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What is an Interjection: Adding Emotion to Speech

Julia McCoy
Tuesday, 17th Oct 2023
what is an interjection

Picture this: You’re chatting with friends, having a blast. Suddenly, one of them exclaims, “Wow!

That’s an interjection.

But what is an interjection, really?

Surely it’s more than just a spontaneous burst of emotion in the middle of a conversation? It must have some rules or structure… right?

Intrigued yet? Great! Because we’ve got answers to these burning questions as you continue to learn English grammar rules. 

Let’s dive into the world of interjections — those colorful bursts that add spice to language — and discover their true power in communication.

You’ll not only get clear-cut definitions but also explore how they work across various contexts, from everyday chats to formal speeches. And who knows? Maybe you’ll start using them better than ever by the end of this post.

Table of Contents:

What is an Interjection?

If you’ve ever yelled out a sudden “ouch” after stubbing your toe or exclaimed “wow” when witnessing something incredible, then congratulations. You’ve already mastered the use of interjections — the emotional component of what are the 8 parts of speech.

These spontaneous bursts of language are not just for expressing surprise or pain; they play a vital role as one of the major parts of speech.

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, an interjection can be:

  • an ejaculatory utterance usually lacking grammatical connection: such as a word or phrase used in exclamation (such as Heavens! or Dear me!), or
  • a cry or inarticulate utterance (Alas! Ouch! Phooey! Ugh!) expressing an emotion.

In other words, interjections are short sounds, words, or phrases that add color to our conversations.

Interjections aren’t merely limited to one-syllable expressions such as “Oh,” “Ah,” or “Oops.” 

Multi-word exclamations like “Oh my goodness” also fall under this category. 

While their usage may seem casual and offhand at first glance, interjections serve essential functions in both verbal and written communication.

Adding Spice to Language

In everyday communication within English-speaking cultures around the globe – from chatting with friends over coffee in New York City cafes right through heated political debates on Capitol Hill – interjections have been found by linguists to be one of the most used parts of speech.

This might sound surprising initially but think about it: How often do we sprinkle our conversation with a little “well”,indeed”, or even an expressive sigh? 

The frequent usage makes sense because these linguistic elements allow us not only to communicate facts but also to share how we feel about them.

A Taste for Every Mood

Different situations call for different flavors when it comes to interjections. They help set the tone of your writing without needing an entire sentence to explain what’s going on inside our heads. Whether it’s a shout of joy, gasp in shock, or sigh of relief, interjections capture these raw emotions succinctly and effectively.

So next time you scream “Eureka” when you finally solve that pesky puzzle, remember: you’re not just expressing excitement — you’re using one powerful linguistic tool.

Ways to use interjections

Types of Interjection

Interjections fall into two main categories: primary and secondary.

Primary Interjections

Primary interjections, also known as pure interjections, are words with no other use than to express emotions. 

Examples include “Ouch”, “Uh-oh”, and “Wow.” 

These words don’t have any grammatical connection with the rest of the sentence but serve solely to convey feelings.

Secondary Interjections

Secondary interjections, on the other hand, derive from different parts of speech that take on an exclamatory function in certain contexts. 

For instance, words like “Great!” (adjective), “Well” (adverb), or “Yes” (affirmative) become secondary interjections when they’re used to express spontaneous reactions or emotions instead of their typical roles within sentences.

Besides these classifications based on origin and usage context, you may encounter terms like descriptive, onomatopoeic, or phrasal interjection, which refer more specifically to how they sound rather than their function in a sentence.

Interjections can also be classified according to the emotions or reactions they convey. Here are some of the main types of interjection examples:

To express joy or excitement:

  • Hurray!
  • Yippee!
  • Woo-hoo!
  • Yahoo!
  • Bravo!

To express surprise or astonishment:

  • Wow!
  • Oh!
  • Ah!
  • Whoa!
  • Aha!

To express pain or discomfort:

  • Ouch!
  • Ow!
  • Ugh!
  • Eek!
  • Yikes!

To express approval or agreement:

  • Yes!
  • Yeah!
  • Alright!
  • Okay!
  • Sure!

To express disagreement:

  • No!
  • Nope!
  • Ugh!
  • Boo!
  • Blah!

Greetings or farewell:

  • Hello!
  • Hi!
  • Hey!
  • Goodbye!
  • Farewell!

To express regret or sorrow:

  • Alas!
  • Oh no!
  • Darn!
  • Bummer!
  • Oops!

To draw attention:

  • Psst!
  • Hey!
  • Listen!
  • Look!
  • Shh!

To express relief:

  • Phew!
  • Whew!
  • Thank goodness!
  • Finally!
  • At last!

To express confusion or puzzlement:

  • Huh?
  • What?
  • Eh?
  • Hmm.
  • Umm.

To express satisfaction or contentment:

  • Aah!
  • Mmm!
  • Ohh.
  • Yum!
  • Aww.

To express encouragement or support:

  • Go for it!
  • You can do it!
  • Keep it up!
  • Way to go!
  • Don’t give up!

