Spanish conversation fillers are little words and phrases that native speakers use frequently but that you won’t find in a typical Spanish textbook. You can hear them in live interviews, talk shows, phone calls, and, in general, in real-life speaking situations. So, if you ever thought, “How can I think in Spanish?” filler words are part of the answer.
These elements of speech introduce thoughts, create transitions, depict a context, and convey feelings. Therefore, Spanish fillers are the “bricks” that build natural and spontaneous conversations. Below, we continue our list of top Spanish filler words and phrases to express yourself like a native.
Spanish Conversation Fillers
Definition: like / as.
Spanish speakers use it to express that something is done in a particular way. You can use it anywhere in a sentence.
- Esta noche llegaré a la fiesta… en plan… de madrugada… en plan… cuando termine de estudiar… en plan… sin prisas y relajado (Tonight, I’ll arrive at the party…like…at dawn…when I finish studying…like…without rush and relaxed)
Definition: then / so.
It gives continuity to your stories and arguments.
- Ella vino a mi casa a reclamarme sobre la escalera que construí, entonces yo le dije que no tenía derecho de opinar sobre mi terreno. Ella me respondió que el próximo año iba a construir algo en su casa, entonces, me sugirió que quería destruir el último escalón de mi escalera para hacerlo entonces yo le dije que se fuera al infierno. (She came to my house to complain about the stairs I built, so I told her she wasn’t entitled to opine on my land. She replied that next year she was going to build her house, then, she suggested she wanted to destroy the last step of my stairs to do it, so I told her to go to hell)
You use it before introducing an idea. It’s similar to mira.
- Escucha, tengo algo que decirte. (Listen, I have something to tell you)
- Escucha, me importa un comino si te vas de aquí. (Listen, I don’t care if you go away from here)
Este (Latin America) / Esto (Spain)
Definition: Its equivalent in English is “um”/”ah”.
It doesn’t have a direct translation, though. However, you can use it whenever you get stuck in a sentence and need to think about how to continue speaking.
- Este… en realidad no sé qué decirte. (Um… I don’t know what to tell you)
- Esto… creo que lo he olvidado. (Ah… I think I forgot it (In Spain) /I think I have forgotten it (In Latin America))
Etcétera / Y demás / Y tal / Y tal y cual / Y todo eso
Definition: The can be translated as etcetera / and so on / and so / and so and such / and all that respectively.
They all work the same function; to indicate more than what is specified.
Exactamente / Tal cual
Definition: Exactly and just as / as such / (just) as it is / as is, respectively.
In popular Hispanic culture, you can think of it as Twitter’s RT function. It’s a way to tell others that you relate to them.
- Michael es muy desaliñado, no es exactamente mi tipo. (Michael is very unkempt, he’s not exactly my type)
Amiga, los hombres no sirven. (Girl, men are useless)
Tal cual. (Just as it is)
Definition: notice / look / pay attention to this or that.
It’s a little informal, and you use it to draw someone’s attention to something, but as an exclamation, it’s also used to express surprise like, “No way” or “Who would’ve imagined?”.
- Fíjate, no es lo mismo tener un seguro y no necesitarlo que necesitarlo y no tenerlo. (Look, it’s not the same having an insurance and not needing it than needing it and not having it)
- Es verdad que yo fui testigo del robo, pero, fijate, el estrés postraumático afecta la capacidad de memoria. (It is true that I witness the robbery but notice that PTSD affect memory capacity)
¡Jo…(der)! / ¡Joder!
Definition: The word has just as many meanings as its equivalent in English “fuck”.
When used with astonishment or irritation, it becomes an interjection. In Spain, where it’s extremely popular, people use it with a more of a “dammit / damnit” sense.
- ¡Jo…! Se me olvidaron las llaves del coche. (Damn! I forgot my car keys)
- ¡Joder! Todo el tiempo esta gente sube los impuestos. (Fuck! This people raise taxes all the time)
La verdad es que
Definition: the truth is that / actually / really.
You use it to justify something.
- La verdad es que no me gusta el pescado. (I don’t like fish, actually)
Definition: look / see/ pay attention / look here.
- Mira, si quieres comerte el postre antes del plato principal, está bien, tuviste un mal día. (Look, if you want to eat dessert before the main dish, it’s okay, you had a bad day)
- Mira, lo importante no es hacer las cosas rápido, es hacerlas bien. (See, what is important is not to do things fast, but to do them right)
Definition: I mean / in other words.
