Get a 40% off forever discount with this pretty big deal. Ends Soon!
Get a 40% off forever discount with this pretty big deal. Ends Soon!
GermanPod101.com Blog
Learn German with Free Daily
Audio and Video Lessons!
Start Your Free Trial 6 FREE Features

German Filler Words: Speak Deutsch Like a Native

Thumbnail

Imagine if everything in language was straightforward and perfect.

Like, literally.

No typos. No jokes. No slang.

Just everyone meaning business.

It wouldn’t be much fun, would it?

The imperfections found in languages, dialects, and communication in general are what make them fun. 

We all like to communicate clearly, but that never allows for any awkward, unforeseen, or weird moments—moments which could be pretty funny, if you think about it.

Knowing how flawed our communication is, we try our best to hide our imperfections.

As a learner of the language, you can do this well by using German filler words.

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in German Table of Contents
  1. What are filler words and why do we use them?
  2. The Top 10 German Filler Words
  3. Pros and Cons of Filler Words
  4. Conclusion

1. What are filler words and why do we use them?

Before we introduce you to the most common filler words in German and show you how to use them to your advantage, let’s cover the basics. 

A- What are filler words?

Question Mark on a Blackboard

Filler words, or Füllwörter as the Germans call them, are the expressions we use to avoid pauses and fill in gaps during our day-to-day conversations. They could be something as short as an “uh,” “err,” or “okay,” or as long as an “in my opinion” or “I think that.”

While some filler words do have meanings of their own, they’re not typically used to express those meanings in this context. Rather, they mostly serve as sentence connectors that we don’t even notice when saying or hearing them.

Whether you’re a fan of filler words or not, they have invaded every language and people use them even in professional contexts.

B- Why do we use them?

The psychology behind filler words is worth a pretty long discussion, but for the purposes of this article, we’ll just discuss a few ideas on the topic. 

We want to be polite.

Three Individuals Talking Politely

Most of us don’t want to come across as rude. While being direct is arguably a great approach, a bit of politeness can go a long way.

That’s where filler words come in.

If you call a support team asking for a service they refuse to provide, it would seem very rude if they just said “No!” Instead, they use filler words such as “Uhm…” or “I’m afraid that…” or “Unfortunately…” to make it sound more polite than just a plain rejection.

We want to be understood.

A Man and Woman Communicating

Everyone wants their opinion heard, and more than that, everyone wants to be understood.

Whether you’re teaching a subject, giving a conference, or consulting someone, it’s easy to get carried away with your ideas and to forget that you’re communicating with a human and not a machine.

This is one big reason why filler words are so popular.

They help us formulate our ideas well, and to present them in a fashion and speed that’s easily absorbed by others. 

We want to lie or deceive.

Pinocchio Nose

Obviously, not everyone that uses filler words is doing so to lie or deceive, but scientists have observed patterns in conversation filler overuse that suggest dishonesty is one reason people use fillers. This is especially evident when the idea in question could be communicated easily without the use of filler words, or when someone delays answering a yes-or-no question by using unnecessary words.

2. The Top 10 German Filler Words

Now that you have some additional context regarding filler words, it’s time for you to begin studying the top 10 German conversation fillers. Feel free to practice using them right away! 

1 – Also (So)

This filler word is used to transition from one sentence or clause to another. 

Example #1


Also, wann können wir uns treffen?
“So, when can we meet?”

Example #2

Also, wie alt bist du?
“So, how old are you?”

2 – Eigentlich (Actually)

This is one of the most unnecessarily used German filler words, similar to “actually” in English.

Example #1

Was nervt Sie eigentlich in Deutschland am meisten?
“What actually annoys you most in Germany?”

Example #2

Ich kann eigentlich nichts.
“I can’t actually do anything.”

3 – Stimmt. (That’s right.)

Example #1

Stimmt. Ich habe es auch nicht gesehn.
“That’s right. I didn’t see it either.”

Example #2

Stimmt. Es dauert zu lange.
“That’s right. It takes too much time.”

4 – Bestimmt (Definitely)

Example #1

Das ist bestimmt nicht so schlecht.
“That’s definitely not that bad.”

Example #2

Ich werde es bestimmt essen.
“I’ll definitely eat it.”

5 – Ach so (I see)

Germans throw in an ach so when any existing confusion has been cleared. It signals a sudden understanding.

Example #1

Person 1: Nein, es war im Kühlschrank. 
Person 2: Ach so.

Person 1: “No, it was in the fridge.”
Person 2: “I see.”

Example #2

Ach so, ich dachte du sagtest etwas anderes.
“I see. I thought you said something else.”

6 – Klar (Sure)

Klar is used to express agreement in German.

Example #1

Klar, nimm dir Zeit.
“Sure, take your time.”

