Secondary Interjections

What are Secondary Interjections?

Secondary interjections are words that are primarily part of speech (such as nouns, adjectives, and verbs) that are used to express various emotions: happiness, irritation, revulsion, tedium, pain, etc. Unlike primary interjections, they are actual words.

Here are some examples of secondary interjections in sentences:

  • Did she really say she hadn’t seen us at the club? Ridiculous!
  • Boy, was he in for a big surprise.
  • Amazing! I’ve never seen anything like it!
  • There were garbage bags everywhere (disgusting).
  • Well, if you’re not opposed to the suggestion, we can try it now.
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Secondary Interjections Rules

Secondary interjections are common in English speech. As they are used to convey strong emotions at the moment, their usage is often mechanical or automatic. They have no real grammatical value so the few rules about secondary interjections have to do more with spelling, how they highlight emotions, and when to use them in writing. Here are the general guidelines:

Formal vs Informal WritingDon’t use interjections in academic or business writing. They shouldn’t appear in school or corporate documents such as assessment reports, market research, student or employee profiles, etc.

In the corporate world, interjections can be allowed if the company culture is laidback or if internal relationships are generally sociable, but using interjections in formal writing is largely considered lazy and incompetent.

Interjections, however, are used liberally across different forms of creative writing.
Interjections within sentencesWhile interjections are commonly placed at the beginning or end of sentences, they can appear in the middle. This is normal in creative writing. In this case, however, they should be set off by commas, dashes, or parentheses. In addition, you should also determine the proper sentence breaks in which to put them. For example:

– Aldrich will be our featured artist – congratulations – for the second quarter of the year.
Goodness, you sent us email confirmations of our reservation.
– The timing couldn’t have been better. Bravo!
PunctuationsInterjections are usually uttered as reactions to intense feelings. To express them in writing, they are punctuated with exclamation points. But other punctuation marks can modify the intensity of emotion behind an interjection. For example:

– Comma (,): indicates a less intense reaction
– Period (.): indicates a neutral reaction.
– Question mark (?): indicates doubt or curiosity.
Table of Rules for Secondary Interjections
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Examples of Secondary Interjections

1. Right on! That’s the best way to say it.

2. We all knew you were going to win this. Congratulations!

3. Sorry, did you mean to press this button when the download ends?

4. Get out! I don’t have the energy to deal with your jokes today.

5. Let me get their attention. Sally! Gillian! Over here!

6. Hey! Don’t come in here with those muddy shoes!

7. Horrible! I can’t imagine what their family is going through.

8. This is not going to go well with the design department, oh boy.

9. Yeah, right. Give me some materials and I can do it half the time.

10. Boy, this is a very hard time for Sheena’s agents, isn’t it?

11. They couldn’t give us a discount for our 3 dozen orders? Ridiculous!

12. Come again? I didn’t quite get that. The signal here is awful.

13. Did you just ask me that, really?

14. Mickey, please don’t go in there. They haven’t – oh dear.

15. They said the surgery was a success and she’s resting, thank goodness!

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Secondary Interjections Exercises with Answers

Exercise on Secondary Interjections

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

thank god      oh no      sorry      congratulations      oh my god disgusting      well      boy      look out      ridiculous

1. _______________! I can’t believe they’re here!

2. Are you listening to yourself right now? _______________!

3. The food wasn’t good – _______________ – and the staff was uppity.

4. _______________! You deserve that promotion more than anyone.

5. They were able to purge the blight on the pipes? _______________.

6. _______________, can you speak up a little bit louder, please?

7. That pole is about to break. _______________!

8. _______________, just you wait. You’re in for a treat.

9. I’m not sure what we can do, _______________, maybe outsource it somehow?

10. _______________, I really thought you guys could work things out.


1. Oh my god! I can’t believe they’re here!

2. Are you listening to yourself right now? Ridiculous!

3. The food wasn’t good – disgusting – and the staff was uppity.

4. Congratulations! You deserve that promotion more than anyone.

5. They were able to purge the blight on the pipes? Thank god.

6. Sorry, can you speak up a little bit louder, please?

7. That pole is about to break. Look out!

8. Boy, just you wait. You’re in for a treat.

9. I’m not sure what we can do, well, maybe outsource it somehow?

10. Oh no, I really thought you guys could work things out.

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Secondary Interjections List

The following is a table of secondary interjections listed according to the feelings they express or their purpose. For brevity’s sake, each interjection is shown only once. Also, bear in mind that interjections can be used to indicate different emotions, some of which may not be on the list.

FeelingInterjectionSentence Example
admiration; complimentamazing, awesome, right on, congratulations, bravoSuch a display of heroism. Bravo!
ask something; request repetition or confirmationsorry, what, come againWhat? Can you say that again?
call attentionhey, over here, watch/look out, guysGuys, I have some news to share.
disgustdisgusting, horribleHere, try some. Horrible!
doubt; disbeliefreally, yeah right, get out, ridiculousYeah right, I’ll believe it when I see it.
emphasis; bring attention toboy, indeedMelissa acted unbothered but, boy, she was depressed the whole day.
pity, sadness, regretoh no, oh dear, oh boyOh boy, that must be rough.
reliefthank god, thank goodness, oh manOh man, I really thought I messed it up.
surprise, shock, panicgoodness, oh my god, holy moly, holy cowOh my god! There’s a snake in the yard!
take time to thinkwellWell, think about it and you can give me an answer tomorrow.
Secondary Interjections Table

Advice for ESL Students & English Language Learners

In speaking, interjections are very common and are often used automatically. They are separate from the words or sentences they highlight so there are no strict rules governing them. In informal writing, writers use interjections as tools to convey their opinions or to portray the characters of their stories.

