Sometimes it’s good to step back and admire the extraordinary versatility of the phrase “oh my God.” It’s one of those few versatile exclamations can be used to express pain, shock, pleasure, or really any emotion at all. If you use this phrase regularly, you probably don’t even think about it beforehand; it just comes out. Unfortunately, “oh my God” is also a dead giveaway that you’re an English speaker (and probably an American, at that).
If you want to avoid that, you should try out some exclamations in other languages — though technically, they’re called interjections. It may seem like a small thing, but learning how to use filler words, exclamations and interjections accurately is a great way to feel more like a native speaker of the language you’re learning. We collected a (far-from-comprehensive) assortment of “oh my God”s, “darn”s, “wow”s and other exclamations in other languages. And if all else fails, just try to copy what you’re hearing other people say in the language! (As long as you’re certain it’s not inappropriate.)
Exclamations In German
- Mist — this word just means “crap” and is a commonly used term, usually to show annoyance.
- Scheiße — a stronger version of Mist, this word just means “shit.”
- ach — this is more of a sound than a specific word, but it is definitely exclaimed like “oh!” or “ah!” It can also be paired with other words, like ach, Mann for “oh man” or “ach, nee,” which means something like “really?”
- oh mein Gott — literally “oh my God,” it’s used similarly to the American version but is less prevalent in Germany than “oh my God” is in the United States.
Exclamations In French
- oh lá lá — not to be confused with the English “ooh la la,” (see more about this in the video below), oh lá lá is a multipurpose French phrase that means “oh there, there.” It’s an interjection that is pretty much as versatile as “oh my God.”
- putain — this literally translates to “loose women” (but more vulgar), so this might not always be the best phrase to shout. But according to The Local, putain has evolved into a multipurpose word that can be used in a huge number of situations, and might be another close approximant of “oh my God.”
- merde — literally meaning “shit.” This is generally a negative exclamation.
- zut — this is technically a curse word, but a pretty tame one, like “heck” or “dang.” It can be used in place of pretty much any other French swear word, too.
Exclamations In Italian
- allora — this word can work as “oh,” “so” or “well” in Italian, and so it’s a common filler word (a word that doesn’t really mean anything but can be thrown into sentences). It can also be used on its own, however, to mean something like “hey!” or a disgruntled “well?”
- oddio — meaning “oh God,” can be used usually as a negative response.
- uffa — more of a sound than a word, uffa conveys annoyance or boredom.
Exclamations In Korean
- 씨-발 (shibal) — translated as “fuck,” this is a Korean curse word. Unlike the English equivalent, however, you wouldn’t use it to actually refer to sexual intercourse; it’s just a vulgar term that can be used as an interjection in a range of scenarios.
- 세상에 (sesang-e) — if you don’t want to yell a clear obscenity, this is a much more PG option for an exclamation. It basically means “oh my God.”
Exclamations In Mandarin
- 哎呀 (āi yā) — this interjection, pronounced like ai-yah, is a very common interjection in Mandarin. It’s used to denote surprise, and can fit in to a lot of the same contexts that “oh my God” in English would.
- 厉害 (lì hài) — this means “awesome,” or in a slightly more contemporary way, “sick.” You know, like the good “sick.”
- 呸 (pēi) — somewhat like “boo,” this would be said in more negative situations to express contempt.
Exclamations In Spanish
- guau — basically meaning “wow” (and it’s pronounced nearly the same), this term usually is used in positive situations.
- caramba — yes, you probably associate this with the “ay, caramba” catchphrase of Bart on The Simpsons, but it’s also a word that can denote either positive or negative surprise in Spanish.
- dios mío — this, meaning “my God,” is another phrase that has kind of become a cliché of an English speaker imitating Spanish. Still, it is used by some Spanish speakers to express shock. You might also hear people say “por dios,” meaning “for God’s sake.”
- ¡no me digas! — meaning “do not tell me,” this phrase roughly translates to “really?” or “you don’t say!” It was used as the refrain in one song in Lin-Manuel Miranda’s first musical In The Heights, in which people express shock at the gossip they had just heard.