After I posted last week's Aw Vs. Awe article, our head writer asked me, "What about ah and aah?" Good idea for a blog post, Tara! Ah is used in many situations. There is also a dictionary entry for aah. So what are the usage, meaning, and part of speech differences for ah and aah? Scroll down to find out about aha, too.
Ah is used for all types of feelings. Merriam-Webster defines the interjection ah as "used to express pleasure, delight, relief, regret, or contempt." We also use it to convey that we understand something and as a "thinking word" (a word with no meaning that shows we're thinking). Notice the different ways to punctuate ah in the examples below.
- Ah! I could stare at this sunset for hours. (pleasure)
- Ah! Look at all the baby bunnies! (delight)
- Ah! This hot tub is helping my sore back. (relief)
- Ah, I'm so sorry to hear that. (regret)
- Ah! Look what you've done! You've ruined it! (contempt)
- Ah. I see what you mean. (understanding)
- Ah...that's not exactly what I meant. (thinking sound—uh and um are possible alternatives)
Note that for positive meanings (pleasure, delight, and relief), aah is a variant spelling of ah. If students write "Aah, this hot tub is helping my sore back" they would be correct. However, it's worth pointing out to higher-level students that ah is the most common spelling of the interjection.
Some people might be surprised to learn that aah is a verb. Merriam-Webster defines aah as "to exclaim in amazement, joy, or surprise."
- The audience oohed and aahed at the acrobats.
- Most parents spent the night oohing and aahing over the children's artwork.
Students might also be relieved to learn that ah is a variant spelling of aah, so if they write ah instead of aah as a verb, it is still correct. However, it's worth pointing out to higher-level students that aah is the most common spelling for the verb form.
What about Aha?
Another interjection with a similar spelling is aha. Merriam-Webster defines aha as "used when something is suddenly seen, found, or understood; used to express surprise, triumph, or derision." Aha is almost always found at the beginning of a sentence and is usually followed by an exclamation point.
- Aha! I finally found my keys!
- Aha! I knew he would call you.
Are there any other commonly confused words you'd like to know more about? Let me know in the comments section below.
Find an exercise on Interjections on page 5 in Everyday Idioms 3 – Lesson 14.