Exclamations, or Less is more

I’m a strong advocate of the idea that less is more. It’s true for so many things in life including language. Never use two words where you can do with one – that’s an approach I wholeheartedly support. And nowhere else does it find its expression so fully as in exclamations!

An exclamation is a sound, word or short sentence that is charged with emotion. For this reason we use them whenever we need to communicate our feelings in a quick and expressive way.

Exclamations have to be short as emotions often catch us completely unawares and our first reaction is usually immediate and spontaneous.

Image from Pixabay

Let’s have a look at some of such expressions which Britons use a lot in their daily conversation.

Surprise, surprise!

You might have heard this one before as it’s found its way – both translated and untranslated – into Russian.

We use it in two ways:

1) with a great deal of irony or even sarcasm depending on the situation, to say that you expected something to happen or to be true (the actual meaning in this case is ‘unsurprisingly’)

As the number of covid cases surged, the government went back on its word and surprise, surprise reintroduced the restrictions.

2) when suddenly appearing in front of someone who wasn’t expecting to see you

Surprise, surprise! I’m back!


Blimey is a corruption of ‘(God) blind me!’ and is used to express surprise.

Blimey! What happened to your hair? Why is it all blue?


Crikey is another widely used word that expresses surprise or annoyance.

It’s thought to be a replacement for ‘Christ’ invented to avoid committing the sin of blasphemy by mentioning God’s name needlessly.

Crikey, this curry’s really spicy!


Ta-da is a great way to introduce something very special or impressive.

She walked into the room with an air of proud mystery on her face, searched her bag and – ta-da! – produced the keys to her newly-bought flat.


Whatever is another way of saying ‘I don’t care’ or ‘it doesn’t matter’.

What shall we have for lunch – soup or maybe sandwiches? – Whatever.

Bless (him/her etc.)!

This is an expression of affection and fondness.

My dog’s very friendly and sociable and absolutely adores kids. – Oh bless her!

You’re kidding or Are you kidding?

That’s what we say when we can’t believe what someone had told us.

I’ve quit my job today. – What??? Are you kidding?!

No way!

This expression can be used either

1) to say that you will not do or allow something

Can you lend me £1,000? – No way!


2) to mean ‘it’s impossible’, ‘I can’t believe it’

How old is Jane, do you think? – I don’t know. 35? – 55! – No way!

Practise using these exclamations in your conversation to sound more native-like and pay attention to how native speakers utilise them and other expressions of this kind.

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