To express disapproval:

  • Tsk-tsk!
  • No way!
  • Shame!
  • Naughty!

These types of interjections are used in everyday speech to convey a wide range of emotions and reactions. They often add emotional emphasis to a sentence and help to express the speaker’s state of mind or feelings in the moment.

Using interjections effectively can add depth and emotional resonance to your writing, making it more engaging for readers. However, like any other literary device, they should be used sparingly and appropriately to avoid cluttering the text or sounding overly dramatic.

Multi-Word Interjections

As the name suggests, multi-word interjections consist of more than one word. These expressions often encapsulate a range of feelings from surprise to disbelief, joy to annoyance. 

Some common examples include:

  • Oh my goodness! I can’t believe you did that!
  • For heaven’s sake!
  • Good grief!
  • No way!
  • What on earth?
  • I can’t believe my eyes!

These multi-word interjections add emphasis, surprise, or clarification to sentences and are commonly used in everyday conversation to express a range of emotions and reactions.

While single-word interjections are quite straightforward in usage, employing multi-word interjections requires a bit more finesse for effective communication.

Incorporating multi-word interjections into your writing seamlessly without disrupting its flow is an art. The key lies in understanding their context and using them sparingly so as not to dilute their impact.

  • Suitability: Ensure that the chosen phrase matches your narrative’s tone and content. For instance: Using “lo and behold” would be apt for dramatic revelations, while “by George” fits well with moments of realization.
  • Punctuation: As they represent sudden bursts of emotion, most interjections need exclamation marks after them when used at sentence beginnings and commas if inserted mid-sentence.
  • Brevity: Since these phrases tend to draw attention, overuse might lead readers away from the main points you want to convey.

Mastering the use of multi-word interjections can add a new dimension to your writing style and make it more engaging for readers. Remember, the ultimate goal is not just about following grammatical rules but also making language work effectively in conveying your thoughts and emotions.

Types of Interjections

The Role of Interjections in Formal Communication

Interjections serve an important purpose in verbal communication, even though they are not connected to other words syntactically. They help us express our emotions spontaneously and genuinely.

Their use isn’t limited to informal writing contexts. Some interjections like “well” and “indeed” are acceptable even in formal conversation settings such as business meetings or academic discussions.

A common question we get is how to use interjections correctly in various writing forms. In business writing, you need to maintain professionalism while expressing surprise or disbelief. In academic writing, too many exclamation marks might look unprofessional. And in formal writing, communication demands subtlety without losing emphasis.

Incorporating interjections effectively requires sensitivity toward context and audience expectations. For instance, saying “Oops” when dropping a pen could be considered cute among friends but inappropriate for an executive board meeting.

So, can you use interjections during, say, an office meeting?

The answer is it depends on your company’s culture. If it’s more laid-back and values authenticity over formality, then you don’t have to avoid interjections in conversations. But if you’re unsure, using words like ‘Indeed’ may come off as more professional than sudden exclamations.

Punctuation and Placement

An interjection can pack a punch, but only if used right. Misuse it, and your writing might seem unprofessional or chaotic. So let’s dissect how and when to use interjections, starting with punctuation.

Punctuation plays a significant role in conveying the intensity of an emotion expressed by an interjection. Commas, full stops, question marks, and exclamation points can add variety to your text while avoiding overuse of interjections.

Interestingly enough, there are no strict rules for pairing punctuations with certain types of interjections – they simply need to make sense contextually. This flexibility allows writers greater freedom in expressing emotions through their words without feeling constrained by grammar rules.

Akin to stage actors who must hit their mark for maximum effect, placement is key for using an interjection correctly. 

Consider this:

“Oh. I didn’t know you were here.


“I didn’t know you were here… oh.

In both sentences, “Oh” is being used as an expression of surprise, but its impact varies significantly based on where it’s placed within the sentence. This illustrates how placing interjections at the beginning isn’t always necessary or effective.

Want to pack a punch with your writing? The secret is in the right use of interjections. Remember, it’s not just what you say but how and when you say it. Punctuation is key, and so is placement. #WritingTips Click to Tweet

How to Use Interjections

The right interjection at the right time can do wonders for setting your sentence’s tone. 

Imagine this: you just got promoted, and instead of a bland text saying “I got promoted,” imagine if it read as “Yipee! I got my promotion.

See the difference?

Using interjections for emphasis, like in our example above, not only makes communication exciting but also conveys sudden feelings with gusto. No wonder interjections are used most often to express such sudden emotions.

A well-placed interjection can make your writing more human-like and less robotic – almost like adding spice to an otherwise plain dish. 

Consider humor — wouldn’t “Ouch, that joke hurt” be far funnier than merely stating, “That was a bad joke“?

In formal contexts though, varying interjections need care as overuse could mar the seriousness of the content. So balance is key here too.

Moving forward, let’s remember one crucial point: While it may seem tempting to throw in an exclamation mark after every other word, restraint is vital. Too many exclamations lessen their impact.

Real-Life Examples of Interjections

Interjections can convey surprise, excitement, disgust, joy, and other strong emotions. Here are 20 real-life examples of interjections in sentences to better understand how they function in our everyday communication.

