Primary Interjections

What are Primary Interjections?

Primary interjections are sounds that are used to express a variety of feelings: annoyance, boredom, disgust, anger, pain, etc. They are exclusively used as interjections and have undeterminable origins. Unlike secondary interjections, they don’t have other meanings and can’t be used as different parts of speech. They may appear differently depending on how they’re spelled by the writer.

Here are some examples of primary interjections in sentences:

  • Shh, the grown-ups are talking.
  • Uh-oh, where did I leave my wallet?
  • Hmph! You always say that but you never do it!
  • Ho hum, when will this lecture end?
  • Grr, I’ve been trying to find the answer for hours!
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Primary Interjections Rules

In speaking, interjections are used to express surges of emotion. They often come out naturally as they are mostly abrupt articulations of strong feelings. As a whole, they have no value grammatically. The few rules surrounding primary interjections in the English language focus more on writing them. Here are the general guidelines:

Formal vs Informal WritingNever use interjections when writing academically or professionally. They have no place in research papers, business proposals, contracts, and so on.

Interjections may be acceptable if the company culture or internal employee relationships follow a casual atmosphere, but interjections in formal writing are generally considered sloppy or unprofessional.

However, interjections are rampant and perfectly fine in creative writing in all its different forms.
Interjections within sentencesInterjections are mostly found at the beginning or at the end of sentences. But it’s quite common to play around when writing creatively.

You can use interjections in the middle of sentences but put them inside commas or dash/dashes, or place them inside parentheses. You should also decide the right break in the sentence. For example:

– First of all – ew!– who wants to stay in a place like that?
– I could be setting myself up for failure but, eh, I can’t say I didn’t try.
– I was like, nah-uh, no way I’m falling for that scam.
PunctuationsBecause they normally are reactions to strong emotions, interjections are often punctuated with exclamation points. But punctuation can depend on the intensity of emotion behind their usage. For example:

– Comma (,): not an intense reaction
– Period (.): a less intense or neutral reaction.
– Question mark (?): indicates uncertainty or inquisitiveness
Table of Rules for Primary Interjections

Examples of Primary Interjections

1. Um, I think this color is better.

2. Should we, er, tell her the truth?

3. Eh? Did I hear him right?

4. Yah-huh, I was working there so I should know.

5. Careful with that – oops! – too late.

6. Aargh! Can’t you leave me alone for just a minute?

7. Phooey! That was too close for comfort.

8. Oops, I almost dropped the box.

9. All I can say is, uh-oh.

10. Oh, what a remarkable painting!

11. Aya! Something hit me!

12. Didn’t I tell you to keep kids away from this area? Ugh!

13. Grr! If I have to hear you say that one more time, I swear.

14. Nah, he’s not the type to say something that crazy.

15. Don’t you agree that this is a fine hotel? Hmm?

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Primary Interjections Exercises with Answers

Exercise on Primary Interjections

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

grr      ew      phew      whoa      ah uh      yahoo      nah-uh      oof      ugh

1. __________! I burned my finger!

2. Wait, __________, I’m still trying to remember.

3. __________! I can’t wait to go on this road trip.

4. __________! That was the best performance I’ve ever seen.

5. __________. I think they’re still in the middle of their review.

6. Let me get his attention. __________.

7. __________! That’s really an amazing view.

8. __________, I also think it’s a great idea.

9. __________! I can’t believe the Wi-Fi is down again!

10. __________! You scared the daylights out of me!


1. Yahoo! I finally got the materials that I wanted.

2. Oof! The crab pierced my finger!

3. I’m so mad right now I could cur someone. Grr!

4. Ah! Hurry up we don’t have much time!

5. I’m sure it’s, uh, here somewhere.

6. Phew! Good thing you’re here to save the day.

7. Is that blood? Ew!

8. Whoa! I had no idea you could see the city from up here.

9. Savannah’s here – ugh! – like the party isn’t torture enough.

10. Nuh-uh, that’s not what Hidalgo said to us last night.

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Primary Interjections List

The following is a table of primary interjections listed according to the feelings they express or their purpose. Take note that interjections can be used to express various emotions, some of which may not be on the list. For the sake of conciseness, we will only list each interjection once.

FeelingInterjectionSentence Example
annoyanceoy, hmph, jeeshOy! I told you to stay away!
ask something; request repetition or confirmationhuh, ehHuh? I thought Miss Price told us to do the opposite.
boredomho humHo hum! I’d have to pry myself awake at this point.
call attentionpsst, ahemAhem, stop staring at Jin like that.
disapprovaltsk tsk, tut tutTsk tsk, you city boys never listen.
disgustew, yuck, yuk, yikes, ick, blechYuck! Is that folk music?
frustrationaargh, grrAargh! They keep patching me to a new operator!
joyhurray, woo-hoo, yay, yippeeYippee! We’ll definitely have a blast!
painaya, ouch, ah, ow, aw, oofOof! You’re stronger than you look.
pity, sadness, regretaww, alas, oopsAlas, Raja cried.
pleasuremmm, yum, nomnomThis pizza is the best! Nomnom.
realizationahaAha! I had a feeling Damon hid it here.
reliefphew, phooey,Phoeey! I thought that was it.
surprise, shock, panicuh oh, oh, jeepers, whoaUh oh! I think the guard saw us.
take time to thinkuh, um, hmm, erHmm, let me see.
Primary Interjections Table

Advice for ESL Students & English Language Learners

In English grammar, interjections are independent of sentences so it’s difficult to get them wrong. The more exposed you are to English language media, the easier it will be to integrate them into your speech. It’s almost subconscious. The concern regarding interjections lies in writing. You should figure out if you’re using too many interjections and if you’ve built enough context for them to make sense. Remember that many interjections can stand alone. You need to establish details around them so your readers understand them exactly. Additionally, leave them out of any kind of formal writing, especially in a business setting. Even if your workplace has a casual environment, best to leave this aspect of sociability in the confines of workplace conversations and out of corporate writing.

