Cognitive Interjections

What are Cognitive Interjections?

Cognitive interjections are interjections that convey thoughts or thought processes. It’s one of the types of interjections classified according to function and not structure. Some primary and secondary interjections are cognitive.

Here are some examples of cognitive interjections in sentences:

  • Can you, uh, say that again?
  • Please, what’s the worst that can happen?
  • Wow! I certainly didn’t expect to see that.
  • Uh oh, you forgot to fill up some parts of the template.
  • Hmm, I think it would be better if we held the convention here.
lillypad english learning app banner

Cognitive Interjections Rules

Cognitive interjections are common in speech, and because they convey reactions to strong feelings, their usage is often reflexive. In addition, they keep no value grammatically and are used generously in speaking. The rules they do have are limited to writing: spelling, punctuation, and purpose. Here are the general guidelines:

Formal vs Informal WritingInterjections are considered sloppy and unprofessional in academic and corporate documents such as research papers, business plans, feasibility studies, contracts, and so on.

They may be acceptable in less stringent types of correspondence such as business emails directed to business associates or customers. This is dependent on the kind of atmosphere the workplace maintains and the familiarity that the people involved have with each other. Be that as it may, the usage of interjections is generally discouraged in business writing.

Meanwhile, interjections are often used in all types of informal or creative writing such as blogs, editorials, and advertising materials.
Interjections within sentencesYou can normally find interjections at the beginning or end of sentences, but they may also occur within sentences. In this instance, they should be set off by punctuation marks: commas, dashes, parentheses, or ellipses. The points in which interjections are placed within sentences should also make grammatical sense. For instance:

– Petya didn’t understand the procedure (uh oh) but didn’t think to ask.
– I remember, um, Helen came by on Tuesday.
– You can talk, well, to Clara about it.
PunctuationsWhile it makes sense to punctuate interjections with exclamation points, other punctuation marks can be used as well. Different punctuation marks can modify the intensity behind an interjection’s emotion. For example:

– Comma (,): suggests a less intense reaction
– Period (.): suggests a neutral reaction.
– Question mark (?): suggests skepticism, ignorance, or interest.
Table of Rules for Cognitive Interjections
lillypad english language software CTA

Examples of Cognitive Interjections

1. Well, how many options are available?

2. I’m not sure who’s free now. Hmm.

3. Tsk tsk, these instructions aren’t helpful at all.

4. Eh, I’m not a picky eater so anything goes.

5. Everyone takes more than a minute to process this. Please.

6. I don’t know if, er, that’s the right color for our brand.

7. Oh dear, I can’t seem to remember the date.

8. Ugh! I don’t have any idea what to write about.

9. I’m still considering if, uh, I have an actual shot at this.

10. Wow! This puzzle is a lot more difficult than it looks.

11. Alas! Trevor miscalculated the measurement of the wall.

12. Clearly I hadn’t thought that it might be a joke. Oops.

13. Mmm, so many things look good on the menu.

14. Wait, I still need a few more minutes to make a decision.

15. Did she really do that? Yeah right, I don’t believe you.

lillypad english learning app banner

Cognitive Interjections Exercises with Answers

Exercise on Cognitive Interjections

This exercise will test how well you understand emotive interjections. Complete each sentence by picking the correct cognitive interjection from the list.

come again      nice      really      wait      oh no oops      um      alas      yeah right      hmm

­­1. ____________, I don’t think I’ve printed the files yet.

2. ____________! He was right about the flight being delayed.

3. This is a very elegant solution to the genome problem. ____________!

4. ____________, I’m surprised they care about what I think.

5. ____________? I’m sorry the machine’s noise distracted me.

6. ____________! She been planning to go on that diet for the past two years.

7. Making a decision quickly has always been, ____________, difficult for me.

8. ____________! How many minutes do we have until they get here?

9. ____________! I forgot that the meeting changed venues!

10. ____________? I thought Mrs. Nillos would be a bit more opposed.


