Um, uh, like, I assume, I imply—whether or not we prefer it or not, these phrases are part of our pure speech patterns, and they are often extraordinarily tough to eradicate.
The Spanish language has quite a lot of filler phrases, or muletillas (little crutches).
Learn on to be taught 19 of the most typical Spanish filler phrases, plus how and why to make use of them in your on a regular basis life.
Why Study Spanish Filler Phrases?
For non-native Spanish audio system, studying filler phrases, muletillas, is a helpful funding of time for quite a few causes.
First, Spanish audio system use filler phrases on a regular basis, and figuring out them will assist you to enhance your Spanish comprehension skills. Even someone with a good grasp of Spanish vocabulary may have a hard time getting the gist of a casual conversation when every other word is o sea or así que. These words are not always taught in formal Spanish classes, but they are an important component in everyday conversation.
Second, using filler words makes your spoken Spanish sound more like that of a native speaker. Muletillas are great connecting words—they form the glue that holds together a sentence and makes it sound fluid and natural. These words can help you express subtle shades of meaning or emotion in the way that native speakers do.
Finally, filler words are great for non-native speakers because they buy you time so you can think of how to respond! When I speak Spanish, I despise the intimidating silence that comes when I forget a certain vocabulary word or verb conjugation. Usually, having nothing to say makes me so nervous, it becomes even harder to remember the word I’m looking for! Even worse is relying on English filler words due to nervousness. Inserting “like” and “um” into your spoken Spanish not only makes your Spanish sound disjointed—it also makes it harder for native speakers to understand you.
Common Spanish Filler Words
A highly useful word, pues is the Spanish equivalent to the English filler word “well…” Throw it at the beginning of a sentence to show uncertainty or indecisiveness. You can also use it to stall while you think of the best way to respond to someone (or to recall how to conjugate a tricky verb).
It sits really well when followed by no (no) or sí (yes).
Responding in the negative after thinking:
A: ¿Quieres salir esta noche?
(Do you want to go out tonight?)
B: Pues… no sé, tengo mucho sueño…
(Well… I don’t know, I’m really tired…)
Responding in the positive:
A: ¿Te apetece un café?
(Do you fancy a coffee?)
B: Pues sí.
(Well (now you mention it) yes.)
2. Pues nada
Pues nada, which means “well, nothing,” is used a lot by the Spanish including simply as an easy response to ¿qué estás haciendo? (what are you doing?).
One helpful use as a muletilla is when you use it to gracefully jump forward in a story you’re telling, without having to actually explain the passage of time:
Y el hombre que me entrevistó me dijo “gracias por venir, te llamamos” y… pues nada, no me han llamado… así que… no creo que me den el puesto.
(And the guy who was interviewing me said “thanks for coming, we’ll call you” and… well, they haven’t called me… so… I don’t think they’ll give me the position.)
A ver directly translates as “to see.” As a filler word, use it like the English phrase “let’s see…” or “look…”
A ver… ¿qué podemos hacer esta noche?
(Let’s see… what can we do tonight?)
You can also use the similar vamos a ver:
Vamos a ver qué hay para hacer esta noche.
(Let’s see what there is to do tonight.)
Vamos a ver lo que pasa.
(Let’s see what happens.)
A ver and vamos a ver can be used when you want to try to explain yourself:
A ver… no quiero decir que no sea un buen actor.
(Look… I’m not saying he’s not a good actor.)
Both a ver and vamos a ver can also be used to sum up the situation:
Vamos a ver… ella ha dicho que sí, pero él dice que no. ¿Verdad?
(Let’s see… so she has said yes, but he says no. Is that right?)
I find that vamos a ver is also useful to get people’s attention when lots of people are talking over one another, or when it’s difficult for everyone to reach a consensus:
¡Vamos a ver! ¿Os podéis callar ya?
(Alright then! Can everyone be quiet already?)
If people are still talking, you can repeat a ver multiple times until you get their attention:
A ver… a ver… ¡a ver, chicos!
(Alright… alright… alright, guys!)
4. En plan…
The filler word of choice for teenagers all over Spain, this versatile phrase is similar to the English “like.” Spanish adolescents use it all the time in any part of a sentence. Specifically, you can use it before describing the manner in which you were doing something:
Estábamos allí en plan descansando cuando llegó Miguel.
(We were there, like, relaxing, when Miguel arrived.)
No te enfades, lo hice en plan broma.
(Don’t get angry, I meant it like, as a joke.)
Using digo can allow you to sound natural and fluent even when you’ve made a mistake in your speaking. This word, which comes from the verb decir (to say/tell) and directly translates to “I say,” is used to correct yourself:
Me dijo que la fiesta empieza a las nueve—digo, a las diez.
(She told me the party starts at nine—I mean, at ten.)
6. O sea…
Use o sea to clarify, explain or nuance something you’ve just said. It’s similar to the English phrases “I mean…” or “in other words…” Another similar Spanish phrase is es decir.
¿Vas a salir otra vez con él? O sea, ¿lo pasasteis bien?
