Definition and Examples of Interjections

Every day we fill our speech with emotion and tone, expressing directions, thoughts, opinions, and reflections in a manner that is much more than words. 

Although a person cannot hear us physically when they read our writing, there are multiple ways to apply words to sentence structure to help the words come to life. 

One of those ways is through the use of interjections. These words can help convey emotion within a sentence or as a standalone exclamation. They are clarifying in nature and provide you with the means to express yourself accurately. 

Interjections are words, phrases, or sounds used to express emotion in writing and speech. When used alone, follow with an exclamation point or question mark, and when used in a sentence, follow with a comma. Common interjections include wow, shh, oops, hey, ouch, and aw. 

Interjections are Parts of Speech

The term interjection is derived from Latin to mean “something thrown in-between”. It is one of the nine parts of speech that provides a syntactic function to both speech and writing. The parts of speech also include nouns, verbs, adjectives, determiners, adverbs, pronouns, prepositions, and conjunctions. 

These word labels define the use and importance of how words work together to form coherent English language patterns. 

Types of Interjections

Interjections are broken into two-word classes or categories to define their use within the English language. 

Although more commonly heard in speech, most have migrated into everyday informal written communication and are used to help define the author’s message. 

Primary Interjections

These are single words that are not derived from any other word, are used only as interjections, and do not offer syntactic construction since they offer no other possible meaning. These are expressive words that are sound-based, such as hmm, eww, ope, ah, shh, mmm, brr, oops, yum, ouch, woohoo, and ow. For example:

  • Woohoo, I’m so excited to be going to the park!
  • Eww! That dead fish stinks!
  • Ope, excuse me!

Secondary Interjections

Secondary interjections are words that belong to other word classes, such as adjectives, nouns, and full clauses. They are used in various contexts other than just as an interjection.

These are both individual words and word phrases and can mix with other exclamatory words to express strong emotions, including oaths. 

Examples include alright, good, nice, see, no, super, hey, good grief, Heavens to Betsy, oh my, rats, shoot, and bless you

  • Hey, I was wondering where you were!
  • Oh my. But I’m not very surprised since she didn’t show up to work. 
  • Heavens to Betsey! If that girl doesn’t get her butt back to bed this instant, she is going to be sorry!

The Versatility of Interjections

Interjections are among the most versatile parts of speech since they work to convey specific emotions and help define the intonation and context of the words surrounding them. 

They are multifunctional and work equally well with both exclamations of joy and surprise, as with scorn or despair. 

You can use them as a standalone phrase in writing or as sounds in speech. Or you can use them within a sentence to help highlight your emotions concerning a topic. They also help define the importance or meaning of what either precedes them or follows them. 

Their placement is crucial as they work to support the tone of the message, and your choice of punctuation helps highlight the emotions you want to convey to an audience. 

What Punctuation is Most Commonly Used With Interjections

Since interjections are usually expressions of emotions, they are most often used with punctuation marks that express surprise, anger, or confusion. Exclamation marks and question marks are commonly used since they are easy to communicate in speech using voice inflection. 

In writing, exclamation marks highlight surprise, joy, and anger. Question marks work to prompt further reply, irony, distrust, or confusion. 

Even periods or ellipsis can create a flat emotional effect, interpreted as cynicism, boredom, or lack of interest. For example:

  • Oh, but I’m not surprised by your actions.
  • Well, well, well! What do we have here?
  • Huh? I’m very confused now. 

It is easier to express emotion when speaking, so the proper placement of punctuation marks is important when interjections are used in writing. To effectively convey emotions to a reader, interjections must be placed appropriately with the proper punctuation.

This is especially true if used within a sentence rather than on its own or at the end of a sentence. 

How to Use Interjections in a Sentence

Interjections may either start a sentence or be incorporated into them. When an interjection leads a sentence, a comma can follow it with the punctuation placed at the end of the sentence, or a punctuation mark can follow it immediately. 

When an interjection is placed within the sentence, it should be followed with a comma.

The best track, “WooHoo,” was previously released and, though tinkered with here, it still captures the energy and attitude of Reed at his best. [Boston Globe]

In response, it said, Lily wrote: “Hmm…I certainly enjoyed your company. [NBC News]

Oh wow, did you ever realize how often Owen Wilson says “wow” in his movies? [Huffpost]

“You’re aware of it, and you’re aware of it, but one day, you go, ‘Oh, my God, it’s everywhere!’ [Reuters]

We voted in the fairest election in American history — and, in spite of some, um, challenges, we inaugurated a new president. [Los Angeles Times]

How to Use Interjections On Their Own

Interjections can work as a stand-alone phrase or comment as well. In this case, follow with the proper punctuation to effectively make your point. This is more commonly seen in speech and dialog. 

CHUCK TODD: Mmm-hmm.

ANTHONY FAUCI: You know, those regions of America —

CHUCK TODD: Yeah

[NBC News]

Example Interjections to Bring Your Writing to Life

There are many interjections that are already recognized and widely understood within the English language, such as no, shh, and alright. But other words have become interjections because of their placement in speech patterns – which then migrate into writing. Here are a few you may not have considered!

  • Alleluia
  • bah
  • Cripes
  • Eureka
  • Fiddlesticks
  • Gadzooks
  • Great
  • Ha
  • holy cow
  • holy smokes
  • hot dog
  • Hurray
  • Jeepers
  • Man
  • my word
  • Oh
  • oh my
  • oh well
  • Ooh
  • Ow
  • Phooey
  • Pow
  • Presto
  • Right
  • Shh
  • Shoo
  • Ugh
  • Uh-oh
  • Voilà
  • Whoops
  • Wow
  • Yeah
  • yippee

Let’s Review

Interjections are the words that help bring your speech and writing to life. Used on their own to express emotions such as surprise, skepticism, or confusion, the emphasis you place on them is essential. 

They also begin sentences ‌well or are incorporated into a sentence to help address tone or explain the surrounding content.

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