What Is an Interjection? | Examples, Definition & Types

An interjection is a word or phrase used to express a feeling or to request or demand something. While interjections are a part of speech, they are not grammatically connected to other parts of a sentence.

Interjections are common in everyday speech and informal writing. While some interjections such as “well” and “indeed” are acceptable in formal conversation, it’s best to avoid interjections in formal or academic writing.

Examples: Interjections in a sentence
Wow! That bird is huge.

Uh-oh. I forgot to get gas.

We’re not lost. We just need to go, um, this way.

Psst, what’s the answer to number four?

How are interjections used in sentences?

Interjections add meaning to a sentence or context by expressing a feeling, making a demand, or emphasizing a thought.

Interjections can be either a single word or a phrase, and they can be used on their own or as part of a sentence.

Examples: Uses of interjections 
Phew!

Shoot, I’ve broken a nail.

Oh really? I didn’t know that.

As interjections are a grammatically independent part of speech, they can often be excluded from a sentence without impacting its meaning.

Examples: Sentences with and without interjections
  • Oh boy, I’m tired.
  • I’m tired.
  • Ouch! That hurts!
  • That hurts!

Primary interjections

A primary interjection is a word or sound that can only be used as an interjection. Primary interjections do not have alternative meanings and can’t function as another part of speech (i.e., noun, verb, or adjective).

Primary interjections are typically just sounds without a clear etymology. As such, while they sometimes have standard spellings, a single interjection may be written in different ways (e.g., “um-hum” or “mm-hmm”).

Examples: Primary interjections in a sentence
Ugh! That’s disgusting.

Um-hum. I think that could work.

We won the game. Yippee!

Secondary interjections

A secondary interjection is a word that is typically used as another part of speech (such as a noun, verb, or adjective) that can also be used as an interjection.

Examples: Secondary interjections in a sentence
Goodness! That was a close one.

Shoot! My flight has been canceled.

Awesome! Do that trick again.

Volitive interjections

A volitive interjection is used to give a command or make a request. For example, the volitive interjection “shh” or “shush” is used to command someone to be quiet.

Examples: Volitive interjections in a sentence
Shh! I can’t focus when you’re singing.

Psst. Pass me an eraser.

Ahem. Please pay attention.

Emotive interjections

An emotive interjection is used to express an emotion or to indicate a reaction to something. For example, the emotive interjection “ew” is used to express disgust.

Curse words, also called expletives, are commonly used (in informal contexts) as emotive interjections to express frustration or anger.

Examples: Emotive interjections in a sentence
Ew. I’m not eating that.

Yay! I’m so excited to see you.

Yum! This apple pie is delicious.

Cognitive interjections

A cognitive interjection is used to express a thought or indicate a thought process. For example, the cognitive interjection “um” can express confusion or indicate that the speaker is thinking.

Examples: Cognitive interjections in a sentence
Um, can you explain it once more?

Wow! I wasn’t expecting that.

Eureka! I’ve solved the puzzle.

Greetings and parting words

Greetings and parting words/phrases are interjections used to acknowledge or welcome someone or to express good wishes at the end of a conversation.

Examples: Greetings and parting words/phrases in a sentence
Hey!

Hello! It’s good to see you.

Bye!

See you soon! Drive safe.

Interjections and punctuation

How an interjection is punctuated depends on the context and the intensity of the emotion or thought being expressed.

Exclamation points are most commonly used along with interjections to emphasize the intensity of an emotion, thought, or demand.

When the emotion or thought being expressed is less extreme, an interjection can also be followed by a period. If an interjection is used to express uncertainty or to ask a question, it should be followed by a question mark.

Examples: Interjections and punctuation
Oh. I don’t know.

We’ve just won the lottery. Hurray!

Hmm?

When an interjection is used as part of a sentence, it should be set off from the rest of the sentence using commas.

Examples: Interjections within a sentence
Hmm, how are we going to do this?

It was an interesting lecture, indeed.

The project is, uh, going well.

Other interesting language articles

If you want to know more about nouns, pronouns, verbs, and other parts of speech, make sure to check out some of our other language articles with explanations and examples.

Frequently asked questions

What punctuation mark is most closely associated with interjections?

Interjections are often followed by exclamation points to emphasize the intensity of an emotion, thought, or demand (e.g., “Whoa!”).

An interjection can also be followed by a period or a comma when the emotion or thought being expressed is less intense (e.g., “Oh. I didn’t know that.”).

What are some examples of interjections?

An interjection can have different meanings depending on how it is used. Some common interjections, along with an explanation of how they are commonly used, are listed below.

Interjections Function
Yes, um-hum, indeed, sure Used to express agreement
Ew, yuck, ugh Used to express disgust
Alas, damn, darn, dang, blast, shoot Used to express dissatisfaction
Yay, woo-hoo, nice, yippee Used to express joy
Whoa, wow Used to express surprise
Hmm, er, um, well Used to express uncertainty

 

Sources in this article

We strongly encourage students to use sources in their work. You can cite our article (APA Style) or take a deep dive into the articles below.

This Scribbr article

Ryan, E. (2022, November 16). What Is an Interjection? | Examples, Definition & Types. Scribbr. Retrieved February 7, 2023, from https://www.scribbr.com/parts-of-speech/interjections/

Sources

Aarts, B. (2011). Oxford modern English grammar. Oxford University Press.

Butterfield, J. (Ed.). (2015). Fowler’s dictionary of modern English usage (4th ed.). Oxford University Press.

Garner, B. A. (2016). Garner’s modern English usage (4th ed.). Oxford University Press.

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Eoghan Ryan

Eoghan has a lot of experience with theses and dissertations at bachelor's, MA, and PhD level. He has taught university English courses, helping students to improve their research and writing.