English everyday – huh, uh-huh and nuh-uh

Words that aren’t really words for example; huh, uh-huh and nuh-huh. Do you know what they mean? Are they words or just sounds? Do you use them when you speak English?

This post is about different sounds, so you can listen to it here: 

So, what are these words?  You can call them interjections or exclamations or fillers. If you’re having a conversation with someone in English it’s really important to show that you’re listening, so we use these words so the person we are listening to knows that we are still listening. Uh-huh is one, also I see, huh, oh really, hum, mmm, oh, are others. You probably have the same kind of sounds in your language – they’re not really words but sounds. But uh-huh can also be used as Yes.

a: Do you know the new teacher?

b: Uh-huh

a: What’s her name?

b: I think it’s Abbie

Huh is another ‘I’m listening’ sound, and often it is used as a question, meaning ‘what?’ Especially when you hear surprising or new information.

a: You know the new teacher?

b: Uh-huh

a: Her name is Abbie, same as you!

b: Huh? really!

The opposite of uh-huh is nuh-huh. Sometimes this sounds a lot like uh-huh, so listen carefully to the intonation. Positive uh-huh is usually a level tone, or a rising tone. But the negative nuh-huh is a falling tone with a slightly longer first syllable.

a: Is the new teacher nice?

b: Nuh-huh

a: Huh? I heard she was great.

b: Nuh-huh, I don’t think so.

Next time you watch an TV programme or film or talk to English speakers, listen out for uh-huh, nuh-huh and huh? When do you hear it? Is it really common or not? Let me know below.

Like this? I want to help you get more confident with your English speaking. Get my free 5-day email course Speak Happy English and learn all about how to speak more confidently. Sign up here

Published by Abbie

English teacher, coach and writer. Helping English learners and teachers get more confident in their skills.

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