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How to Use Interjections – Video Lesson

by Oli Redman on 30 December, 2016 , No comments

In this lesson, you can learn about how to use interjections in English. What are interjections? Let me explain.

What would you say if I told you my cat had died? How about if I told you I’d won the lottery? What would you say?

Perhaps you’d say something like Oh no! or Oh my god! These short phrases are called interjections and we often use them in English. In this lesson, we’ll look at how to use interjections to react to different situations. You’ll learn how to use them and how you can use them to sound more natural in English.

1. What is an Interjection?

So, what is an interjection?

Interjections are actually very easy; they’re words or phrases that expresses your emotions or feelings.

How to Use Interjections - interjections speech bubble

So, an interjection can stand by itself. For example:

  • Wow!

Or, they can be placed at the beginning of a sentence, like this:

  • Wow, that’s great!

They can go at the end, too, like this:

  • That’s great, wow!

In longer sentences, you can even put the interjection right in the middle:

  • That’s great, wow, you did so well on your exams!

We mostly use interjections in speech, not in written language. When you use an interjection, you should pause before and/or after the interjection.

Don’t say:

  • That’s great wow you did so well on your exams!

Say:

  • That’s great, wow, you did so well on your exams!

A lot of interjections are used to show strong emotions, whether positive or negative, for example, love, hate, surprise, boredom, anger and many more.

For this reason, your intonation when you use interjections is very important. You need to use intonation to express the emotion.

Listen to these sentences:

  • You passed your exam, great.
  • Oh no, what terrible news.

Just using the words like great or oh no isn’t enough. You need to put the right emotion into your voice, like this:

  • You passed your exam, great!
  • Oh no, what terrible news!

Not all interjections express strong emotions. Some, like excuse me or mmm-hmm, don’t express strong feelings and so don’t need very emotional intonation.

So, let’s see how you can use interjections when you’re speaking English.

2. How and Why to use Interjections

Interjections are more informal and are mostly used in conversations.

For example, imagine you’re having a conversation with your friend, and he’s telling you about an interesting night out that he had.

You need to show that you’re listening and that you follow what your friend is saying. You shouldn’t just sit there in silence while the other person speaks. This can make you seem unfriendly, or that you aren’t interested in what your friend is saying.

Typical conversations are more than just taking turns.

So, maybe it would go something like this:

  • Michael: I just had the most amazing night out!
  • Mia: Ooh, what happened?
  • Michael: Well, first we went into London.
  • Mia: Uh-huh.
  • Michael: We were eating at this expensive restaurant and having a good time.
  • Mia: Yeah.
  • Michael: And then we saw Leonardo Dicaprio!
  • Mia: Oh my god!
  • Michael: He was at the table right next to us and came over to say hi!
  • Mia: Wow, that’s amazing!

You can see how the use of interjections shows that you’re interested in what your friend is telling you, as well as encouraging the conversation to flow naturally.

There aren’t any uncomfortable gaps or silences, and everything sounds more fluid.

This is the most common way to use interjections: you use them to keep a conversation going and show the other person that you’re listening and following what they’re saying to you.

Imagine that you’re on the phone to your mum. You phone her every week and she’s just telling you about her day. She hasn’t had a very interesting day.

But, you still want to let her know that you’re paying attention and listening to her! If you’re silent, she might think you’ve fallen asleep or are bored.

So while she’s telling you about how she went to the supermarket, then what she ate for lunch, and so on, you can use these interjections:

  • Yeah
  • Mm-hmm
  • Go on
  • Right
  • Alright
  • Of course
  • Absolutely
  • Sure
  • Okay

For example, if she tells you:

  • I made this really nice salad for lunch.

You could say:

  • Oh, right?
  • Yeah?

Next, she starts telling you that you should think about getting married. You don’t want to have that conversation, but you have to say something. What can you do? Use interjections, of course!

Imagine that your mum says:

  • Don’t you think you’re old enough to settle down? You’re not getting any younger, you know!

You can say:

  • Oh, sure. Anyway, what are you doing tomorrow?
  • Of course, of course. We’ll talk about that another time.

So, you can use interjections to keep a conversation going, and also to avoid talking about something you don’t want to discuss!

You’ll see this point a lot in this lesson. Interjections are very flexible. Using them in different situations or with different intonation can have very different meanings.

Okay, but how else can you use interjections? Let’s look at some other words and phrases you can use in many different situations.

3. Positive Interjections

Firstly, let’s have a look at some examples of interjections you can use in positive situations. For example, if you hear some good news or a friend has something exciting to tell you, you might use an interjection to express happiness or other positive feelings.

Let’s look at some examples.

Imagine that your best friend tells you:

Of course, you could say:

  • Congratulations!

If you wanted to respond in a more informal way, you could say something like, great, fantastic, awesome, nice or that’s good.

You could also use an informal phrase, like:

  • Nice one!
  • Good for you!

If you hear something more unexpected and it’s a good kind of surprise, you could say something like wow or oh my god or no way.

Now, imagine the same situation. Your best friend says:

  • I got a promotion at work!

You’re happy for your friend, of course, but also surprised because your friend has only been working there for two weeks.

What interjections could you use to show that you’re surprised, but in a positive way?

You could say:

  • No way!
  • Oh my god!

Remember that intonation is very important here. If you’re happy, your voice generally goes up at the end, like this:

  • No way!

If your voice goes down, it sounds like you’re reacting to bad news:

  • No way…

A different situation: if your friend is showing you photos of her wedding dress, you might want to say something like:

  • That’s lovely, ahh.
  • Aww, what a beautiful dress.

Remember, you can only use ahh and aww for things that are nice or cute, for example, looking at baby photos or seeing your sister’s new kitten.

How to Use Interjections - kitten image

Okay, now you know how to react to good news and positive situations, but what if someone tells you some bad news? How can you use interjections to react? Let’s look.

4. Negative Interjections

Sometimes, you might hear that everything is not going well for a friend or a relative.

This could be something more serious, for example, losing a job, or you might just be listening to your friend complaining about a bad day.

Either way, using an interjection shows your friend that you’re listening to them and that you understand how they feel.

Imagine your best friend tells you:

You might say something like:

  • Oh no
  • Oh dear
  • Oh my god
  • Ugh
  • No

These are all typical interjections to use when you hear some bad news.

So, a conversation might go like this:

  • Friend: I’ve broken my leg.
  • Mia: Oh no! Are you okay?
  • Friend: I’m fine, it just hurts a lot.
  • Mia: Oh dear, do you need anything?

As you can see from this example, by using interjections, you keep the conversation going and express sympathy for your friend.

If you hear something that you’re shocked about, or maybe don’t quite believe, you could say really? or seriously?

For example, if your friend tells you:

  • I just lost my job.

You might say:

  • Really? What happened?
  • Seriously? I thought everything was going well.

Like many interjections, we can use these in different ways. You can use different intonation to express different things. For example, really and seriously could also be used to be sarcastic.

For example, if your brother tells you:

  • I did send you a birthday card, but it must have got lost in the mail.

You don’t believe your brother. You know he forgot your birthday and that he never sent you a card.

You could say:

  • Seriously?
  • Really?

You can see that these interjections are very flexible; you can use them to express many different things.

Hopefully by now you should have a good idea on what interjections are used for, as well as when to use them and some good examples of what to say in different situations.

Thanks for watching! I hope that you enjoyed the lesson!

Oli RedmanHow to Use Interjections – Video Lesson