Part of Speech

Japanese Interjection and Emotional Expressions

12

Last time, you learned how particles work to indicate supplementary subordinate clauses, e.g. “先生はiPadを片手に授業をしている (The teacher is holding the class with an iPad in his hand).” Then, if you’d like to add a nuance of surprise like “Wow, the teacher is holding the class with an iPad in his hand!” what should you say? In this lesson, you will learn how Japanese interjection works with other emotional expressions.

The Usages of Japanese Interjection and Other Emotional Expressions

Table of Contents
Major Interjections
Other Emotional Expressions

Interjection (sometimes called “exclamation”) is a word used to show a short expression of emotion such as “wow” and “Oh.” They generally sound casual and are used in conversation. Some of them are related to slang like f-words and are not recommended you use it in public. Thus, the main purpose here is to become able to recognize interjections when native speakers use them with you.

Major Interjections

Surprise

ああ: Ah!
おお: Oh!
わあ: Wow!
うそ: No way!
マジで: Seriously? (very casual)
すごい: Great!
本当ほんとう: Really?
げっ: Yuck, ack, gross!
きゃあ: *Feminine shriek
あら: Oh dear! (feminine)
おっと: Oops
がーん: *Sound effect for shock like “I’m shocked”

Words When You Call Someone

なあ: Hey (masculine)
ねえ: Hey (feminine)
あの(う): Excuse me
こら: Hey! (with a nuance of warning)
おい: Oi! (with a nuance of warning)

Discourse Markers

じゃあ / では: Well
さて: Now
さあ: Well, come on

Doubts

はて: well, let me see (when you wonder something)
あれ, えっ, おや?: What?

Responses

うん / はい: Uh-huh
ええ: Uh-huh
そっか / そうですか: I see
なるほど: I got it, indeed
へえ: Oh (with a nuance of surprise)

Fillers (*No Particular Meaning Like “Let’s See”)

あー
んー
えー
うーん
ええと
えっと

Curse

ちくしょう: Damn it!
くそ: Shit!
くそろう: Son of a bitch!
死ね: Drop dead!

Examples

Interjection is an independent word and can be used alone without any other elements such as particles and verbs. English translations don’t work well here. Thus, please focus on the category that we have placed above, e.g. surprise and responses, and try to figure out the meaning in context for each of the sentences below.

おっとみちちがえるところ(だった / でした)。
Oops. [I] was about to choose a wrong way.
ねえ明日あしたいて(いる / いますか)?
Hey, will [you] be available tomorrow?
じゃあ / では)、もう(かえろう / かえりましょう)か?
Well, shall [we] go to home now?
あれさいが(ない / ありません)!
What? (I have realized) [I] have lost [my] wallet!
なるほど!だからほん韓国かんこくているんだ。
I got it! That’s why Japanese and Korean are similar.
あー明日あしたへんをしてもいい(ですか)?
Ah… Can [I] reply [to it] tomorrow?
ちくしょう二度にどるな!
Damn it! Don’t come [here] ever again!

Other Emotional Expressions

なんと / なんて: How Adjective It Is

このチョコは なんて 美味おいしいんだ
Topic / Subject Adverb Predicate
How delicious this chocolate is.

This sentence pattern is the counterpart to “how adjective it is” in English. なんと is a formal word and preferred in writing while なんて is a casual word and preferred in conversation. They can also modify nouns like “what a delicious chocolate is.” One important point here is that if the last word is not a noun, sentences have to end with the explanatory のだ. Even with nouns, sentences often end with the explanatory のだ.

井上いのうえさんはなんてじんだ。
What a beautiful woman Inoue-san is.
なかさんはなんてあたまのいいひとなんだ。
What a smart person Tanaka-san is.
なんてはやはしるんだ。
How fast [you] run.
ねこなんて可愛かわいいんだ。
How cute cats are.

The end of sentences sometimes are replaced with のだろう, ことだろう, and ことか. The の is the explanatory のだ and the こと is the nominalizer. Therefore, you have to follow the conjugation rules respectively. The meanings are almost the same, but they sound more formal.

