What is an interjection? If you are familiar with the English language, or just languages in general, you may have heard about interjections. Interjections are parts of speech that may be written or spoken and can have multiple uses — depending on the context, situations, and the intent of the users involved. But what exactly are interjections and how do you use them? This article will explore the definition of interjections, when to use them, and how they compare to exclamations, emoticons, emojis, and onomatopoeia.
What is an Interjection?
An interjection is a word or short expression that normally lacks a grammatical connection to larger patterns of speech. It is expressed as an utterance that stands by itself, one that can be emotional, directive, or exclamatory in nature.
An interjection is an exclamatory word or phrase used to express a weak, mild, or strong feeling or emotion. It is a part of speech in English grammar.
Interjections are normally defined by their short duration (usually single or double-word phrases) and reactive, or spontaneous, use. Examples include exclamatory phrases (“Oh!”, or “Ooh!”), swear words (“Damn!”, or “Dang!”), hesitation markers (“um”, or “er”), and responsive particles (“Yes!”, or “Ok”).
Additional interjections can include greetings (“Hey!” or “Hi there”), expressions of dismay (“Oh no!”, or “Aw, man”), and imperative/directive phrases (“Look!”, or “Do it!”).
Interjections can overlap with what are considered discourse markers (words that can manage the flow of discourse, i.e. “you know”, “well”, “I mean”, “then”), linguistic fillers (words to indicate a pause in thinking without completion of speech, i.e. “uh”, “um”) and profanities.
Types of Interjections
Interjections are typically divided into three categories: emotive, volitive, and cognitive.
- Emotive – express the feelings of a speaker, like anger, fear, surprise, and disgust (“Rats!”, or “Oh!”, or “Huh?”, or “Blech!”, respectively),
- Cognitive – express the understanding of information by the speaker, or internal reaction to information (“Ohh”, “I see”, “Aha!”, and “Wow”), and
- Volitive – are used as imperative or directive speech, meant to instruct or command others to do something (“Look!”, “Listen”, “Shh!”, “Look out!”).
Examples of Interjections
- “Oops! I did it again!”
- “Ooh, what a lovely dress!”
- “Yahoo, we did it!”
- “Shh, I can’t hear what he’s saying.”
- “We’ve done it! Hurrah!”
- “Bravo, Rena! You’re right.”
- “Well, so Steve got the job?”
- “Oh, how wonderful!”
- “Meh, there’s nothing great about it.”
- “A seven-layer wedding cake? Ooh-la-la!”
When To Use Interjections
Using an interjection is a great way to bring life to a conversation. The interjection can be anything from a greeting to a curse or an exclamation. They can be used as independent sentences in response to a comment or situation and are great for making you sound like a native English speaker.
Interjections are commonly accepted in speech, despite differing social situations. The distinction, however, is the type of social settings and the expected interjections for different types of social situations.
Formal conversations (and settings) call for less interjection use overall. There is an emphasis on listening, discussion, and the completion of thought in full phrases. Socially suitable interjections (“Oh”, “My word!”, “Yes”, and “Quite”, for example) are considered acceptable in formal settings.
Casual conversations tend to allow more interjection use. More emotive interjections (“Darn!”, “Eww”, “Yes!”), volitive interjections (“Do it!”, “Watch out!”), and more casual cognitive interjections (“Got it!”, “Whoa…”) are accepted in casual speech, as are profane and discourse-marking interjections.
In texting, interjections can be used with varying degrees of frequency — depending on relationship types and context.
Interjections would be more common in texts among friends, romantic partners, or casual acquaintances, but this can also depend on the type of relationship between those texting.
A short “Ok”, for example, might be appropriate in texting for one situation (say, during the day-of correspondence in planning a party) but may seem rude if given during a heart-to-heart discussion.
A degree of familiarity may be needed before interjections are more frequently used in texts. Among friends, interjections in texts may follow the conventions of discussions with these friends in-person.
If there is work correspondence or texting to superiors, limited, more formal interjection use is recommended — though this may vary, as well.
