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I was surprised to know/ learn/be told ...

hirashin

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Dear native English speakers,
Would all the sentences be used with almost the same meaning?
(a) I was surprised to know that Susan would be the captain of our team next year.
(b) I was surprised to learn that Susan would be the captain of our team next year.
(c) I was surprised to hear that Susan would be the captain of our team next year.
(d) I was surprised to be told that Susan would be the captain of our team next year.
 

joadbres

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In my opinion, (b) and (c) are 100% natural English, and are the most natural of these four choices.
We usually do not use the verb "know" in the context of discovering new information, so (a) does not sound natural to me.
(d) is OK, but slightly unclear. Specifically, it is unclear if the speaker is surprised to learn the information about Susan, or surprised to be told that information (i.e., surprised that the person chose to tell the speaker).
Using the standard (and extremely useful!) Japanese scale of ✖△〇◎,
I would rate the sentences as follows:
(a) △ or ✖
(b) ◎
(c) ◎
(d) 〇
Because you are a teacher of young students (high school students, if I remember correctly), I recommend that you keep your explanations to them simple, otherwise they will get confused and come to hate English.
I recommend that you teach them to use "learn" when first discovering new information, and to use "know" for things that they have already previously learned. And when teaching this expression using "surprise", I recommend only teaching them that both "surprised to learn" and "surprised to hear" are OK.

By the way, if you learn something surprising from, say, a newspaper article, you can use the expression "I was surprised to see that..."
 

mdchachi

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I agree with jbroadres's preferences but the fact is that they are all used.
(a) is definitely not batsu as you can see from Google.
 

hirashin

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Thanks for the interesting information, mdchachi.
 

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