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In WeChat, QQ, text messages, and the like, it is common to see 哦, 噢, and 喔 used to express an acknoledgement that the other person has said something. They all seem fairly close equivalents to the English "Oh" to me. In my personal experience in Mainland China, I would say the frequency of use is in the order that I listed them.

I'd like to know, in common usage, are they interchangeable? Are there subtle differences between them? In a more strict grammatical sense, is one more correct than the others?

Note: I am not asking how these characters are used at the ends of sentences. I am asking about their meanings when used alone. This question is different than the previous question 啊,诶,喔,哦:compare and contrast.

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i'm Chinese. these words are the same word, means exactly the same thing. It's just when we use QQ, some people use 噢 instead of 哦。kind of a personal preference. For example, I always use 哦, never 噢。in chinese, 其实没有什么区别,只不过是个人打字的习惯而已,呵呵。

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    哦 is used when you have nothing to say, just like, "okay...", or it can be used when you don't care what the other person is saying, but you need to be polite, so you say 哦, something like "okay, whatever", but more polite. – Brutal Honest Philosophy Jun 5 '15 at 7:53
  • I agree, no difference. @BHP yes, but same applies to the other two. – jf328 Jun 5 '15 at 8:02
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I don't know the nomenclature of mainland China but here in Taiwan: All these are used when replying someone. Like when you say "Yeah?", "Is that right?", "Okay.", "Alright.", "Got it.", etc. in English.

usually conveys a sense of questioning, as if you're surprised by something someone told you. But wether it's doubt or suspicion depends on context.

is more like when you hear something disappointing, anticlimactic, or just saddening.

simply shows acknowledgement.

FYI: Beware using 喔. In dating or picking up girls, 喔 is a big no-no. It kinda gives someone a sense that you don't want to continue/participate in this conversation.

I talked about these all in the context of messaging apps or texting. And all three of these are used genrally in reply to someone.

  • Seems correct. I am from mainland China, and I just use them without any distinction (probably not a good IM'er) -- most of time just type 哦 。Mainlanders can figure out what you mean -- most of time, it is just acknowledgement you saw the message or agree. However, if I use them too casually, Taiwanese friends don't understand what I mean. When I type 哦 to mean "i got it or i see", they might think I am raising a question... and start to explain... Orz – Danke Xie Jun 4 '15 at 20:10
  • Occasionally, people use 嗷 for fun. – Xiaoge Su Jun 4 '15 at 22:10
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哦 Usually express the feelings to understand something and get to know something first time, or unexpectedly

噢 More surprisingly and deeper feelings than 哦

In real speak, different pitch is used to reflect different feelings, could be surprise, sad, or painful, same as English.

喔 It sounds like "WOW", not "Oh"

And you should use “噢”, when its "Oh"..

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