Small but important: Words you will need in conversation

November 10, 2017

The stand-up comedian Ismo Leikola thinks the most important word in Finnish is ”no niin”. Depending on your intonation, it can mean anything from ”exactly” to ”dinner is served” – you could almost hold a conversation saying nothing but ”no niin”.

Well, maybe that’s a bit of an exaggeration – but Ismo is right about one thing, and that’s the importance of small filler words in conversation and language learning.

Have you ever paid attention to how many extra little words you use when speaking your first language? These words, known as gap fillers, come in handy when you need to buy a bit more time to think, when you want to break the silence, or when reacting to something your conversation partner is saying. Gap fillers make the conversation flow naturally. Without them, the gaps get filled with miscellaneous grunts (”um… er”) and uncomfortable silences.

So when you’re studying a new language, I recommend learning at least the following gap fillers or their equivalents in the language you’re studying. I guarantee it will make your life and conversations easier!

Common gap fillers:

So / Well / You know
Right / I mean
Really? / Is that so?
Oh / Right

General reactions:

I see
I agree
You gotta be kidding me! / No way!
That’s right
Of course
It’s okay / It doesn’t matter
I guess not

Expressing opinions and commenting:

That’s interesting
That’s funny
That’s weird
That’s a shame
That sucks
It’s possible / It could be
I don’t think so
On the other hand

Other important small words and phrases

By the way
In fact
In any case
For example

Director, Learning Material & Customer Relations Language loving coffee addict and communications professional haunted by eternal wanderlust.

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