井上いのうえさんはなんとじんなんだろう
なかさんはなんとあたまいいひとであることだろう
なんとはやはしことか

In practice, this expression is used with a lot of omissions.

なんてじんだ。
What a beautiful woman.
なんてあたまのいいひとなんだ。
What a smart person.
なんてはやはしるんだ。
How fast [you] run.
なんて可愛かわいいんだ。
How cute.

なんて can appear at the end of sentences and indicate your strong surprise. For the sake of understanding, you may treat なんて is a nominalizer and works like the topic particle は. Predicates are often omitted, but it should be something like “信じられない: unbelievable.”

むらさんがあしはやなんて[しんじられない]。
The fact that Nomura-san runs is unbelievable.
ねこがこんなに可愛かわいなんて[しんじられない]。
The fact that cats are cute like this is unbelievable.

ものだ and ことだ: Expressing Deep Concern

[わたしたちのどもも] おおきくなった(もんだ / ものだ)
[Subject + Inclusion] I-adjective + なる + ものだ
[Our kid] got big.
*Said when you see your rapidly growing kid.

With the above example, your feeling is ambiguous between happy and sad like “you are happy because you can see the growth of your kid, but you are missing her cuteness as a baby.” The combination between predicates and ものだ or ことだ determines the nuances. When you connect words which indicate change of things or people with ものだ, your speech indicates inexpressible deep emotion. In general, the emotion is not expressively told. You need to guess it. Note: the conjugation is the same as the nominalizer こと.

便べんなかになった(もんだ / ものだ)。
The world has changed to the useful one.
*You appreciate the new technology, but feel nostalgia for the tradition.
身体からだ調ちょうわるい。としをとった(もんだ / ものだ)。
[I] am under the weather. [I] have gotten old.
*You’re missing your youngness, but satisfied with your life.

When you connect words which indicate unusual events with ものだ, your speech indicates strong surprise which can be both praise and irony. This function almost always appears with the adverb: よく.

かんがよくそんなじょうける(もんだ / ものだ)。
(Praise) How are you able to write kanji like that?
よくそんな点数てんすうれた(もんだ / ものだ)。
(Irony) How were you able to get such a (bad) grade?

When you connect words which indicate desire like …たい and 欲しい with ものだ, your speech indicates hope with some concern.

こういうふくいちてみたい(もんだ / ものだ)。
[I] want to try to wear clothing like this once [in my life].
*You long for wearing it, but are resigned to wear it at the same time.
つぎ大統領だいとうりょう優秀ゆうしゅうひとになってもらいたい(もんだ / ものだ)。
As for the next president, [I] would like a prominent person to be elected.
*The current one isn’t good, so you’re expecting the next one with frustration.

When you connect adjectives of emotions with ことだ, your speech indicates feelings toward events with some concern. ことだ is interchangeable with ものだ in this context.

どもがみんな結婚けっこんした。しあわせなことだ
All [our] children got married. [We] are happy.
*You feel happy while looking back on the time when your children were young.
これまでびょうになったことがない。ありがたいことだ
[I] have never got sick. [I] appreciate [it].
*You appreciate it and hope to repay someone/thing for the fortune.

When there are two sentences, you can make compound sentences by using ものだ and ことだ. Be careful; they will become …もの and …こと. The last hiragana is different.

としをとった(もん / もの)調ちょうわるい。
しあわせなことどもがみんな結婚けっこんした。

Summary

  1. Interjection generally sounds casual and is used in conversation.
  2. Interjection is an independent word and can be used alone.
  3. なんて / なんと is the counterpart to “how adjective it is” in English.
  4. ものだ and ことだ express deep concern by connecting with predicates.

As for interjection, we recommend you imitate how native speakers use it. Interjection is one of the words that are evolving rapidly as people create coinage and slang. Thus, the grammatical rule is simple, but the proper use can be difficult. On the other hand, you may have found the grammatical rule of ものだ and ことだ to be difficult. In fact, they have several other functions, too. Next, you will learn more about もの and こと.

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