Conversation openers and fillers in Japanese

friends talking with smartphones at cafe
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In conversations, openers and fillers are used quite often. They don't always have specific meanings. Openers are used as signals that you are about to say something, or to smooth communication. Fillers are usually used for pauses or hesitation. English also has similar expressions such as "so," "like," "you know," and so on. When you have opportunity to hear native speakers' conversation, listen carefully and examine how and when they are used.

Here are some openers and fillers frequently used.

Marking a new topic
 

Sore de
それで
So
De
So (informal)


Saying something off the topic
 

Tokorode
ところで
By the way
Hanashi wa chigaimasu ga
話が違いますが
To change the subject
Hanashi chigau kedo
話、違うけど
To change the subject (informal)


Adding to the current topic
 

Tatoeba
たとえば
For example
Iikaereba
言い換えれば
In other words
Souieba
そういえば
Speaking of
Gutaiteki ni iu to
具体的に言うと
More concretely


Bringing up the main topic
 

Jitsu wa
実は
The fact is ~, To tell the truth 


Shortening the preliminary topics
 

Sassoku desu ga
さっそくですが
May I come straight 
to the point? 


Introducing someone or something you have just noticed
 

A, Aa, Ara
あ、ああ、あら
"ara" is mainly used by 
female speakers.


Note: "Aa" can also be used to show that you understand. 

Hesitation Sounds
 

Ano, Anou
あの、あのう
Used to get 
the listener's attention.
Eeto
ええと
Let me see ...
Ee
ええ
Uhh ...
Maa
まあ
Well, say ...


Asking for repetition
 

E

(with a rising intonation)
What?
Haa
はあ
(with a rising intonation)
What? (informal)


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