In writing, interjections can be used as speech patterns in fictional prose (‘”Wow!”, she exclaimed.’), as quoted speech in non-fiction news articles (‘”Got it!”, the union workers shouted’), in poetry, personal essays, biographies, or in advertising (“Save!”, “Look!”).
Interjections are generally not acceptable in non-fiction, informational, technical, academic, or scientific writing.
Casual e-mail correspondence — a back-and-forth among work colleagues or friends, for example — may be more conducive to interjection use than e-mails between employees and superiors.
Advertising and marketing e-mails may use volitive interjections to attract customers.
Interjections vs. Exclamations
Interjections may include types of exclamations (“Oh!”, “My word!”) but not all interjections are exclamations (“Oh?”, “I see…”).
Exclamations are longer, more meaningful phrases (“What a wonderful day it is!”, or “This is incredible!”) whereas interjections tend to be one or two-word phrases with simpler expressive meanings (“Oooh!”, “Argh!”, or “Oh, no…”).
If you use interjections in texts or e-mails, exclamation point (“!”) use is strongly discouraged. This is because expressive meaning is often implied with the interjection itself.
This can, however, vary depending on casual business use (“Thanks!”) or strong emphasis among casual friends (“Darn!”).
In writing (fiction or non-fiction articles) for an audience, the exclamation point is necessary to show interjection as a part of speech.
Interjections vs. Emoticons vs. Emoji
Emoticons (“emotion icons”) are representations of facial expressions using characters (usually typed) to convey emotions. These can include the smiley face 🙂 or the frowning face :-(, among others.
Emojis (Japanese for “picture characters”) are small digital illustrations that can express facial expressions as well as objects, plants, and animals. Unlike emoticons, they are not comprised of typeface characters, but actual stylized illustrations.
In casual text slang messages among friends, emoticons and emojis are relatively common. They are, however, strongly discouraged for use in professional or formal emails and texts.
In this sense, interjections may actually be more common in formal/business e-mails or texts (such as in “Thanks!” or “Yes”) but limited use of interjections in these situations is still recommended.
Interjections vs. Onomatopeia
Onomatopeia is the construction of words that phonetically imitate existing sounds, such as animal sounds (“Moo”, “Meow”, “Woof”) or other sounds (“Bang”, “Boom”, “Zoom”).
Interjections differ from onomatopoeia in that they are often singular words that have a determined meaning but do not imitate sounds. Interjections are exclamatory or can evoke emotion, while onomatopoeia is not meant to evoke meaning — only words that replicate an existing sound effect.
In casual conversation and storytelling, onomatopoeia, like interjections, can be frequently used. This is not the case in more formal/professional conversations, where onomatopoeia use is strongly discouraged, and interjection use is limited to certain interactions.
Examples of Using Interjections in Sentences
In this section, we are going to be looking at a variety of interjections and learning how we can use them in our day-to-day conversations.
Aah meaning and Aah interjection examples:
- Expressing pleasure: “Aah, that’s great!”
- Expressing realization: “Aah, now I see what you mean.”
- Expressing resignation: “Aah, I give up!”
- Expressing surprise/shock: “Aah! It’s eating my leg!”
Ah meaning and Ah interjection examples:
- Expressing pleasure: “Ah, this coffee is good.”
- Expressing realization: “Ah, now I understand.”
- Expressing resignation: “Ah!Well, I’ll have to come back tomorrow.”
- Expressing surprise: “Ah! There you are!”
Aha meaning: Understanding, triumph
“Aha! So you planned all this, did you?”
Ahem meaning: The sound of clearing one’s throat. Used to get someone’s attention, especially if they don’t know (or apparently forgot) that you’re there.
“Ahem! Can I make a suggestion?”
Alas meaning: Expressing grief or pity
“Alas, my love, I must leave now.”
Argh meaning: Expressing annoyance, anger or frustration
“Argh, get that cat off the table!”
Aw, Aww meaning and examples:
- Expressing mild disappointment or protest: “Aw, come on, Andy!”
- Shows sentimental approval: “Aww! Just look at that kitten.”
