(Uffa! Oh! Ohimè!) How to Use Interjections in Italian

Learn how to use sounds like “boh,” “beh,” and “oh”

Man shrugging and saying
Man shrugging and saying "boh" in Italian. Caiaimage/Chris Ryan

When you walk down the streets of Rome, especially in a less-touristy neighborhood, you’re definitely going to hear things like “Oh!,” “Ahi!,” and “Mah, dai!” from snippets of conversations.

These are called interjections, and they’re invariable words used to express a sudden emotion such as joy, pain, anger, surprise, fear, danger, disappointment, anger, impatience, encouragement, or contempt.

Since interjections can condense impulsive sentiments in a brief expression, they are used in the spoken language particularly, where their meanings are highly variable depending on the modulation of the voice and the context in which they are spoken.

In the written language, interjections are frequently found in theatrical texts, which, more than others, try to imitate the modulation of speech. Interjections also have a range of intonations, which can only be partly rendered in writing.

To reproduce the emphatic tone characteristic of interjections, it is necessary to use the (punto esclamativo):

Oh!, Ahi!, Ohimè!, Puah!

Frequently the exclamation point is placed at the end of the phrase that follows; in this case there is a comma after the interjection:

Diamine, state esagerando! - Good heavens, you’re all exaggerating!

If the tone of the sentence is a mix of surprise and doubt, the exclamation point can be combined with a question mark (punto interrogativo): Come?! - How?!

Interiezioni proprie - Proper interjections

Interiezioni proprie (proper interjections) are words like

  • Oh! - This word can best be defined as saying “hey!” in a conversation when you’re saying something like, “A: Ahò ma ti ho detto di venire qui alle tre! – Hey, I told you to come here at 3pm! B: Che ci posso fare se il treno era in ritardo!! – What could I about the train being late!!”

    FUN FACT: “Ahò” is Roman dialect for “Oh!”

    • Ahi! - Ouch!
    • Beh! - This word can mean “well” and “uh” or “um.”
    • Mah! - This word is a word that expresses confusion or disagreement, like “Mah! Non penso che lui verrà. - Yeah right/Who knows! I don’t think he’s going to come.”
    • Boh! - This word has a few layers of meaning, and it can express uncertainty or doubt, express confusion, as well as a way to avoid continuing a conversation.
    • Ohimè! - Dear me!
    • Sssh! - Shhh!
    • Uffa! - This word can mean “ugh,” to express disdain for having to do something. It can also mean “darn.”

    Here’s a table of Italian interjections, and if you want to learn more about how these interjections are used, click here.

    FUN FACT: The interjections above are characterized, in writing, by the presence of the letter , which serves a double function. It is used to avoid confusion with other words (for example, oh, without the letter h, could be confused with the conjunction o, and ahi could be confused with the prepositional article ai).

    Improper Interjections

    Improper interjections are words like:

    • Basta! - Enough! Stop!
    • Bravo! - Well done!
    • Che peccato! - What a shame!
    • Evviva! - Hurrah!
    • Magari! - I wish. (Learn more about how to use this word by clicking here.)
    • Mamma mia! - Dear me!
    • Salute! - Cheers!
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    Filippo, Michael San. "(Uffa! Oh! Ohimè!) How to Use Interjections in Italian." ThoughtCo, Nov. 23, 2016, thoughtco.com/italian-interjections-2011331. Filippo, Michael San. (2016, November 23). (Uffa! Oh! Ohimè!) How to Use Interjections in Italian. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/italian-interjections-2011331 Filippo, Michael San. "(Uffa! Oh! Ohimè!) How to Use Interjections in Italian." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/italian-interjections-2011331 (accessed September 20, 2017).