Example #2

Klar, was machst du so?
“Sure, what are you doing?”

7 – Halt (Simply)

Here’s another filler in German that’s used far more than necessary. It has no real meaning (a rough equivalent would be “simply”) and people use it in a variety of contexts. 

Example #1

Geh halt zur Schule!
“(Simply) go to school!”

Example #2

Ich kann halt nichts tun.
“I (simply) can’t do anything.”

8 – Tja (Well)

Example #1

Tja, ich wusste es.
“Well, I knew it.”

Example #2

Tja, das kann ich tun.
“Well, I can do that.”

9 – Schon (Already)

Schon means “already,” but it’s frequently used as a filler word with pretty much no meaning.

Example #1

Das wusste ich schon.
“I knew that already.”

Example #2

Das ist schon etwas sonderbar.
“That’s a bit strange.”

10 – Doch (Nevertheless)

Doch is one of those words that give German learners a hard time. While it doesn’t have a clear meaning, it’s used to counter negative statements. That makes “nevertheless” the closest translation to it. Here are two examples:

Example #1

Person 1: Bist du nicht!
Person 2: Bin ich doch!

Person 1: “You’re not!”
Person 2: “I am!”

Example #2

Person 1: Mein Chef will mich befördern. 
Person 2: Das ist doch gut!

Person 1: “My boss wants to promote me.”
Person 2: “But that’s good!”

3. Pros and Cons of Filler Words

Filler words may seem insignificant, but how (and how often) you use them contributes to shaping people’s opinions about you. People might make judgements on your confidence, talkativeness, social skills, or even personality based off of how you use conversation fillers. 

In the sections below, we’ve thoroughly illustrated some of the top pros and cons of using filler words, as well as how you can substitute them.

A- Pros of Using Filler Words

Four Friends Hanging Out

You sound more natural.

Filler words can give you a more natural, approachable tone. In fact, not using filler words at all might cause you to sound robotic or even arrogant, which would probably not help with your social life, especially in day-to-day, informal conversations.

You sound friendlier.

People will feel more drawn to you when you use filler words. You’ll sound more familiar, and people are more comfortable with people who behave similarly to them.  

Note that this may not be the case in a more formal context, such as a business meeting. Sometimes you have to cut out all the flim-flam and get straight to the point, which leads us to the next section.

B- Cons of Using Filler Words

A Woman Shrugging with an Uncertain Look on Her Face

You’re considered hesitant.

Imagine you’re in a business meeting with a German company and you start throwing a bunch of tja’s into your speech. It would sound a bit off, wouldn’t it? 

It would actually give the impression that you’re a bit hesitant and unsure of what you’re talking about. Therefore, consider halting or minimizing your usage of filler words in business meetings and other formal contexts. You don’t want to leave a bad impression, especially with Germans.

You’re perceived as having low self-confidence.

Remember how kids in primary school would always make fun of that one kid with a stuttering problem? Even if that kid was strong physically or mentally, the others would neglect and look down upon him. 

The same concept—but on a smaller scale—applies to adults when they use a lot of unnecessary filler words. People perceive it as a sign of low self-confidence and might proceed to disrespect or ignore that person.

Therefore, to command more respect in your relationships, especially if you’re in a leading role, it’s crucial that you pay attention to how frequently you use filler words.

C- How to Substitute Filler Words

Feeling like you can’t really let go of all those conversation fillers? Well, we have a great alternative.

“Silence speaks when words can’t.”

That’s right. The best alternative to filler words is silence. Whether you’re not sure about the next sentence or want to reword your last one, you can take your time to formulate your ideas and just remain silent throughout that short period.

It may sound weird to the people around you when you start doing that, but it’ll slowly become more and more familiar.

Consequently, it’ll help you command more respect and trust, especially at work and other professional environments.

4. Conclusion

And, congratulations!

You’ve now learned what most early German learners don’t.

You now have the ability to understand and use filler words. You shouldn’t be surprised if Germans start to seem even more impressed with your German now. 

Which of these words was your favorite? Which ones do you use most in your own language?

If you’re thinking about expanding your skills even more, create your free lifetime account on GermanPod101.com today. Whether you want to learn how to order food, how to pronounce German umlauts, or just understand more German in general, we have your back. 

We provide a full range of lessons covering all levels of German. With us, you can go from beginner to master with a minimal time investment.

Thanks to GermanPod101’s proven learning systems, you can sign up for free today and get access to thousands of audio, video, and text lessons on any topic you might be looking for.

You can also take advantage of several easy-to-use features like word lists, flashcards, slideshows, a voice-recording tool, slowed-down audio, and more.

No catch. No credit card. No nonsense.

Sign up now and see everything for yourself.

Viel Spaß beim Lernen!
Happy learning!

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in German