(You’re going to go out with him again? I mean, you had a good time?)
You can also use it when you realize that what you just said isn’t entirely correct and you want to add extra information:
Me he dado cuenta de que nunca he viajado en tren, o sea, sí que he viajado en tren pero solo en cercanías, no en uno de largo recorrido.
(I’ve realized that I’ve never traveled on a train, I mean, yes, I’ve traveled on a train, but only on regional trains, not on a long distance one.)
Entonces is a great connecting or transition word, used like the English “so” or “therefore.” It’s certainly a formal word appropriate for written Spanish, but in spoken Spanish it also serves as a handy filler word to throw at the beginning of a sentence:
Entonces, ¿qué vas a hacer?
(So, what are you going to do?)
Entonces also can be used to signal to the listener that you’re going to continue speaking:
Me dijiste que no vas a trabajar mañana, entonces… ¿crees que podrás venir a la fiesta?
(You told me that you’re not going to work tomorrow, so… do you think you’ll be able to come to the party?)
8. Así que…
Grammatically, the phrase así que serves a similar function as entonces: It’s a transition word that means “so” or “therefore.” But like entonces, you can also use it as a filler word, particularly at the beginning of a sentence:
¿Así que al final fuiste al restaurante?
(So you ended up going to the restaurant?)
You can also use así que bueno or así que nada as filler phrases—they both translate roughly to “so yeah…” or “so anyways…”:
Así que bueno, esa es toda la historia.
(So yeah, that’s the whole story.)
Bueno, which actually translates to “good,” has a number of different meanings as a filler word.
You can use it like pues, at the beginning of the sentence when you’re trying to think of how to respond:
Bueno… lo tengo que pensar un poco más.
(Well… I have to think about it a little more.)
You can use it to express agreement, or when someone proposes an idea that sounds good to you:
Bueno… sí, eso me parece una muy buena idea.
(Well… yeah, that seems like a really good idea to me.)
You can also use bueno to express uncertainty by drawing out the e:
A: ¿Te ha gustado la peli?
(Did you like the movie?)
B: Bueeno… la verdad es que no mucho.
(Well… to tell you the truth, not much.)
A loud or drawn-out bueno can express exasperation, annoyance or disbelief. For extra emphasis, add the word pero beforehand:
¿Todavía no habéis fregado los platos? ¡Pero bueno!
(You still haven’t washed the dishes? Well then!)
10. Es que…
Es que is a great filler word to use when you need to explain yourself or rationalize a decision. I’ve found it’s especially useful when you need to politely decline, deny or disagree with somebody.
Teacher: ¿No has terminado la tarea?
(You haven’t finished the homework?)
Student: ¡Es que es muy difícil!
(It’s just that it’s really difficult!)
A: ¿Por qué no quieres ir al cine?
(Why don’t you want to go to the movies?)
B: Es que no me gustan las películas de terror.
(It’s just that I don’t really like horror movies.)
This muletilla is commonly used in Mexico in a similar way to the fillers “uh” or “um” in English. Like “um,” este… is used to give the speaker more time to think about their answer.
Like many of the other fillers on this list, the final vowel e is often elongated in this context:
A: ¿Cómo se llama el hermano de tu vecino? Lo acabo de ver en el parque.
(What’s your neighbor’s brother called? I’ve just seen him at the park.)
B: Este… ¡ah Luis! Se llama Luis. Es el hermano menor de mi vecino Pablo.
(Um… ah Luis! He’s called Luis. He’s my neighbor Pablo’s younger brother.)
Sabes literally translates to “you know,” and you can use it exactly as you use the colloquial English expression “You know?”
Es muy importante para mí, ¿sabes?
(It’s really important to me, you know?)
You can also use ¿Sabes qué? (You know what?) as an introduction to a sentence:
¿Sabes qué voy a hacer? Voy a dejar mi trabajo y mudarme a Hawái.
(You know what I’m going to do? I’m going to quit my job and move to Hawaii.)
Eso has many meanings in Spanish; primarily, it means “that,” as in, eso es muy bueno (That is very good). But on its own, you can use eso as a lead-in to a summary or conclusion of a conversation. It’s a good way to reiterate something that you’ve already said but want to repeat or emphasize:
Pues, eso, que lo siento mucho pero vas a tener que volver mañana.
(Well, like I said, I’m sorry, but you’re going to have to come back tomorrow.)
14. En fin
En fin is a great way to wrap up a conversation. Use it to fill that awkward silence when the conversation has come to its natural conclusion and you don’t really have anything else to say.
Use it by itself to end a conversation. Or use it like eso as a lead-in to a summary or final thought on the conversation:
En fin… pues, me tengo que ir. ¡Hasta luego!
(So, that’s it… well, I have to go. See you later!)
En fin… lo pasamos muy bien hoy, gracias por todo.
(All in all… we had a great time today, thanks for everything.)
