Füllwörter im Englischen

Sie wissen es längst: Im Deutschen sind Füllwörter im geschriebenen Text absolut verpönt und auch im Gesprochenen nicht immer erwünscht. Wir alle erinnern uns an Schulunterricht, wo wir die „Alsos“, die „Ähs“ und „Öhs“ von Junglehrern gezählt haben. Aber wie ist es im gesprochenen Englisch? Wir zeigen Ihnen, wo „Filler“ sinnvoll sein können.

Im Deutschen sind typischen Füllwörter: absolut, dahingehend, gewissermaßen, eigentlich, schlichtweg, um nur ein paar Beispiele zu nennen. Aus Ihrer Korrespondenz können Sie solche Wörter meist ersatzlos streichen.

In der gesprochenen Kommunikation erfüllen sie dagegen oft einen Zweck, wie das Beispiel der Junglehrer belegt: Sie erzeugen Pausen, die man zum Nachdenken nutzen kann. Allerdings sind die Laute (äh, ähm, …) allein wenig aussagekräftig – und sie nerven die Zuhörenden. Das ist im Englischen nicht anders.

Englische „Sound Filler“

Typische reine Lautfüller sind hier – wie im Deutschen auch:

  • ahm,
  • er,
  • uhum,
  • ahh.

Insider tip from your British editor Maureen Brown


These sound fillers are also called interjections and as far as possible should not be used in verbal communication. They make you look as though you have forgotten what you are talking about, or are searching for the right word. Sound fillers make you appear unprofessional.

Andere „Filler“ im Englischen

There are other kinds of fillers that are real words and not just sounds (in alphabetical order if you search one):

  • actually,
  • basically,
  • by all means,
  • by the way,
  • I mean,
  • I see,
  • I’m telling you,
  • literally,
  • right,
  • so,
  • tell me,
  • you know what I mean?
  • you know,
  • you say so,
  • you see.

Former President of the United States, Ronald Reagan, was famous for answering questions by starting with “Well, …”

These fillers are just a small selection. You can find many more. They are real words with little meaning. Nevertheless they fulfil a purpose: an alternative name for them is “gap fillers”!

„Gap Fillers” oder „ Hesitation Form”

As this name suggests the purpose of this kind of filler is to ensure there are no gaps in communication. However, such gaps are only normal as we sometimes have or want to hesitate in the middle of an evolving speech. We use an apparently meaningless word or phrase which bridges a pause or hesitation.

Linguists have discovered that these fillers can play a strategic role in a developing dialogue, depending on the speaker’s intention.

Die Verlegenheitslösung

The role of the filler is one we have already mentioned: The speaker needs to pause to find the appropriate word or to think about how best to carry on. If he fills the gap with one of the fillers the pause will become less obvious. He fills the gap and continues speaking, which can only be more professional in the eyes of many listeners.

The disadvantage is that they are obvious to those listeners who know about gap fillers and that they are being used to cover up a deficiency of words – or thoughts.

Bewusster Einsatz

It is quite a different matter if you use such fillers consciously, as in the following examples:

  • Hey, come on, let’s try it again!
  • Actually, I wanted to attract your attention!
  • Right, let us take a closer look to see if I’m correct!

The only difference is in your attitude!


Insider tip from your American editor Ulrike Rudolph


Try to focus on your language skills and don’t use an abundance of fillers as a kind of spoken punctuation in order to cover pauses. Just pause. Many listeners welcome such pauses as it gives them a chance to think about what they have already heard.

This is all about face-to-face communication. An official speech is a different ballgame.

Keine Angst vor Pausen in Reden

The most important thing about fillers is not to be afraid of pauses in your well prepared speech. They can add meaning to your subject and give your audience a break. The relevant point is: you as the speaker have to be well prepared on your subject.

If you know what you want to say and know your terminology well you don’t need excessive pauses to search for thoughts or words. Put keywords down on index cards to give you confidence.

You will find a lot of funny “gapfillers” of a different kind on this website: www.gapfillers.com/
“Knock knock
Who’s there?
Gladys Gladys who?
Gladys the weekend at last!”

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