Chinese learning tips Intermediate Vocabulary

A-ya! 20 Chinese interjections to absolutely know!

The more you listen to Chinese speakers, the more you start noticing the little sounds that pepper their discourse. It’s what we call Chinese exclamative particles or interjections 语气词 yǔ-qì-cí.

Hearing the many interjections Chinese speakers use at the end of sentence interjections is easy: they pepper the language so much, once you start hearing them, you hear them all the time! It’s useful to figure out how to use which in specific contexts. Most likely, no one taught you about those. So today we are going to show you some funny Chinese interjections.

The first thing we should figure out is that: why the Chinese like to pepper their language so much? Actually, you can not only hear them talking with interjections but also you can see them in written Chinese, online, in a text message, etc. This is a way to show their personalities. By using these interjections, you can show your attitude too. Especially when it comes to send a message, you can’t judge the tone people speaking to you because you can’t see their face, but using the interjections, you can easily tell that one is happy or angry. Kind of like sound emojis.

Showing that you are happy

哈哈 ha-ha is the way how Chinese people are laughing. Use it when something is funny, and you are laughing loudly. We say 哈哈大笑 hā-hā-dà-xiào as a Chinese idiom. And nowadays, people like to chat with each other at the end of each sentence to show that the speaker is in a good mood or to make the talking environment more relaxed.

For example:

Wǒ yì huí qù ní jiā ha.
I’ll go visiting you later.

Other interjections can also indicate that you are happy:

  • 嘻嘻 xī-xī a witty laugh always following an act of twinkle;
  • 嘿嘿 hēi-hēi, a sly grin;
  • 呵呵 he-he. Pay particular attention to this word 呵呵. 呵 is variant of 啊 a, to express yelling, laughing or surprising. But now, the sense various: with the overuse of the netizen chatting online, it gradually becomes a perfunctory, sarcasm word to show that you’re speechless.

Sometimes it even has an abusive meaning.

For example:

Hē hē nǐ zhēn yǒu yì si.
He-he, you’re so funny. (in fact what the speaker means “you’re so boring”)

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Showing that you are surprised

哎呀 āi yā is an interjection to indicate surprise or shock.
If one day you run into a friend that you haven’t met in a long time.

You can say:

āi yā zěn me shì nǐ.
A-ya, it’s you!

It can also be used merely for saluting people you are familiar with :

For example:

Āi, míng tiān zǎo diǎn r lái a!
Hey, come earlier tomorrow!

You can also use 哎呀 to show your pain. Like “ouch/ow-witch” in English.

You can also say 哎哟/哎唷 āi-yo when something hurts or is hard to do, so pick the one you like or use both!

chinese aya

Other words to show your surprise:

  • 哇 wa wow, holy cow;
  • 呀 ya,
  • 咦 yí gee, a rising tone to show your doubt or surprise with a question mark. You can always hear these in a  Taiwanese or Hongkongese drama.

Showing  negative emotions

  • 呸 pēi ill: To express something is disgusting or yucky, you can use 呸 pēi ill to say “bah!” or “pooh”.

    For example:

    呸! 胡说八道!
    Pēi! Húshuō bādào!
    Bah! That’s nonsense!

  • 唉 ài : to sigh or show that you are disappointed, you can use 唉ài

For example:

唉, 真可惜!
Āi, zhēn kěxí!
What a pity!

  • 哼 hèng with the falling tone is to show that you’re angry.

For example:

Hèng, wǒ bù xiǎng lǐ nǐ le.
Hein, I don’t want to talk to you anymore.

Interjections in an affirmative sentence

  • If you want to show you realize or understand something, you can use 哦 o and 噢 o mean “Oh, I see.”

For example:

Ò, wǒ dǒng le.
Oh! I see./ Oh! Now I understand.

  • 嗯 ēn is used when you give an affirmative answer like “OK” in English, it sounds like “huh/hum.”

    For example:
    他嗯了一声, 就走了。
     èn le yī shēng , jiù zǒu le 。
    He merely said,“H’m”, and went away.

  • You can also use 呃 ē to show that you are thinking about something, similar to “uh…” in English.

For example:

Ē, wǒ méi tīng dǒng
Eh, I don’t understand.


Questioning with interjections

Usually, the Chinese like to add interjections after the end of a sentence to signify a question tag. To show that you are asking something. There are:

呢 ne

For example:

Nǐ men zài shuō shén me one?
What are you talking about?

嘛 ma

zài fēn biàn le, yǒu cuò wù jiù chéng rèn ma !
Don‘t try to explain away the situationIf you have made mistakesjust admit them.

吗 and 啊a are also two other interjections you can use to ask questions.

In Chinese, you don’t want to be too direct or upfront, to avoid placing the other in an uncomfortable situation, where they might risk losing face. Using 吧 ba to give a suggestion or want to ask the permission is a good way to make your question softer. All these interjections are in a neutral tone.

For example:

Wǒ men zǒu lù qù ba?
Shall we walk there?

Nǐ men zài shuō shén me one?
What are you talking about?
Here’s a funny story to finish this

A funny story to end this journey into Chinese exclamative particles, or interjections.

Have you heard of the show 爸爸回来了(bà bà huí lái le /“Dad is coming)? It’s a super popular reality TV show about the daily life of famous Chinese stars, especially the relationships between fathers and their kids. In the second season of “Dad is coming,” there is a very cute boy, guess what his name is? 嗯哼 ēn-héng Uh-huh! Isn’t it a funny name, made only of interjections? His parents must have had their reasons to name their kid like that, and anyway, we bet it won’t stop you from thinking that he is adorable!

chinese cute

Learn all these expressions on Ninchanese, the gamified Chinese learning app.

The Nincha Team

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2 replies on “A-ya! 20 Chinese interjections to absolutely know!”

Thank you guys so much for sharing this article. It’s of so much help to my Chinese langusge learning.
Keep the good work up!

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