5 GERMAN FILLER WORDS That Make You Sound Like a Native Speaker

5 GERMAN FILLER WORDS That Make You Sound Like a Native Speaker

Hallo und Willkommen bei, naja, Spring German! Ich bin Denisa. Heute geht es um Füllwörter, weil, ähm, naja … wenn man die Füllwörter halt benutzt, klingt man ja irgendwie wie ein Muttersprachler. (Hello and welcome to, you know, Spring German! I’m Denisa. Today is about filler words because you know, yeah … if you use filler words, you know, you will somehow sound like a native speaker.)

You know all those Füllwörter (filler words) in English like “like”, “you know” or “right”. There are, of course, some of them in German, too. In this video, I will show you 5 filler words in German, that will make you sound like a native speaker. So let’s start with the first one.

1. ähm (uhm)

LEHRERIN
Denisa, du kannst jetzt anfangen. Viel Erfolg.
(Denisa, you can start now. Good luck.)

DENISA
Also heute erzähle ich euch, ähm, die Geschichte von den Gebrüdern Grimm. Als Erstes wollte ich, ähm, sagen, wo sie geboren sind. Es gibt viele Märchen, die ihr kennt.
(So, today I’m going to tell you, uhm, the story of the Grimm brothers. I want to talk firstly, uhm, about where they were born. There are a lot of fairy tales that you know.)

In my opinion, ähm (uhm) is the most used filler word in German. I always used it when having to do a presentation in class because of my nervousness. That way I had a bit more time to think and wanted to avoid a moment of silence in the classroom.

This is what it should have sounded like:

LEHRERIN
Denisa, du kannst jetzt anfangen. Viel Erfolg.
(Denisa, you can start now. Good luck.)

DENISA
Also heute erzähle ich euch die Geschichte von den Gebrüdern Grimm. Als Erstes wollte ich sagen, wo sie geboren sind. Es gibt viele Märchen, die ihr kennt.
(So today I’m going to tell you, like, the story of the Grimm brothers. I want to talk firstly, you know, about where they were born. There are a lot of fairy tales that you know.)

Chunk alert!

The chunk for today is Viel Erfolg (Good luck). It’s said regularly in Germany as soon as you have a test, appointment or other things ahead of you that make you nervous. A synonym is Viel Glück (Good luck).

In case you don’t know what chunks are: chunks are word combinations that are often used by native speakers and that you can learn as a whole, without knowing the grammar behind it. We have more helpful chunks like this for you in our free essential German chunking kit. The link for that is in the description.

2. Halt (just)

DENISA cries


VANESSA
Was ist passiert?
(What happened?)

DENISA
Ich habe halt gerade mit Moritz telefoniert und …
(I just talked to Moritz on the phone and … )

VANESSA
Was hat er gesagt?
(What did he say?)

DENISA
Und dann hat er halt gesagt, dass er nicht kommen kann.
(And then he just said he couldn’t come.)

VANESSA
Oh man. Das tut mir leid.
(Oh man. I’m sorry for that.)

In German, the word “halt” is a filler word that is commonly used in conversation. Its primary function is to add emphasis or to indicate a slight pause, similar to the English word “just” or “well.”

For example, if someone is telling a story, and they want to emphasize a particular point, they might say: Und dann hat er halt gesagt, dass er nicht kommen kann. (And then he just said he couldn’t come.) The word “halt” in this context emphasizes the speaker’s certainty about what was said.

Stay tuned because at the end of the video we will do a summary.

3. also (so)

Maybe you have noticed that I used this Füllwort (filler word) in the first dialogue of this video:

DENISA
Also heute erzähle ich euch die Geschichte von den Gebrüder nGrimm. Ich will erstmal sagen, wo sie geboren sind und dann, welche Märchen ihr bestimmt kennt.
(So, today I’m going to tell you, like, the story of the Grimm brothers. I want to talk firstly, you know, about where they were born and then which of their fairy tales you might know.)

In German, the word also (so) is a filler word that can have various meanings and uses, je nach Kontext (depending on the context). In this context also (so) draws attention to a new topic.

Other examples would be:

  • Also was machen wir jetzt? (So, what do we do now?) or
  • Also ich wollte eigentlich über etwas anderes sprechen. (So, I actually wanted to talk about something else.)

