English Language Blog

The Canadian “eh” and how it is used in English Posted by on Oct 7, 2014 in Culture, English Language

Image "Canadian eh!" by Marc Falardeau on Flickr.com.

Image “Canadian eh!” by Marc Falardeau on Flickr.com.

My last post on this blog was an introduction to the great country of Canada, the world’s second largest country, and the largest (by land and water size) English speaking country in the world. Today, I’m going to introduce you to a unique Canadian word, “eh”, and how English speakers in Canada use it. If you ever go to Canada, you will hear Canadians using the word/interjection “eh” in their speech, frequently. This “eh” is a big part of the Canadian-English accent.

So, let’s start by talking about what “eh” is. It is an interjection. An interjection is a word used to express an emotion or sentiment by a speaker. You can read more about English interjections here in a previous post on this Transparent Language blog.

Canadians commonly end sentences with the interjection “eh.” The interjection “eh” can mean many different things in English though, from “Excuse me,” to “Please repeat that,” or “huh? I didn’t understand.” But the Canadian “eh” doesn’t usually mean any of these things. In Canada “eh” is added to the end of statements for these reasons: 1) to check if a listener is understanding and listening to what one is saying; 2) to check for the listener’s continued interest; 3) to check for agreement; 4) to add emphasis to what one is saying; and 5) to turn a declarative sentence into a question (when this is done the “eh” is used to make a tag question, almost like a spoken question mark. You can learn more about tag questions in this previous post I have written).

To help you better understand the use of the interjection “eh” that is part of the Canadian accent, here are some example sentences in which it is used.

“I’m going to class, eh, then stopping by the store on the way home.” (Use #1)

“My backpacking trip was over 5 days long and we saw some amazing scenery, eh.” (Use #2)

“Toronto is a really nice city, eh.” (Uses #3, 4, or 5)

“It is going to rain later today, eh.” (Uses #4 &5)

“Go clean your room before super, eh.” (Use #4)

“What do you think? Not bad, eh?” (Use #5)

“You are pretty good at hockey, eh.” (Uses #4 & 5)

As you can see from these examples, most of the time that “eh” is used by Canadians it is added to the end of phrase or sentence.

If you ever travel to Canada you will likely find that you will pick up the use of the interjection “eh” in your own speech. It is quite common and contagious, and now you know how to use it.

One last note, I found this YouTube video, by a real Canadian, explaining the use of “eh” in his own words. He goes over much of what I have covered above and a few other ways to use the word “eh”. Take a look to better understand this unique Canadian use of the interjection “eh” and hear a Canadian accent (which is only a little different from an American accent).


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About the Author: Gabriele

Hi there! I am one of Transparent Language's ESL bloggers. I am a 32-year-old native English speaker who was born and raised in the United States. I am living in Washington, DC now, but I have lived all over the US and also spent many years living and working abroad. I started teaching English as a second language in 2005 after completing a Master's in Applied Linguists and a Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults' (CELTA). Since that time I have taught ESL in the United States at the community college and university level. I have also gone on to pursue my doctorate in psychology and now I also teach courses in psychology. I like to stay connected to ESL learners around the world through Transparent Languages ESL Blog. Please ask questions and leave comments on the blog and I will be sure to answer them.