Vale can be used as a question. In this case, saying ¿vale? means “you get me?” Similarly, you can say ¿me entiendes? which means “do you understand me?” or even just ¿entiendes? for “do you understand?”
Keep in mind that we’ve used the informal conjugation of entender (to understand), since the goal of this is to teach you a casual expression to use with peers and friends. If you’re talking to multiple people, you can use the informal plural “you” (vosotros) and say ¿me entendéis?
If you need to go more formal, use the formal “you” or “you all” conjugation (¿me entiende? or ¿me entienden?).
One example of when you can use these muletillas is when giving directions:
Primero, sigues por esta calle, ¿vale?, y en la esquina giras a la derecha. Mira, allí hay un cartel que dice que no puedes entrar, pero sí que puedes entrar en esa calle, ¿me entiendes? De allí…
(First, you follow this road, okay?, and at the corner you turn right. Look, there’s a sign there that says you can’t go in but, yes, you can go into that street, you understand me? From there…)
If you have more to say, don’t wait too long for them to answer as someone may think you’ve finished and take the opportunity to jump in and start speaking themselves.
16. Vale, vale, vale
Repetition is used a lot by many Spanish speakers. No more is this evident than when you’re using vale (okay) to mean “okay, I totally understand what you’re saying.”
You’ve got to be a little careful with this one. You don’t want to space out or put too much stress on your repetitions of the word vale, otherwise you can sound like the speaker is boring you (imagine a child saying “okay okay okay” to their nagging mother).
Just lightly repeat the word in a quick stream while nodding your head.
For example, you could use this when listening to someone who is giving you directions to a place:
Vale… vale, vale, vale, vale… sí… sí, te entiendo.
(Okay… yep, yep, yep, yep… right… yes, I understand you.)
This muletilla just means “the thing is (that).” This handy phrase can be used in almost any situation, mostly because it doesn’t really mean much.
You can take a moment to think after saying la cosa es… because it’s clear you’re going to continue. You can also repeat it to attract attention in a group conversation.
For example, you could use this muletilla when attracting attention in a heated discussion:
La cosa es… La cosa es… que la gente que tiene el poder no quiere cambiar la situación.
(The thing is… the thing is… that the people who have the power don’t want to change the situation.)
These are great ones to use when you’ve totally messed up what you were saying in Spanish and you want to start the whole point again.
Quiero decir (que) means “I want to say (that)” and es decir is a bit like “which is to say.”
For example, quiero decir and es decir are often used when you want to correct yourself after an unsuccessful explanation:
No me estás entendiendo, ¿verdad? Quiero decir que el hombre, es decir, el fontanero, no pudo hacer el trabajo porque…
(You’re not understanding me, right? I want to say that the man, which is to say, the plumber, couldn’t do the job because…)
Another great muletilla to use when you’ve messed up is a lo que me refiero es. This means “what I mean is” or more literally “what I’m referring to is.”
Like the previous example, this muletilla can be also used when you want correct yourself or clarify what you’re trying to say:
Mira. A lo que me refiero es que la gente de aquí no entiende lo que dice la gente de allí. ¿Me entiendes?
(Look. What I mean is that the people from here don’t understand what the people from there are talking about. You understand me?)
How to Learn Spanish Filler Words
Listening to Spanish speakers having conversations is the best way to pick up on filler words. If you’re lucky enough to be learning Spanish by immersion and language exchanges, this should not be hard—simply go talk to people!
Movies and TV shows are also good resources where you’ll be able to pick up filler words by listening to native Spanish conversations. Although the best kind are unscripted television, such as reality TV or talk shows.
You could even try listening to podcasts. You’re sure to come across many Spanish filler words, especially in podcasts that often invite guest speakers or have multiple hosts.
If you happen to’d like some further language studying help, you can begin by listening to filler phrases within the context of genuine, pure Spanish on FluentU. This language studying program has a library of native Spanish content material like film clips, vlogs and interviews that will help you get began, plus instruments to maintain monitor of and examine your new filler phrases.
Pay attention to the phrases you hear continuously, originally of sentences or when they’re at a loss for what to say. On FluentU, you’ll be able to click on on any phrase within the subtitles and reserve it as a flashcard. So everytime you encounter a filler phrase, click on and save for later evaluation.
You’ll be able to even make a customized flashcard deck particularly for filler phrases on FluentU. Then, you’ll be able to evaluation them with customized quizzes and use the contextual video dictionary to seek out different movies the place the phrase is used for added context.
It by no means hurts to straight ask what the which means of a phrase is, however if you happen to don’t wish to interrupt the dialog, it’s also possible to jot the phrase or phrase down and look it up later on WordReference.com. WordReference’s boards are an important place to get native audio system’ enter on the meanings of colloquial expressions.
En fin… This text is an introduction to filler phrases, which might help deliver your Spanish comprehension and dialog to the subsequent stage.
These muletillas will assist you to sound extra like a local speaker very quickly—it simply takes a little bit observe, ¿sabes? Pues, eso… examine your Spanish muletillas and also you’ll thank your self sooner or later!