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!
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 Writing||Never 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 sentences||Interjections 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.
|Punctuations||Because 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
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?
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.
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.
|annoyance||oy, hmph, jeesh||Oy! I told you to stay away!|
|ask something; request repetition or confirmation||huh, eh||Huh? I thought Miss Price told us to do the opposite.|
|boredom||ho hum||Ho hum! I’d have to pry myself awake at this point.|
|call attention||psst, ahem||Ahem, stop staring at Jin like that.|
|disapproval||tsk tsk, tut tut||Tsk tsk, you city boys never listen.|
|disgust||ew, yuck, yuk, yikes, ick, blech||Yuck! Is that folk music?|
|frustration||aargh, grr||Aargh! They keep patching me to a new operator!|
|joy||hurray, woo-hoo, yay, yippee||Yippee! We’ll definitely have a blast!|
|pain||aya, ouch, ah, ow, aw, oof||Oof! You’re stronger than you look.|
|pity, sadness, regret||aww, alas, oops||Alas, Raja cried.|
|pleasure||mmm, yum, nomnom||This pizza is the best! Nomnom.|
|realization||aha||Aha! I had a feeling Damon hid it here.|
|relief||phew, phooey,||Phoeey! I thought that was it.|
|surprise, shock, panic||uh oh, oh, jeepers, whoa||Uh oh! I think the guard saw us.|
|take time to think||uh, um, hmm, er||Hmm, let me see.|
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.
Common Errors Made by English Learners
|Stray Interjections||Interjections 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:|
– Yippee we’re traveling in the summer!
– It was Andy’s job to ahem make sure nothing goes wrong.
– Yippee, we’re traveling in the summer!
– It was Andy’s job to – ahem – make sure nothing goes wrong.
|Wrong Intensity||As 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 Interjections||A 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.
Learning Strategies and Best Practices with Primary Interjections
Here are some takeaways from this article that you should remember about primary interjections.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
Primary Interjections Frequently Asked Questions
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