to me that nobody even congratulated me, since I had expected they would.
If I wake up on the morning of my birthday and find the house clean and organized, a delicious breakfast on the table, and a sweet card from my kids, I would say that it was a ´great surprise ´
(It wouldn ´t be a big surprise since i had been hinting to them they ´d better not forget my birthday, I had expected some kind of surprise, I am simply saying that the surprise they prepared was very much to my liking)
Does this make any sense to you?

26 Aug 2012