Is an “ow” the same in every language? What about a gasp of surprise? The involuntary sounds we make can seem universal, and it is true that there are similarities across languages. Still, if you want to make your German sound even more authentic, you might want to learn German interjections. Even if they sound similar to the interjections you already make, it’s at least worth it to see how they’re spelled differently in German.
With that in mind, here are some of the most common German interjections. They certainly don’t cover the entire range of possible sounds emitted by a human, but it should give you a good number of things to exclaim next time you stub your toe. You can also see a few of them in context in this TikTok video from our German Babbel Live teacher Noël.
The Most Common German Interjections
English Equivalent: oh
Use: Ach is a very common interjection that is closest to the English “oh.” It can be used in any number of situations.
English Equivalent: alas
Use: This phrase is sometimes translated as “oh I see,” but that doesn’t get at the many uses for it. It can be used to respond to pretty much anything, depending on the tone and emphasis put behind it.
English Equivalent: um
Use: This might be called a filler word, because it fills in the silence when a person is trying to decide what to say next.
English Equivalent: ow
Use: This is the pain interjection, used when someone is feeling some kind of discomfort or hurt.
English Equivalent: huh?
Use: This is used when a person is confused or not sure what someone else means.
Hoppla or Ups
English Equivalent: oops
Use: Both of these interjections are used when someone makes a mistake.
English Equivalent: yikes
Use: This is used as an expression of shock or surprise.
English Equivalent: yoo-hoo
Use: Admittedly, not many English speakers use “yoo-hoo!” to get people’s attention, and huhu also isn’t the most common (it can come across as a little corny). Still, you might hear certain people yell huhu as a kind of greeting.
English Equivalent: hooray!
Use: This is a sound of celebration, and is pretty much identical to the English “hooray.”
Pfui or Igitt
English Equivalent: yuck
Use: Both of these interjections are used to express a feeling of disgust or dismay. They also might be used like the more general “ugh.”