In these cases, also (so) serves as a way of redirecting the conversation. But this filler word can also be used in another way:

VANESSA
Also, was ist jetzt?
(So, what now?)

DENISA
Was meinst du?
(What do you mean?)

VANESSA
Kommst du heute zu mir?
(Are you coming today?)

DENISA
Entschuldige. Ich habe keine Zeit, also kann ich nicht kommen.
(Excuse me. I don’t have time, so I can’t come.)

One of the most common uses of also (so) is to introduce a conclusion or a result, similar to the English word “so”. For example: Ich habe keine Zeit, also kann ich nicht kommen. (I don’t have time, so I can’t come.) In this context, also (so) indicates the logical connection between the first and second clause of the sentence.

4. quasi (sort of/kind of)

DENISA
Wie ist dein neuer Job so?
(How’s your new job?)

VANESSA
Na ja, es ist quasi das Gleiche wie mein alter Job.
(Well, it’s kind of the same as my old job.)

DENISA
Ach so, ich verstehe. Wie gefällt es dir denn bisher?
(Oh, I see. How do you like it so far?)

VANESSA
Es ist okay, aber ich bin quasi noch in der Einarbeitungsphase.
(It’s okay, but I’m still kind of in the training phase.)

As you could see in the dialogue, quasi (kind of) can be translated as kind of or sort of. It’s used as something that is almost, but not quite, accurate. If you leave it out, the conversation would totally make sense, too. But it makes you sound like a native speaker if you use it. Just make sure not to use it too often, otherwise it becomes distracting.

Other examples with quasi (kind of):

  • Das ist quasi dasselbe (That’s kind of the same thing)
  • Ich bin quasi fertig mit der Arbeit (I’m almost finished with the work)

In these cases, quasi (kind of) is used to indicate that the statement is not entirely accurate or precise, but is close enough.

Another common use of quasi (kind of) is to indicate that something is being done in a way that is not ideal, but is the best available option. Zum Beispiel (For example):

  • Wir haben quasi keine andere Wahl (We have almost no other choice).

5. tja (well)

Let’s see how the conversation from before went on.

DENISA
Und dann hat er halt gesagt, dass er heute nicht kommen kann.
(And then he just said he couldn’t come today.)

VANESSA
Oh, man. Das tut mir leid.
(Oh, man. I’m sorry for that.)

DENISA
Tja, da kann man wohl nichts machen.
(Well, there’s nothing you can do about that.)

VANESSA
Sollen wir uns stattdessen einen schönen Abend zu zweit machen?
(Should we instead just have a good evening for the two of us?)

DENISA
Tja, ich weiß nicht so recht.
(Well, I’m not really sure.)

VANESSA
Komm, das wird lustig.
(Come on, it’s going to be fun.)

DENISA
Also gut.
(Alright then.)

Here tja (well) has two different meanings.

  • Tja, da kann man wohl nichts machen. (Well, there’s nothing you can do about that.)

In this context, tja (well) indicates a sense of resignation or acceptance of the situation.

  • Tja, ich weiß nicht so recht. (Well, I’m not really sure.)

Here, tja (well) indicates a sense of hesitation or uncertainty about what to say or do.

6. Summary

Hier eine Zusammenfassung der fünf deutschen Füllwörter (Here’s a summary of the 5 German filler words):

5 German filler words

filler wordused to …example
ähm (uhm)fill gaps in speechAlso heute erzähle ich euch ähm die Geschichte von den Gebrüder Grimm. (So today I’m going to tell you, uhm, the story of the Grimm brothers.)
halt (just)emphasize a pointUnd dann hat er halt gesagt, dass er heute nicht kommen kann. (And then he just said he couldn’t come today.)
also (so)introduce a new topic or connect different parts of the conversationIch habe keine Zeit, also kann ich nicht kommen. (I don’t have time, so I can’t come.)
quasi (kind of/sort of)indicate that something is almost, but not quite, accurate.Das ist quasi dasselbe. (That’s kind of the same thing.)
tja (well)indicate resignation or a sense of hesitationTja, da kann man wohl nichts machen. (Well, there’s nothing you can do about that.)

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