The only concerns are whether to use them at all, if there’s a fair number of them in the text, and if the context surrounding them is fully established. Interjections won’t make sense if you haven’t sufficiently formed the reasoning behind them.

Remember that a lot of interjections can stand alone, despite technically not being sentences. Without the right description, they won’t land their point. In terms of formal writing, be it for school or the workplace, it’s most appropriate to avoid the use of interjections. The nature of a casual or friendly relationship with the professor or colleague you’re writing to or for has a better place in verbal interactions. When writing school assignments or corporate emails, it’s still best practice to keep away from interjections altogether.

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

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Common Errors Made by English Learners

Common ErrorsExplanation/Examples
Stray InterjectionsWhen you are writing, using the proper punctuation for interjections is significant to remember. Don’t place an interjection without anything to denote or distinguish it from the rest of the sentence. For example:

Without punctuation:

– If he can’t do it well we can find someone else.
– They used the color teal horrible and paired it up with lavender.

With punctuation:

– If he can’t do it, well, we can find someone else.
– They used the color teal – horrible – and paired it up with lavender.
Wrong IntensityDue to an interjection’s reactionary nature to sudden surges of feelings, it usually expresses a powerful degree of relief, happiness, surprise, anger, alarm, irritation, haste, etc. Sensibly, an exclamation mark is the only way to punctuate it.

However, other punctuation marks can also be used to adjust an interjection’s intensity. A comma can tone it down, and a period can neutralize it. A question mark can express curiosity or suspicion. Dashes, ellipses, and parentheses can mimic the appearance of a commentary or a side note, normally used for humorous purposes.

So, be aware of how strong the emotions are behind the interjections you write, and give them the proper punctuation.
Unnecessary InterjectionsDialogues make creative or fiction writing more robust and alive. But while interjections are used to enhance the literary value of conversations between characters, it’s essential to make them sound authentic at the same time.

Dialogues that are saturated heavily with interjections can sound clumsy, uncharacteristic, or forcefully choreographed. Writers tend to read their writing out loud to ensure that their characters’ interactions sound natural. You don’t need to use interjections at all, so remove them if you need to.

Furthermore, interjections can function as literary devices to distinguish your characters’ personalities. For example, using um a lot may depict a character who has low self-confidence, while a character who always uses strong interjections can show a hyperbolic personality.

Learning Strategies and Best Practices with Secondary Interjections

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

  1. Secondary Interjections are not part of any grammatical tapestry. They do contribute to highlighting fierce reactions, but eliminating them from your writing won’t affect the meaning of your sentences.
  2. Secondary interjections such as well or oh boy can indicate hesitant behavior. In speaking, they give you time to think or formulate the right statement. In writing, it can show characteristics, establish tension, create particular moods, and so on.
  3. The internet provides a huge platform for the evolution of languages, and these days short forms are prolific online and in telecommunications. Words like LOL, BRB, YOLO, and many others may not be so widespread in most forms of writing, but they are everywhere in text messages, social media posts, and chatrooms.
  4. When people are in a hurry to utter a response or don’t feel particularly keen on giving an explanation, they use actual parts of speech to reply quickly. The most popular examples of this are yes. no, hurry, now, great, fine, indeed, and well.
  5. In writing, make sure you use interjections that feel authentic to your characters. A young character, for example, may not use expressions such as “phony baloney”, “heavens me”, “holy moly,” and so on. In the same thread, an older protagonist may not use AFK to express that they’re away from their computers.
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Interjections Frequently Asked Questions

Interjections are words used to express abrupt reactions. They follow no particular rules and possess no significance grammatically. They appear a lot in speech, often without specific thought or intention. In writing, they are punctuated to show various levels of emotional intensity. Some parts of speech can be used as interjections, but some are mere sounds (with certain spelling rules when written) that are exclusively used as interjections and are meaningless without proper context.

Below are sentences that include interjections (in bold):

1. Awesome! The rain has stopped.
2. Well, we can’t leave them at home.
3. Come again? I can’t understand your accent.
4. Yeah right, he’s always full of excuses.
5. Hey! You forgot your wallet!
6. You’re pregnant? Congratulations!
7. Oh man, I did not sign up for this.
8. Goodness! I thought I saw a monster in the dark.
9. I’m never traveling cross-country by land again. Horrible!
10. Oh boy, I suggest you prepare yourself for the meeting.

They have entirely different functions, so no. Conjunctions like and, but, or, also, so, and because connect words, phrases, and clauses. They are important parts of sentences. Interjections, on the other hand, are essentially unnecessary. Let’s look at some examples:

Interjection:Oh my god! Something exploded in the mountain!
Conjunction: My dog likes to run and jump around.

If we remove “oh my god” from the first sentence, the meaning of the sentence will be unaffected. If we take out “and” from the second sentence, the sentence will be a run-on sentence, which is grammatically incorrect.

Not if you’re writing official documents for work such as contracts, meeting minutes, certificates, and so on. With emails and memos, it’s acceptable under a few circumstances such as your company maintaining a casual office environment or you having a friendly relationship with your business contacts. Nonetheless, we would still recommend relegating interjections to casual verbal interactions at the workplace and completely avoiding them in all writing that is business-related.

Yes. As a matter of fact, they’re examples of secondary interjections. Some other examples are short words such as right, well, indeed, now, and great.

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