Small but Mighty

It’s sometimes said that less is more. That’s definitely the case with interjectionsshort words and phrases that are used to express strong feelings; for this reason David Crystal in his book Making Sense of Grammar calls them emotional noises. And I’d compare them to verbal emoticons.

Image by Alexas Fotos from Pixabay

Let’s have a look at some common interjections that you’ll often hear in conversation and see how they can be as expressive as sentences. And when it comes to situations where an immediate emotional response is required, they become indispensable.


as in Wow! Your hair looks gorgeous!

As an expression of surprise and/or admiration, wow has crossed many borders sometimes even pushing their equivalents in local languages out of use as in my native Russia where the good old ух ты! seems to have completely become a thing of the past.


This two-letter word has lots of uses:

it comes handy as an expression of, I’d say, mild surprise as in

Jenny and Rob have split up. – Oh, I didn’t realise that.

You can also use it to make a more profound emotional impact as in

Oh, no! My mobile’s been stolen!

The company Jack’s been working for has gone bust and he’s lost his job. – Oh, how awful!

We also use it to fill in short pauses and when answering questions to sound less abrupt.

Can you get some milk, bread… oh, and some eggs too?

Do you know that guy? – Oh, yes, we met at the local gym a couple of months ago.

Eh? /eɪ/

In the UK, when we need to ask someone for repetition, rather than say ‘Can you say that again, please?’ we make use of this linguistic shortcut.

I’m going to the shops. – Eh? – I said I’m going to the shops. – Ah, ok.


Expresses a strong feeling of disgust. Again, you could of course say something like ‘Oh, that’s so disgusting!’. However, ugh! ss a lot more expressive and succinct too!


is the noise English speakers make when they feel sudden pain.

Ouch, you’re hurting me!

Shh /ʃ/, hush /hʌʃ/ and shush /ʃʊʃ/

can be used interchangeably when you need to tell someone to be quiet.

Hush now, I need to work.


Use it when you need to get someone’s attention or to show surprise, interest, or annoyance.

Hey, Alan, can you send this letter off for me please?

Hey, that chair is mine!


is my personal favourite and I use it A LOT. A loan from Yiddish, it’s used when someone’s upset, shocked, disappointed, worried, etc. I often use it to tell my dog I disapprove of her scavenging.

Oi, you’re wearing your socks inside out again!

Tut/tʌt / or tut-tut

is the sound of disapproval.

You’re late again – tut tut!

And last but by no means least

Alas /əˈlæs/

Sadly, very underused today, alas is indispensable when you want to express sadness or feeling sorrybut don’t have much to say.

I’d love to come with you but, alas, I have to work.

Hope you’ve found this post useful. Till next time!

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