  1. Wow! That was an amazing performance!
  2. Oh, I didn’t expect to see you here!
  3. Ah, the aroma of freshly baked bread is heavenly.
  4. Ugh, I can’t believe I made that mistake.
  5. Oops! I dropped my phone on the floor.
  6. Aha! I finally solved the puzzle.
  7. Yikes! That was a close call with that car.
  8. Hurray! We won the championship!
  9. Alas, the beautiful sunset marks the end of our vacation.
  10. Eww, this food tastes terrible.
  11. Shh! Be quiet; the baby is sleeping.
  12. Well, I guess we’ll have to try again later.
  13. Gosh, I can’t remember where I left my keys.
  14. Huh? What did you say? I didn’t catch that.
  15. Yippee! It’s my birthday today!
  16. Whoa, that roller coaster was so fast!
  17. Achoo! I think I’m coming down with a cold.
  18. Ouch! I stubbed my toe on the table.
  19. Phew, I’m glad that stressful meeting is over.
  20. Hooray! The fireworks display was spectacular.

Interjections add emotional depth and spontaneity to sentences, making them more expressive and engaging.

Grammar Tips for Using Interjections in Writing

Incorporating interjections effectively requires a certain level of finesse. Overuse can make your work seem informal, while underuse might leave it feeling flat and emotionless. Here are some tips on how you could use them artfully:

  1. Maintain balance: While interjections add flavor to your content, they should not overpower the main message.
  2. Audience consideration: Keep in mind who will be reading your piece; what works well with one demographic may not resonate with another.
  3. Context is key: Ensure the interjection fits seamlessly within your sentence, enhancing rather than disrupting the flow of your narrative.

Using interjections can be a powerful tool in creating engaging and emotive content. It’s all about finding that sweet spot between too much and not enough.

Common Mistakes with Using Interjections

The use of interjections, like most aspects of language, can be a minefield for errors. From grammar blunders to spelling mishaps and even inappropriate usage – it’s easy to slip up.

Avoid Grammar Pitfalls

Grammar is the first battleground when dealing with interjections. It’s important to remember that these exclamatory snippets are usually stand-alone phrases, meaning they aren’t grammatically connected to other parts of a sentence. But often, we get it wrong by trying too hard to integrate them into sentences or overusing them until our text looks more like an action comic than a professional write-up.

Ensure Correct Spelling

You might think, how difficult could it possibly be? These are short expressions, after all.

And while you’d generally be right (no one expects you to misspell ‘Oh’), ensuring the correct spelling of interjections requires attention to detail and practice. 

Here are some tips to help you spell interjections correctly:

  • Consult a dictionary: Use a reliable dictionary to check the spelling of interjections if you are unsure. Online dictionaries and smartphone apps are easily accessible and can provide accurate spellings.
  • Break down multi-word interjections: Multi-word interjections like “Oh my goodness” or “By the way” can be particularly tricky. Break them down into their individual words and ensure each word is spelled correctly.
  • Proofread: Always proofread your written work. Look for spelling errors, including those related to interjections. Even a quick review can catch many mistakes.
  • Use spell checkers: Most word processing software and online writing tools come with built-in spell checkers. These tools can help identify and correct spelling errors, including those in interjections.
  • Read actively: Reading books, articles, and other written materials can expose you to proper spelling and usage of interjections. Pay attention to how they are spelled in context.

Remember that spelling is a skill that improves with practice and exposure to written language. Over time, you’ll become more confident in your ability to spell interjections and other words correctly.

But don’t sweat if perfection seems far off – even seasoned writers make mistakes.

FAQs – What is an Interjection?

What is an example of an interjection?

An interjection is a word or phrase that is grammatically independent of the words around it and mainly expresses feeling rather than meaning.

Some examples include:

  • Oh, what a beautiful house!
  • Uh-oh, this looks bad. 
  • Well, it’s time to say good night.
  • Actually, um, it’s not my dog.
  • Hurray! We won the final match.
  • Ouch! That hurt too badly.
  • Wow! That is a beautiful sight.
  • Oh my God! That was unexpected.
  • Whoa! That guy was unbelievably huge.

What is an easy definition of interjection?

An interjection is a word or phrase used in a short exclamation. Interjections are often used to express sudden bursts of emotion such as anger, shock, joy, or confusion. Interjections are not considered to be complete sentences and often lack any major parts of speech.

Think of it as a word or phrase you use when reacting to something unexpected – like “Yay” when you’re excited about good news.


Interjections are more than just spontaneous outbursts — they’re a key part of language that adds color and emotion. 

Now you know what an interjection is and how it works across different contexts, from casual chats to formal speeches.

The placement and punctuation can change the meaning or impact of these tiny powerhouses. They can be single words like “Wow!” or phrases like “Oh no!” 

Remember, though; overuse might dull their sparkle.

So next time you write something, consider using an interjection for emphasis or to convey sudden feelings. Just make sure it’s appropriate in your context.

Written by Julia McCoy

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