Interjections are a part of speech and, therefore, essential to understand. Not sure what they are? Don't fret; in this article, you will learn all about interjections and how and when to use them.
In short, interjections are short words used to express various emotions and expressions or make a request.
Interjections are words or phrases that are grammatically independent of the words around them. They are used to express surprise, excitement, disgust, confusion, or another number of feelings. You can also use them to indicate to the listener or reader that you are thinking or to give a command.
Interjections are not considered to be complete sentences, and they're short: just one or a few words long. They are often punctuated with an exclamation mark.
They're great to use because they give life to your sentences, but many of them are only used in speech or informal writing.
The word comes from the Latin interiectionem meaning "a throwing or placing between."
There are two different types of interjection that are helpful for you to know about. Let's take a look at those.
Primary interjections are usually short bursts of sound that aren't actual words. Because of this, they often lack an official spelling which means you might see them spelled several different ways.
Here are some examples of primary interjections:
Contrary to the primary kind, secondary interjections are actual words that usually function as nouns, verbs, or adjectives but are taken out of their usual role and used independently.
Here are some examples of secondary interjections:
You can use interjections as standalone words or as part of a sentence. For example, you could simply say "Wow!" to express amazement, or you could use it in a sentence like this one:
Wow, this band is amazing!
But even when part of a sentence, interjections are independent of all other parts of speech, meaning that you could remove it without impacting the meaning of the sentence. Think about it; you would still know what the person meant if they just said:
This band is amazing!
The role of an interjection, therefore, is to liven up your sentence and help communicate feelings.
Bear in mind that if you use an interjection on its own, you might want to include a sentence before or afterward to add some context. That's unless the context and/or your facial expression already make it clear, which can happen sometimes happen in spoken situations. For instance, if you're at a concert and turn to your friend and just say, "Wow!" it's likely they'll know what you mean without you having to explain.
When interjections are part of a sentence, you'll want to pay attention to the punctuation you use. You might employ an exclamation mark, commas, parentheses, etc. What you use will vary depending on the context, but it's important that you use punctuation since interjections are separate from the other parts of the sentence, as explained earlier. Let's use the example of 'Oops!' to look at the different types of punctuation you can use:
Oops! I forgot to set a timer and my pizza is now burned.
Oops, I forgot to set a timer and my pizza is now burned.
I forgot to set a timer and my pizza is now burned (oops).
Some interjections also use question marks, like 'Huh.' For example:
Huh? What do you mean?
The great thing about interjections is that you can make them mean whatever you want. The tone of voice you use and the context can indicate different sentiments. Take, for example, the interjection 'Oh'; it can mean different things depending on how you use it. Look at the following dialogue:
I won't be able to make it to your birthday party tomorrow evening.
Oh. That's a shame, I was looking forward to catching up with you.
Here, the 'oh' clearly stands for disappointment. In fact, the second speaker could have simply said "Oh" and nothing else, and the first speaker would have been able to defer that the person was disappointed, even if they didn't add the second sentence.
Let's look at 'Oh' in a different context.
David asked me out on a date.
Oh! That's great news. Where will you go?
Here, the same interjection has a completely different meaning. It communicates excitement. Again, even without the second sentence, it would have been clear that the speaker was excited. Note the difference in punctuation, too, another tool to help convey your emotions efficiently. Let's look at one more example:
We are heading to the office meeting, are you coming?
Oh, I thought that was tomorrow.
Here, 'Oh' expresses confusion.
As you see, interjections are very versatile, so don't hesitate to use them to convey your thoughts, feelings, and emotions.
But conveying emotion is not the only thing you can do with interjections. You can also make a request, like with the interjection 'Shh,' which is used to ask someone to be quiet. You can also indicate that you are thinking with an interjection, with 'Um' or 'Er.' You can also make an inquiry about somebody else's thoughts, like with the interjection 'Eh?'.
And finally, you can greet someone. That's right; 'Hey,' 'Hi,' 'Hello,' and 'See ya' are also interjections.
Let's take a look now at some examples of interjections used in a sentence. Remember, you can infer the sentiment behind each interjection based on the context. The interjections are underlined.
Good grief, that sounds like a busy day. Aren't you tired?
Of course I'll be your Maid of Honor. Duh!
Ugh, the reception is starting in five minutes and they're not even on route yet.
Sure, it sucks, but there's nothing I can do about it right now.
Phew, I'm so glad that's over.
I hope you'll agree that interjections can be pretty fun to play around with. Practice using more of them in your speaking or writing (make sure it's informal writing), and you'll soon find they become second nature to you. Plus, they help you sound more natural, like a native speaker.
And if you'd like to learn about more parts of speech or other grammar concepts, check out our Grammar Book where we cover lots of complex topics in a simple, easy-to-understand way.
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