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Language Arts


The verb interject comes from the Latin intericere, from the root meaning “to throw.” It means “to insert between” or “to interpose.” So, interjections are words or groups of words inserted into a sentence, but not grammatically connected to the rest of the sentence. Keep reading to learn more.
When interjections are represented in writing, writers often signal them to the reader through punctuation. One type of punctuation - often dashes, parentheses, or ellipsis points (the three dots in a row that stand for silence) - is often used to set the interjection off from the rest of the sentence. Another way that punctuation signals the interjection often is that it has end punctuation as if it were a complete and separate sentence. In spoken language, an interjection is often signaled by a change in the tone of voice.

For more information about interjections, read on.

May I Interject Something at This Point?

Not only are interjections not grammatically connected to the rest of the sentence they appear in, but they do not have to be complete in themselves. In fact, they are often not, especially when - as often happens - they are prompted by something outside the context of the sentence they interrupt.

Here’s an example: Janet and Richard are discussing how many creampuffs to buy at the bakery for the surprise retirement party for their friend Louise. As they are speaking, Richard is standing on a stool in order to reach a covered glass tray to put them on, and in the course of doing this, he bangs his funnybone on the edge of the cupboard door. So his sentence goes like this:

“Yes, Janet, I think getting eight is a good plan and they’ll look really nice on this - ouch! - platter.”

Now, clearly “ouch!” is outside the meaning of the rest of the sentence. It was prompted by Richard banging his elbow and neither contributes to the meaning of the sentence, nor is connected to it in any way but the fact that he was saying the sentence at the moment he hit his elbow. Otherwise, he wouldn’t have said it.

Emotion Takes Over

Often, interjections, like “ouch!” express emotions or feelings. Surprise and pain are two frequent causes, but also possible are disgust, relief, fear, and other feelings. Here are some of the typical interjected words or sounds that accompany each:

  • Surprise: Aha! Ha! Huh! What?! Ah!
  • Pain: Ouch! Oh!
  • Disgust: Ugh! Ewww! Yuck! Blech!
  • Relief: (sigh)
  • Fear: Agggh! Yikes!
  • Delight: O boy! Hurray! Yahoo! Wow! Cool!
  • Concern: Bother!
  • Distress: Arrrgh! Oh no! Help!

Two Contexts Intermingle

Another type of occasion in which interjections often happen is when two simultaneous things are going on at once. An example of this would be conversation during travel when one of the participants is responsible for making route decisions and/or only one member of the party knows the directions to the destination. In this case, one can get sentences with interjections like these:

“So then I said to Aunt Mildred - Left here? - that I’d far prefer that she leave me her recipe for banana bread than that silver tea set.”

“What Aunt Mildred offered me - Turn right at the next stop sign - was her stamp collection, and that’s fine with me.”

These examples would be signaled by a change in the voice if they were spoken, but in writing, the dashes are used to set off the interjected material from the rest of the sentence.

Hesitation and Interjections

Hesitation in deciding what to say next or how to phrase something in the best way can also lead to interjections. Here are some examples:

“Um . . . . I really wasn’t expecting this.”

“Er . . . . are you sure you want to call the boss an idiot in an email?”

“Well . . . I’m not really sure I should have caffeine at this hour.…”

Since uncertainty is often accompanied by bits of silence, you can see that the written version of these sentences employs ellipsis points to show that and to set the interjection off from the rest of the sentence. Of course, these interjections (and others), could also appear in the middle of the sentence.