1. Oops, I don’t think I’ve printed the files yet.

2. Alas! He was right about the flight being delayed.

3. This is a very elegant solution to the genome problem. Nice!

4. Hmm, I’m surprised they care about what I think.

5. Come again? I’m sorry the machine’s noise distracted me.

6. Yeah right! She been planning to go on that diet for the past two years.

7. Making a decision quickly has always been, um, difficult for me.

8. Wait! How many minutes do we have until they get here?

9. Oh no! I forgot that the meeting changed venues!

10. Really? I thought Mrs. Nillos would be a bit more opposed.

LillyPad english language software CTA

Cognitive Interjections List

Here’s a table listing cognitive interjections that are commonly used:

Cognitive Interjections List
uh oh
oh no
tut tut
oh dear
come again
yeah right
Cognitive Interjections Table

Advice for ESL Students & English Language Learners

You can consider three areas in the English language related to cognitive interjections: speaking, informal writing, and formal writing.

Cognitive interjections are very common in speaking. They’re normally reactions to spurts of strong feelings that people experience at the moment. Because of this, they are used without following a particular set of rules. In fact, they possess no grammatical value in speech.

In creative writing and other types of informal written communication (usually with the aim to express opinions, share personal experiences, develop characters, or elicit responses), cognitive interjections are used with proper punctuation, spelling, and frequency. Context is also an important element. Without sufficient background, interjections won’t make sense.

In formal or business communication, interjections are avoided for the most part. Even if a company has a laid-back culture and employees are generally friendly toward each other, interjections are most appropriately relegated to conversations at the office.

Additionally, it is important for learners to properly understand volitive interjections and emotive interjections.

lillypad english learning app banner

Common Errors Made by English Learners

Common ErrorsExplanation/Examples
Stray InterjectionsA common thing that many English learners forget is to use punctuation marks with interjections. Interjections must always have something that sets them apart from the rest of the sentences. For example:

Without punctuation:

– Math is well difficult for me.
Really I thought I turned it off.

With punctuation:

– Math is, well, difficult for me.
Really, I thought I turned it off.
Wrong IntensityInterjections are almost always spoken unexpectedly because they’re reactions to surges of emotions such as happiness, surprise, anger, relief, alarm, haste, annoyance, and so on. So the normal way of punctuating them with exclamation points is within reason.

However, different punctuation marks can be used to moderate an interjection’s intensity. A comma can decrease the strength of the emotion behind the interjection, and a period can neutralize it. A question mark can express ignorance, inquisitiveness, or skepticism. Dashes, ellipses, and parentheses can give the impression of a commentary, which can work effectively as a literary device for conflict or entertainment. So consider the degree of emotion that you want to emphasize in your writing and punctuate them accordingly. You wouldn’t want to keep using exclamation points when the intensity of the interjections doesn’t match them.
Unnecessary InterjectionsDialogues, when written well, will turn a story into a well-rounded and more appealing narrative. But while interjections are used to enrich the value of dialogues, it’s perhaps more crucial to make the characters sound realistic. Dialogues that are over-indulgent with interjections can feel obviously forced, exaggerated, or awkward. It’s actually a well-known practice that writers read their dialogues aloud to make sure their characters sound authentic. If you’re confused about whether to use interjections, remember that they’re fundamentally unnecessary, so you can remove them if you need to and without consequence.

Additionally, interjections also function as literary devices to differentiate characters by solidifying their distinctive personalities. For example, a character who says uh a lot may indicate a person with low self-esteem, and gradually erasing them from their way of talking can signify that they are gaining confidence. A regal character who always uses strong interjections speaks hesitantly with a character they have feelings for. Dialogues have the ability to display these emotions without stating them outright.
Cognitive Interjections Common Errors Table

Learning Strategies and Best Practices with Cognitive Interjections

Here are some key takeaways from this article about emotive interjections.

