Emotive Interjections

What are Emotive Interjections?

Emotive interjections are interjections that express sudden and intense feelings. It’s one of the types of interjections classified according to function and not structure. Some primary and secondary interjections are emotive.

Here are some examples of emotive interjections in sentences:

  • Wow, that is the craziest thing I ever heard.
  • You made this for me? Oh man, this is… thank you!
  • How was she able to book the tickets? Yay!
  • Psst! Do you have an extra dollar to spare, by any chance?
  • Do you feel that? Goodness! It’s an earthquake!
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Emotive Interjections Rules

Emotive interjections are common in speech, and because they communicate responses to potent emotions, their usage is often instantaneous or done out of reflex. Moreover, they hold no grammatical value and are used freely in speaking. Whatever rules they have in spelling, punctuation, and purpose are confined to writing. Here are the general guidelines:

Formal vs Informal WritingInterjections are considered unsuitable in academic and professional documents such as contracts, assessment reports, research papers, theoretical essays, etc.

They may be tolerable in certain forms of correspondence such as emails between business associates and customer care letters. This also depends on the culture of the company and whether employees are generally friendly toward each other. Nonetheless, the usage of interjections is generally discouraged in business writing.

On the other hand, interjections are often used in different types of informal or creative writing such as blogs, marketing copy, and editorials.
Interjections within sentencesInterjections often occur at the start or end of sentences, but they may also be situated in the middle. In this case, punctuation such as commas, dashes, or parentheses should surround them. Sentence breaks, or the points in the sentence in which to insert an interjection, should be in their proper places as well. For instance:

– There’s a lot of rotten undergrowth (ew!) in the backyard.
– We’re staying at this amazing manor on the mountainside – wow! – for an entire week!
– This isn’t your fault, hey, are you listening to me?
PunctuationsIt makes sense for interjections to be punctuated with exclamation points because they frequently state how someone responds to strong feelings. But other punctuation marks can change the intensity behind an interjection’s emotion. For example:

– Comma (,): shows a less intense reaction
– Period (.): shows a neutral reaction.
– Question mark (?): shows disbelief, unawareness, or inquisitiveness.
Table of Rules for Emotive Interjections
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Examples of Emotive Interjections

1. Phew! I thought he wasn’t able to receive it in time.

2. Lana said yes when he asked her? Really?

3. Jeepers! How can they get here at 8 if they haven’t left yet?

4. Did Jason use my acrylic paint again – aargh! – I’ve told him not to do that!

5. Oops, I think I may have bought the wrong brand.

6. Sheila did this herself? How old is she again? Amazing!

7. May I have another slice? Mmm, this is awesome!

8. Uh, I don’t want to be in the middle of this.

9. Aya! The sheep bit me on my bum.

10. They hit an animal on the drive-over. Yikes!

11. This is the fifth paper I have to write this week. Ugh!

12. I’m not sure what you’re saying – oh – is that what that was?

13. I think we saw each other on Tuesday… er… Wednesday morning.

14. No! I can’t believe you knew about it all this time.

15. You had a party at the house while your parents were away? Uh-oh.

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Emotive Interjections Exercises with Answers

Exercise on Emotive Interjections

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

tsk tsk      aargh      hmph      oy      ho hum      ah      oops      wow      ew      aha

1. ____________! If I have to tell you to clean your room one more time, I swear.

2. ____________! You scared the daylights out of me.

3. She did say the property was over 500 acres. ____________!

4. ____________! Call them back in, I think I have the answer.

5. You told me the same thing last week, but you never do it – ____________!

6. ____________! I’ve been spending a week making art for a project she canceled today.

7. As much as I love listening to this – ____________ – I am bored out of my wits.

8. ____________, look at the damage to this. We would have to retile it.

9. ____________! The dog is running away with roadkill in its mouth.

10. I didn’t know I was supposed to use different software. ____________.


1. Oy! If I have to tell you to clean your room one more time, I swear.

2. Ah! You scared the daylights out of me.

3. She did say the property was over 500 acres. Wow!

4. Aha! Call them back in, I think I have the answer.

5. You told me the same thing last week, but you never do it – hmph!

6. Aargh! I’ve been spending a week making art for a project she canceled today.

7. As much as I love listening to this – ho hum – I am bored out of my wits.

8. Tsk tsk, look at the damage to this. We would have to retile it.

9. Ew! The dog is running away with roadkill in its mouth.

10. I didn’t know I was supposed to use different software. Oops.

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Emotive Interjections List

The following is a table of emotive interjections listed according to the feelings they express or their purpose. We will use each interjection only once. Bear in mind that interjections can be used to react to multiple emotions, some of which may not be on the list.

FeelingInterjectionSentence Example
admirationwow, amazing, oh myWow, this is such an achievement!
annoyanceoy, hey, hmphOy! That’s the fifth time the Wi-Fi cut off this week!
boredomho hum, sighWhen can we get out of here? Sigh!
disapprovaltsk tsk, tut tutTsk tsk, it’s crazy how the police can act that way.
disgustew, yuck, yuk, yikes, ick, blechLet me try it – blech! – did you cook this with your foot?
doubtreally, er, yeah right, um, uh, hmmI think I’ll have time to do it on, uh, Sunday.
frustrationaargh, grrGrr! How many times are you going to ask me that?
joyhurray, woo-hoo, yay, yippeeWoo-hoo! Mom got me a puppy!
painaya, ouch, ah, ow, awIs this still – ah! –definitely, still hot.
pity, sadness, regretoh no, oh dear, alas, uh oh, oopsOh no, that must’ve been tough.
pleasure or finding something deliciousmmm, nice, nomnom, yummy, yumYummy! I don’t really like cheesecake but this rocks!
realizationaha, eureka, wellAha! I had a feeling Chloe was aware of the ruse.
reliefphew, phooey,I thought the flood would reach the second floor. Phooey!
surprise, shock, panicoh, jeepers, whoa, holy moly, holy cow, oh man, good griefHoly moly! Who let him out of the house wearing that!
Emotive Interjetions Table