You use it to clarify, rephrase, or add detail to a previous statement.
- Todavía tengo mucho trabajo hoy. O sea, no podré venir al gimnasio. (I still have a lot of work today. In other words, I won’t be able to come to the gym)
- Mi esposa, o sea, mi ex, se va de la casa el viernes. (My wife, I mean, my ex, is leaving the house this Friday)
- Oye, ¿cómo va la cosa? (Hey, how are things going?)
- Oye, ¿estás ahí? (Hey, are you there?)
Definition: It means “but well”.
In the Spanish-speaking world, people say this after venting or ranting.
- Yo le dije a ella que no se metiera en la vida de los demás, pero bueno… (I told her not to get in other people ‘s lives, but well…)
Definition: well / so / though, but informal.
You can use it at the beginning or at the end of sentences. Bear in mind that in some places in Mexico, pues is condensed to pos. In contrast, Spanish people pronounce it as pue’.
- Pues… no lo sé. (Well, I don’t know)
- Es muy difícil afrontar esta situación, pues. (It is very difficult to face this situation, though)
¿Qué te iba a decir?
Definition: “What was I going to say?”.
- ¿Qué te iba a decir? ¿Has visto a Claudia? (What was I going to say? Have you seen Claudia?)
Definition: do you know / you know?
Tack it onto the end of your sentences to sound just like a native.
- Vivir esta experiencia me ha enseñado mucho, ¿sabes? (Living this experience has taught me a lot, you know?
Definition: “I say” but people say it in the sense of “I’m telling you”.
You use it to clarify, explain, or highlight the importance of something.
- No deberías andar por ahí confiando en todo el mundo, te digo, es peligroso, no lo hagas. (You shouldn’t go around trusting everyone. I mean, it’s dangerous. Don’t do it.)
- La gente cree que uno es pendejo, te digo, hoy caché a un cajero tratando de cobrar doble. (People must think I’m an idiot. I mean, today I caught a cashier trying to double charge me.)
Definition: It translates loosely to okay.
However, most of the time, it doesn’t have a meaning at all.
- Vale, muchas gracias. (OK, thanks)
- ¿Te gusta Jason? No, vale, solo es mi amigo. (Do you like Jason? No way, he is just my friend)
- Ella siempre actúa así, ¿verdad? (She always acts like that, right?)
- ¿Te gusta ella, verdad? (You like her, right?)
Viste (Latin America- Especially, Argentina)
Definition: literally, did you see?
But you can interpret it as “wasn’t it?” or “do you understand?” or “you know”.
- Fue un día un poco lluvioso ¿viste? (It was a kind of rainy day, wasn’t it?)
- No podré ir esta tarde, ¿viste? (I won’t be able to go this afternoon, you know?)
Definition: After a statement, and with a successive pause, it’s another way to say “OK”.
- Necesito que vayas al supermercado esta tarde. (I need you to go to the supermarket this afternoon.)
How to use Spanish conversation fillers?
Speaking without saying anything substantial doesn’t necessarily mean speaking without communicating anything. If conversation fillers are common, and natural, in all languages, then there must be a good reason for it, isn’t it? To use filler words without compromising your public perception, you should:
Include them in your speech consciously
Are you embarrassed by your English accent when you speak Spanish? We have big news for you! Filler words will be helpful to you! Spanish conversation fillers can camouflage the negative effect of your accent on your audience, since you can demonstrate that you master certain linguistic structures. Plus, you can sound more empathetic, either in a conversation with a friend or while giving a professional conference. Just, don’t exaggerate its use; use them always with a purpose.
Take advantage of the time fillers give you to organize your thoughts
When you are learning a language, it can take you longer to formulate your ideas. For example; you can lack vocabulary, or fail to connect the right emotions with the right words. This is perfectly normal. Using filler words gives you the chance to have more time to form longer sentences, and, therefore, sound smarter. Additionally, you can create a feeling of familiarity with your listeners when they hear you use the words that are closely attached to their culture.
Make yourself understood but don’t overwhelm people
This is our most noble advice. Use Spanish conversation fillers as a tool to make your message clearer and not clustered. Do not hide your knowledge behind one of these words. Shine bright with a cohesive message articulated with form and substance, natural transitions and logical connections.
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