- Feeling sorry or pity for someone: “Aww, that’s so sad, he hasn’t yet learned to ride a bike.”
Bah meaning: Expressing dismissive or annoyed
“Bah, I never liked him anyways.”
Behold meaning: Expressing attention
“Behold! The bride comes.”
Bingo meaning: Acknowledge something as right
“Bingo! That’s the one I’ve been looking for.”
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Boo meaning and Boo interjection examples:
- Expressing disapproval, contempt: “Boo!” they shouted, “Get off!”
- A noise used to scare people by surprise: “I jumped out from the closet and yelled “boo!”
Bravo meaning: Expressing approval
“Bravo, Rena! You’re right.”
Brr meaning: Being cold, shivering
“Brrr, it’s cold out there.”
Dear meaning and Dear interjection examples:
Expressing pity: “Oh dear! I’ve lost my keys again.”
Expressing surprise:v“Dear me! What a mess!”
Duh meaning: Expressing annoyance over something stupid or obvious:
“Duh, you should always lock up your bike.”
Eek meaning: Girly scream. Surprised, scared
“Eeek, It moved!”
Eh meaning and Eh interjection examples:
- Asking for repetition: “It’s hot today.” “Eh?” “I said it’s hot today.”
- Expressing enquiry: “Eh? She’s got how many children?”
- Expressing surprise: “Another new dress, eh!”
- Inviting agreement: “Let’s drink to his memory, eh??”
- Question something: “So you won’t go tomorrow, eh?”
Er meaning: Expressing hesitation
“Lima is the capital of…er…Peru.”
Eww meaning: Expressing disgust, dislike
“Eww, there’s a fly in my lemonade!”
Gah meaning: Expressing exasperation and despair
“Gah, I can’t do it!”
Gee meaning: Expressing surprise, enthusiasm, or just general emphasis
“Gee, , what a great idea!”
Grr meaning: Expressing anger, snarling, growling. Often used for dogs and other animals
“Grrr, I’ll hit your head!”
Hah meaning: The first syllable of “hahaha”, when something is just a little funny
“Hah, you are out.”
Hmm meaning: Expressing hesitation, doubt or disagreement
“Hmm! ! I don’t know much about it.”
Hello, Hullo meaning and examples:
- Expressing greeting: “Hello, Phoebe. Merry Christmas!”
- Expressing surprise: “Hello! My car’s gone!”
Hey meaning and hey interjection examples:
- Calling attention: “Hey everybody, listen up!”
- Expressing surprise, joy, etc: “Hey, buddy! Is this your car?”
Hi meaning: Expressing greeting
“Hi, Barbara, how are you?”
Huh meaning: Mild, indifferent surprise
“Huh, you were right.”
Humph meaning: A snort, to express dislike, disbelief or annoyance
“Humph! That makes me so upset! The kitten is so mean!”
Hurrah meaning: Generic exclamation of joy
“We’ve done it! Hurrah!”
Meh meaning: Indifference
“Meh, there’s nothing great about it.”
Mhm meaning: Agreement, acknowledgement
“Do you think so too?” “Mhm!”
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Muahaha meaning: Evil villain’s triumphant laugh
“I switched the sugar and the salt! Muahaha!”
Nuh-uh meaning: Childish negation or refusal
“I kick you!” “Nuh-uh!” “Yuh-uh!” “Nuh-uh!”
Oh meaning and Oh interjection examples:
- Expressing realization: “Oh, you scared me.”
- Expressing surprise: “Oh, how wonderful!”
- Expressing pain: “Oh! I have a terrific headache.”
- Expressing pleading: “Oh, please, you must believe me.”
Ooh-la-la meaning: An often ironic (or just funny) way indicating that something is fancy or high class
“A seven layer wedding cake? Ooh-la-la!”
Ooh meaning: Wonder, amazement (ohhh can also mean ahhh)
“Ooh, what a lovely dress!”
Oomph meaning: A grunt made on sudden exertion. Also used as a noun to mean “power” or “energy” (“This song needs more oomph!”)