Advice for ESL Students & English Language Learners

Emotive interjections are often used in speech. Typically, they are reactions to bursts of emotion that a person experiences within the moment. For this reason, they are used freely in speaking, almost independent of grammatical rules. Meanwhile, emotive interjections are utilized in creative writing and other types of informal written communication with the goal of expressing opinions, sharing personal experiences, or developing the characters of a story. In these instances, they should be placed with appropriate punctuation, context, and frequency. Interjections aren’t actual sentences, but they can stand by themselves. However, without adequate details, they won’t land their point. In formal written communication, it is generally advised to avoid the use of interjections altogether. Even if the company culture is laid-back and colleagues have a friendly relationship, interjections are best relegated to casual office interactions.

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

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Common Errors Made by English Learners

Common ErrorsExplanation/Examples
Stray InterjectionsMany English learners forget to use punctuation marks with interjections. Interjections should always have something that distinguishes them from the rest of the sentences they’re connected to. For example:

Without punctuation:

– Tom-yum soup is so good and yummy that I can’t believe I haven’t tried it until now.
– That was stressful phew now I’m relieved.

With punctuation:

– Tom-yum soup is so good (yummy!) I can’t believe I haven’t tried it until now.
– That was stressful – phew – now I’m relieved.
Wrong IntensityInterjections are often uttered unexpectedly because they are spontaneous reactions to sudden feelings such as glee, shock, anger, relief, surprise, haste, irritation, and so on. The usual way of punctuating them with exclamation points is reasonable.

Nonetheless, different punctuation marks can be used to moderate an interjection’s intensity. A comma can lessen the strength of the emotion behind the interjection, and a period can defuse it. A question mark can express unfamiliarity, inquisitiveness, or doubt. Dashes, ellipses, and parentheses can give the impression of a commentary or a side remark and can work well as a literary device for conflict or entertainment.

Consider the degree of emotion that you want to emphasize in your writing and use the proper punctuation to make the most of interjections.
Unnecessary InterjectionsDialogues, when written well, will make creative writing more appealing and powerful. But while interjections are used to enrich the value of interaction between characters, it’s perhaps more important to make them sound genuine. Dialogues that are jam-packed with interjections can feel overly choreographed, exaggerated, or unnatural. In fact, it’s a well-known habit for writers to read their writing aloud to make sure their dialogues don’t sound awkward. When debating whether to use interjections, remember that they’re not essential, so you can freely remove them if you need to.

In addition, interjections are tools used by creative writers to differentiate their characters and solidify their distinctive personalities. For example, a character who says uh a lot may indicate a person with low self-esteem, while a character who uses intense interjections can display the opposite.
Emotive Interjections Common Errors Table

Learning Strategies and Best Practices with Emotive Interjections

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

  1. Emotive Interjections possess no grammatical value. They can highlight potent emotions or intense opinions, but removing all of them from your writing won’t considerably affect the meaning of your sentences.
  2. Some interjections such as er, uh, and um can act as hesitation devices. In speaking, they provide you with time and room to think of or formulate the correct sentence. In writing, it can show characters’ personalities, establish tension, create moods, and so on.
  3. When people are in a hurry, they don’t feel specifically compelled to give answers longer than single words. They use short words that are actual parts of speech. These words are also considered interjections – secondary interjections, to be exact – and the most widely-used emotive interjections are “dear”, “goodness”, “amazing”, “really”, “wow,”and so on.
  4. When writing creatively, make sure that whatever interjections you include in your dialogues are true to your characters. A young male character, for example, may not use expressions such as “dear heavens”, “uppsy daisy”, “good grief,” and so on. In the same thread, a 60-year-old female protagonist probably won’t use LOL in a text message to respond to a joke.
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Emotive Interjections Frequently Asked Questions

Interjections are short words used to express outbursts of feelings, commands, requests, and so on. They don’t follow specific rules and have no grammatical value in speech. In informal writing, they are spelled and punctuated in certain ways. In formal writing, they are commonly avoided.

Below are emotive interjections (in bold) in sentences:

1. Ouch! That hurt a lot!
2. Uh oh, I hit the potted plant with the bat.
3. Is there, uh, anything that you want to tell me?
4. Goodness! I wasn’t expecting you to show up.
5. She lost the key card at the bar? Oh dear.
6. There’s someone in the woods staring at us. Ah!
7. Argh! I have been trying to fix this for days!
8. Can you show that to me again? Amazing!
9. If I had to choose, well, I’d go with this color.
10. Yikes, did you see the tiles in they used for the bathroom?

Interjections may look like sentences because they can stand alone and are punctuated. But they don’t have the same aspects of sentences such as verbs, subjects, and objects.

No, because their functions are totally different. Conjunctions (e.g. and, but, or, also, so, because) are used like bridges, connecting words, phrases, and clauses. If you removed conjunctions from sentences, the sentences will be grammatically incorrect. Meanwhile, interjections aren’t essential to sentences and may be removed without affecting the sentences. Let’s look at some examples:

Interjection:Enough! You’ve been whining ever since we arrived.
Conjunction: It’s not what you want to hear but it’s the truth.

If we took out “enough” from the first sentence, the sentence would retain its original meaning. But if we removed “but” from the second sentence, the sentence will be a run-on sentence, and therefore, incorrect.

It depends on the context. If you used them to allude to a command (Nah, don’t do that.) or to get a reaction from someone, they will function as volitive interjections, but if they are used as reactions of joy or disbelief (Yah! I’m so happy right now.), then they are emotive.

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