  1. Cognitive Interjections have no value in grammar. Yes, they can highlight specific emotions or strong opinions, but erasing all of them from your writing won’t noticeably affect the meaning of your sentences.
  2. Some interjections such as er, uh, and um can act as hesitation devices. In speaking, they can give you the time and room to formulate a more eloquent response. In writing, it can imply certain elements without talking about them directly: characters’ personalities, the surrounding tension, the mood of the moment, and so on.
  3. When people are in a hurry, they don’t feel especially keen on indulging in long answers. So they use words that are actual parts of speech as quick and short replies or commands. This is where secondary interjections come from because literally any word can be used as a secondary interjection. These most widely-used cognitive interjections are “what”, “no”, “again”, “really”, “wow,”etc.
  4. When writing creatively, make sure that whatever interjections you include in your dialogues are authentic to your characters. A young male protagonist, for example, may not use expressions such as “oh dear”, “good heavens”, “good grief,” and so on. In the same thread, a 60-year-old female character probably won’t use yo! to call someone’s attention.
lillypad language learning app big box

Cognitive Interjections Frequently Asked Questions

Interjections are short words used to express abrupt bursts of feelings, commands, requests, and so on. In speaking, they don’t follow specific rules and hold no grammatical value whatsoever. In informal writing, they are spelled and punctuated in certain ways, but even then these aren’t strictly enforced. In formal writing, they are commonly nonexistent.

Interjections can have the appearance of sentences because they can function on their own and they’re typically punctuated. But they’re not considered sentences because they don’t have the same elements that create a sentence such as verbs, subjects, and objects.

No, because their functions are dissimilar. Conjunctions (e.g. and, but, or, also, so, because) are treated like bridges that connect words, phrases, and clauses. If you took out conjunctions from sentences, the sentences will be run-on and become grammatically wrong. On the other hand, interjections aren’t important to sentences and may be removed without affecting the meaning. Let’s look at some examples:
Interjection: Stop! Think about the consequences of what you’re about to do!
Conjunction: I know this is hard to hear but we think your relationship is toxic.
If we took out “stop” from the first sentence, the sentence would maintain its original meaning. But if we removed “but” from the second sentence, the sentence will not make sense and will be considered grammatically incorrect.

Below are cognitive interjections (in bold) in sentences:

1. Yikes, did you see know this about Richard?
2. Whoa! I didn’t think that would hurt a lot!
3. Uh oh, I’m not sure if I locked the front door when we left.
4. Is there a reason that, uh, Maria is late again?
5. Goodness! The name is at the tip of my tongue but I can’t remember.
6. Did she also tell you that she needed money for a nose job? Oh, dear.
7. Ah! I can’t think about any of that right now.
8. Argh! I have been trying to solve this puzzle for weeks!
9. Can you show that to me again? Amazing!
10. If I had to pick a band, well, I’d go with them.

It should depend on how they are being used. If you used them to allude to a request (Nah, don’t do that.) or to describe their reaction to something (Yah, I’m shocked!), then they function as volitive and emotive interjections respectively. But if they are used to indicate an opinion or a thought process (Yah! I agree with the ruling.), then they are cognitive.

lillypad english learning app banner

Learn from History – Follow the Science – Listen to the Experts

For learners of all ages striving to improve their English, LillyPad combines the most scientifically studied and recommended path to achieving English fluency and proficiency with today’s most brilliant technologies!

What’s the one thing that makes LillyPad so special? Lilly! Lilly’s a personal English tutor, and has people talking all over the world! Lilly makes improving your English easy. With Lilly, you can read in four different ways, and you can read just about anything you love. And learning with Lilly, well that’s what you call liberating!

Additionally, the platform incorporates goal-setting capabilities, essential tracking & reporting, gamification, anywhere-anytime convenience, and significant cost savings compared to traditional tutoring methodologies.

At LillyPad, everything we do is focused on delivering a personalized journey that is meaningful and life-changing for our members. LillyPad isn’t just the next chapter in English learning…

…it’s a whole new story!

Do you want to improve your English? Visit

Follow us on Facebook or Instagram!

lillypad english learning app icon