“Push on 3.. 1, 2, 3.. oomph!”
Oops meaning: Being surprised at or acknowledging your own mistakes
“Oops! I did it again!”
Oww meaning: Expressing pain
“Oww, you stepped on my foot!”
Ouch meaning: Exclamation of pain
“Ouch, that hurt! Stop pinching me!”
Oy meaning: Mainly Jewish, Used to express self-pity, similar to “woe is me!“
“Oy! I left my purse at home.”
Pew meaning: Used for foul odors
“Pew, this blanket smells a bit fusty.”
Pff meaning: Expressing unimpressed
“Pff, I once caught a fish twice that size!”
Phew meaning: Expressing relief
“Phew, I’m glad that’s all over”
Psst meaning: Used to quietly get someone’s attention, often to tell them a secret.
“Psst. Let’s get out now before they see us!”
Sheesh meaning: Expressing exasperation, annoyance (corruption of “Jesus”)
“Sheesh, now he’s drunk again!”
Shh meaning: Used to make someone be quiet
“Shh, I can’t hear what he’s saying.”
Shoo meaning: Used to drive away animals or small children
“Shoo, all of you, I’m busy!”
Tsk-tsk meaning: Expressing disappointment or contempt
“Tsk-tsk, I think you’re wrong about that.”
Uh-hu meaning: Agreement, acknowledgement (easily confused with uh-uh)
“Can I sit here?” “Uh hu!”
Uh-oh meaning: Concerned for indications that something will happen
“Uh-oh, I think I just deleted all my work.”
Uh-uh meaning: Refusal, especially if your mouth is full or if you refuse to open it
“Is Paul here yet?” “Uh-uh!”
Uhh meaning: Indicates a pause in, rather than the end of, a sentence
“Six times three is… uhh… 18.”
Um, Umm meaning: Expressing hesitation
“85 divided by 5 is…um…17.”
Wee meaning: Used by children when doing something fun, and often ironically by adults when something is fun but childish
Well meaning and well interjection examples:
- Expressing surprise: “Well, so Steve got the job?”
- Introducing a remark: “Well, what did he say?”
Whoa meaning: Can be used to suggest caution as in here, and also stereo typically used by marijuana smokers to express dumbfounded amazement (“whoa, look at the colors!”). Originally a sound used to make horses stop.
“Whoa, take it easy!”
Wow meaning: Impressed, astonished
“Wow! Holy cow! That’s great!”
Yahoo meaning: Generic exclamation of joy
“Yahoo, we did it!”
Meaning: Used as a replacement for yeah, comes from Middle English
- A: Did you talk to Susie about the project?
- B: Ya. she said it’s fine.
Meaning: Responding to a remark in a disapproving manner. It shows that you are offended or annoyed by a remark directed towards you.
“Yah! I didn’t say anything to him”
Yay meaning: All-purpose cheer. Approval, congratulations and triumph
“Yay! Gilas is in for the Quarterfinals!”
Yeah meaning: Common slang for “yes”, sometimes also used as an interjection.
“Yeah! She’s going with us tonight!”
Yikes meaning: Fear and alarm.
“Yikes, my mother’s home!”
Yippee meaning: Exclamation of celebration
“No school for five weeks – yippee!”
Yoo-hoo meaning: The often ironic/comical, seductive call of a woman to get someone’s attention
“Yoo-hoo, buttercup! Come give me a hug!”
Yuh-uh meaning: Childish affirmation often used to counter “nuh-uh!” (not to be confused with yoo-hoo).
“I kick you!” “Nuh-uh!” “Yuh-uh!” “Nuh-uh!”
Meaning: Enthusiastic feeling of approval-compared to saying Yes!
“YEET! I can’t believe I just passed my driving test!”
Yuck meaning: Disgust, dislike
“Yuck! I hate mayonnaise.”
Zing meaning: Used (often ironically) to punctuate a punch line or witty comeback.
“You’re so stupid! You’d trip over a wireless phone!” “Zing!”
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Interjection Examples | Images
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Interjection Examples | Video
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