Interjections in English

(Meaning and usage of interjections)

Table of contents – interjections

On this page you will find the following:

  1. Purpose of interjections
  2. Meaning of interjections
  3. Further explanations and exercises

What purpose do interjections fulfil?

Generally, interjections are sounds or utterances (such as ‘erm, ah, ouch!’, etc.) that express the speaker’s feelings. They are used intuitively and should, therefore, not present a real problem in conversation. The only difficulty that may arise is to interpret the uttered emotion correctly.

In terms of grammar, these words have no significance and often appear independently of sentences. In terms of meaning, however, they represent the sentiments of the talker and, as a consequence, can be decisive for the overall statement. For this reason, emphasis plays a significant role whenever interjections are used.

Since interjections are almost exclusively utilised in spoken language by their nature, no fixed rules regarding their spelling exist. Nevertheless, when they are employed in writing (which is rarely the case in formal texts), they are usually followed by an exclamation mark to intensify the comment.

To understand better what emotion the communicator is trying to convey, English interjections can be divided into different purposes, as shown below.

Which meanings can English interjections convey?

The following overview of interjections includes many exclamations that can also fall into other groups, depending on their emphasis/stress. Then, they may signify different moods and, above all, communicate irony. Likewise, the list illustrates only a few examples and could, of course, be amended at will due to unlimited possibilities of showing feelings. There are many more exclamatory words in English.

The following interjections are frequently heard in English …

  • … to express happiness and truth:
    • yippee, bingo, yeah, yay, indeed, hooray, eureka, geronimo
      • Example: Yeah, you got it!”
  • … for surprise and astonishment:
    • really, hello, oh my gosh, wow, jeez, oops, hallelujah, huh, holy cow
      • Example: Wow! That is a cool car!”
  • … for comments and remarks:
    • well, alright
      • Example: “Well, I don’t think it’s such a good idea.”
  • … to make agreement clear:
    • yup, ya, uh-huh, ok, exactly, okey-dokey
      • Example: Uh-huh, it’s true what he’s saying!”
  • … for rejections:
    • no, nah, no can do, naw
      • Example: Nah, I don’t like that!”
  • … for excitement:
    • darn, damn, gosh, oh my goodness, rats
      • Example: Gosh, I’ve dropped my mobile phone again!”
  • … for conveying sympathy and for bad news:
    • oh dear, alas, too bad, poor you
      • Example: Oh dear, not again.”
  • … when there is hesitation in the utterance:
    • uh, erm, er
      • Example: “The smallest continent in the world is … erm … Australia.”
  • … for uncertainty:
    • erm, uh, umm, hm
      • Example: Hm, I’m not sure. We should ask Jack.”
  • … to demand attention:
    • hey, pssst
      • Example: Hey! Listen to me!”
  • … for greetings:
    • hello, hi, whatsup, cheers
      • Example: Whatsup, Bob!”
  • … to confirm a statement:
    • roger that, ok
      • Example: “Hey Mike, can you do that for me? – Roger that.”
  • … in case of doubt:
    • hmm, really, u sure
      • Example: Hmm, are you sure about that?!”
  • … to reveal pain:
    • ouch, oh, ow
      • Example: Ouch! That hurt!”
  • … when someone sneezes (see also German words used in the English language):
    • bless you, gesundheit
      • Example: “Achoo! – Gesundheit!”

Further explanations relating to the ‘Interjections in English’

The following explanations are related to the topic ‘Usage and meaning of interjections / exclamation words’ and may also be interesting: