In today’s article, I am going to talk about The Italian fillers. These fillers can be words with a specific meaning or just exclamations, like Mah or Mmm. Their particularity consists in the fact that even if those words have a meaning, it is not relevant for the phrase. In fact, if we take off the fillers, the sentence will keep the exact same meaning. Interesting, isn’t it?

If you want to find out other Italian fillers and to know my tips for a better understanding of Italian speakers, keep reading! 

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How many times have you happened to be stunned to listen to someone talking Italian and to think “I don’t understand, I don’t understand!”? In this article, I decided to talk about a topic that will help you to understand Italian, in particular, the understanding of Italian spoken by native speakers.

In the following text, in fact, you will find the explanation of The Italian fillers, which, once identified, will give you a big hand in understanding the language. But let’s go straight to the heart of this topic and explain what they are.

What are and what are the Italian fillers for?

Fillers or in Italian Riempitivi are words that are used to fill the silence. They are a constant in the native speakers’ conversations, who use them in a completely natural way. When they are uncertain about what to say, when they need to gather ideas before speaking, and also when they need to take a break avoiding embarrassing silences, they use fillers.

In Italian, we have several of them, and we can use them at the beginning, in the middle of the speech, or at the end. Here are a few.

    • Ecco
    • Sai
    • Allora
    • Vediamo
    • Dunque
    • Nel senso
    • Praticamente
    • In pratica
    • Cioè
    • Come
    • Quindi
    • Insomma
    • Vabbè
    • Diciamo che
    • In conclusione
    • Ecco
    • Sai
    • Allora
    • Vediamo
    • Dunque
    • Nel senso
    • Praticamente
    • In pratica
    • Cioè
    • Come
    • Quindi
    • Insomma
    • Vabbè
    • Diciamo che
    • In conclusione

All the words listed have a practise meaning but, when used as a filler, they become devoid of it, becoming sounds that break and fill the silence. Often even interjections like ah, mmh, bah, beh are used as fillers.

In every language there the fillers. In fact, they give the conversation a certain spontaneity; but if you abuse them, the whole speech will be unconvincing and, the speaker will appear completely unprepared, indecisive, and insecure.

Read the following dialogue:

a. Cosa farai sabato sera?What will you do on Saturday night?

b. Mmh… Che vuoi che ti dica?! Beh.. non lo so ancora. – Hmm… What do you want me to tell you ?! Well.. I don’t know yet.

a. Perché non andiamo a mangiare una pizza? – Why don’t we go eat a pizza?

b. Mah, sai…. Può essere. Ti faccio sapere tra qualche giorno! Cioè.. È ancora lunedì… Vedi… Magari cambio idea! – Ahh, you know… It could be. I’ll let you know in a few days! I mean… It’s still Monday…  Maybe I change my mind!

a. Vabbè… allora chiamami tra qualche giorno e così decidiamo! – Oh well … then call me in a few days and we’ll decide!

This is only a dialogue between friends, and it is clear how the subject b, even in an informal conversation, appears hesitant and not sure about what to do.
Just think if a leader spoke in this way or if at a conference, the speaker abused the various mah, cioè, praticamente. He certainly would not appear professional and competent, and his speech would be a disaster!

A tip to improve your listening

Now that you know some of the Italian fillers, practice in this way. Listen to the interview of an Italian celebrity you like, and try to identify the fillers (words that have no relevance in the speech and that are completely meaningless). Listen to the interview a second time, and this time try to isolate the fillers and focus only on the sentences full of meaning.

With some practice, you will be able to identify the fillers not wasting your energy, for example, trying to remember words and doing useless translations). This simple exercise will prepare you to face the biggest challenge: communicating with a native speaker.

Conclusion

Native speakers acquire and learn to use fillers naturally and unconsciously, following unspoken rules.  In fact, fillers cannot be learned in books because they belong to the spoken language, and you can not find them in a written form, unless you want to reproduce the oral language, as in dialogues.

Fillers are learned by living the language, listening to native speakers, listen to the way they use these words, and paying attention to their position in the speech. Now that you know more about the Italian fillers, when you feel it is appropriate, try to use them as native speakers!

firma
Read this text in Italian!
exercises!
Read this text in Italian!
exercises!

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