Additionally, it is important for learners to properly understand secondary interjections and types of interjections.

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Common Errors Made by English Learners

Common ErrorsExplanation/Examples
Stray InterjectionsInterjections must be properly punctuated in writing. Don’t place an interjection willy-nilly, without anything to distinguish it from the rest of the sentence. For example:

Without punctuation:

 – Yippee we’re traveling in the summer!
– It was Andy’s job to ahem make sure nothing goes wrong.

With punctuation:

Yippee, we’re traveling in the summer!
– It was Andy’s job to – ahem – make sure nothing goes wrong.
Wrong IntensityAs previously mentioned, interjections typically express sudden outbursts that convey strong feelings of joy, relief, alarm, surprise, annoyance, frustration, haste, etc. This is the reason they’re often punctuated with exclamation points.

Nonetheless, other punctuation marks can be used to modify the intensity of your interjections. A comma can effectively reduce it, and a period can give it a neutral implication. A question mark can express uncertainty or unfamiliarity. Dashes, ellipses, and parentheses can make interjections appear like side remarks or commentary, often used for humorous reasons.

So, be mindful of the emotions behind the interjections you use in writing, and make sure your characters aren’t always screaming.
Unnecessary InterjectionsA common part of creative or fiction writing is dialogues. But while interjections are used to enliven or personalize a story’s characters, it’s also important to make them sound believable. Dialogues that are filled with too many interjections can sound forced and put off readers. This is why writers read their dialogues aloud; they make sure that their characters sound like normal people. Interjections aren’t fundamentally needed so delete them if you have to.

Moreover, interjections can work as a literary device to exhibit a character’s unique traits. You could show someone who gets easily surprised by using interjections. You could show if a person is stiff, lacks confidence, is an animated conversationalist, and so on.
Primary Interjections Common Errors Table

Learning Strategies and Best Practices with Primary Interjections

Here are some takeaways from this article that you should remember about primary interjections.

  1. Interjections possess no value grammatically. They do contribute to emotional affectation, but taking them out of your writing won’t alter what your sentences mean.
  2. Some interjections are used to express hesitation such as er, uh, and um. They can be used in speaking tests, for example, to buy you more thinking time, allowing you to formulate what you want to say next. In writing, they can establish tension in certain scenes, show a character’s uncertainty, and so on.
  3. Languages have been influenced by popular lingo that exists online. These days short forms are rife in the world wide web and in telecommunications. In Thailand, for example, they write 555 to express laughter because the Thai word for 5 sounds like “ha.” In English, words like LOL, BRB, AFK, mkay, nyt, and many others may not be as popular in other forms of writing, but they are abundant in text messages, messenger chats, and social media posts.
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Primary Interjections Frequently Asked Questions

Some parts of speech can be used as interjections, especially short words like yes, no, well, indeed, and great. These are called secondary interjections. Just think of “yah” or “yup” as the primary interjection version of the word “yes.” Similarly, think of “nah” or “nope” as the primary interjection version of the word “no.”

Interjections are short words used as abrupt responses or reactions to express a variety of emotions of purposes. They don’t adhere to specific rules and possess zero grammatical value. They are teeming in speech and are often uttered without deeper contemplation or objective. In writing, they are punctuated to suit the emotional intensity that the writer wants to express. Several parts of speech can function as interjections, but some sounds – which are pointless in isolation and without context – are exclusively used for this purpose.

Below are sentences that include primary interjections (in bold):

1. Um, we may have a minor problem with the shipment.
2. That motorbike almost hit us, jeepers!
3. Oy! How many times have I told you to stay off the grass!
4. Uh oh. It looks like someone’s gonna be in big trouble soon.
5. I know! You don’t have to keep telling me every five minutes – jeesh!
6. Grr! I’ve told you countless of times that I am not interested!
7. Oops, I didn’t mean to remind you about what he did.
8. Just the thought of us – ew – sharing a room together.
9. Phew, I made it. I thought I was going to be late for the intro.
10. Jason asked me – ahem! – if you already have a date for the school dance.

No. Their functions are completely different. Conjunctions (and, but, or, also, so, and because) are used to link words, phrases, and clauses together. They are necessary for the meaning of sentences. Interjections, as a whole, aren’t essential. Let’s look at some examples:

Interjection: Yikes! That’s too gamey for my taste.

Deirdre’s not here because it’s her day off.

If we take out “yikes” from the first sentence, the meaning of the sentence will remain unaffected. If we take out “because” from the second sentence, the sentence will make less sense and it will be grammatically incorrect.

If you’re writing a survey report, a performance review, or any other kind of official document, we would say absolutely not. With emails, it would be fine if your company has adopted a casual approach in the workplace, or if you’re friends with your colleagues. However, we still recommend relegating interjections in workplace conversations and doing without them in corporate text or letters.

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