Filler Words and Vocal Pauses

Question of the Week

closeup of eye
A ver. (Let's see.). Photo by Dan Foy used under terms of Creative Commons license.

Question: In English we have many "filler" words for when we don't know how to continue on in a sentence, or that can even express a certain emotion (e.g., "err..."). I am thinking of words such as hmmm... err... like (ooh, I hate that. Hey, I used another one.). What I would like to know is, what are some types of "words" such as this in Spanish?

Answer: My least favorite is "you know." In any case, in Spanish those "filler" words are called muletillas (or, less commonly, palabras de relleno) and are very common.

But Spanish speakers tend not to use one-syllable utterances as much as in English. Instead, they tend to use common words like este (usually pronounced as esteeeee, depending on how nervous the person is), esto (or estoooo) or in Mexico o sea (which roughly means "I mean"). Che is often heard in Argentina. In other areas you may hear es decir (meaning, roughly, "that is to say"). The "err" has its equivalent in the sound "eeeehh," and em is similar to the English "ummm."

Also, it is very common to use pues, which has a variety of meanings. Pues can be used at the start of a sentence as a kind of filler while you can get your thoughts together. Or try a ver, which can be thought of as "let's see" or "we'll see."