What is the German equivalent for these speech fillers from English: "umm..." and "like"?



Do Germans use words like "um" and "like" to fill their speech? "Like" is obviously used by teens in Canada, etc., but I'm sure adults say "um" when they are unsure of something while speaking.

I'm particularly interested in how Germans in Berlin and Viennese Germans say "um" and "like". Also, what are the equivalents in Hochdeutsch? And, in general, which age group uses these words?


Posted 2012-04-25T08:44:32.450

Reputation: 377

Wann sagt man denn like in Canada? When do you say like in Canada? – user unknown – 2012-04-25T13:26:35.883

1@userunknown Actually it's mostly a US thing, generally referred to as "valley-girl speak". Wikipedia has a good article on it. – Benubird – 2012-04-25T14:03:51.187

Yes, it mostly used by tweens/teens who have a deficient vocabulary or are just too lazy to think of the appropriate word. Canada, too. I'm not sure about other English-speaking places. – verve – 2012-04-25T15:48:52.700

I can confirm that 'like' is pretty commonly used in the UK and New Zealand, even by people in their 20s and 30s. – Tara B – 2012-04-25T16:36:44.433

3@userunknown: There are two main usages I know of. One is just filler and doesn't really mean anything, e.g. "He's, like, a mechanic or something"; the other is to use 'was like' more or less in place of 'said': "And I was like "No way!"." – Tara B – 2012-04-25T16:41:53.660

@TaraB: So it expresses unsureness? He is like(ly) a mechanic? He is something like a mechanic? Er ist eine Art Mechaniker, er ist sowas wie Papst, er ist so eine Form von Pausenclown wären dann vielleicht äquivalent, aber für solche Füllwörter gibt es bestimmt nicht immer passende Übersetzungen. – user unknown – 2012-04-25T17:09:23.763

4@userunknown: No, sorry, my example wasn't very good. I just wrote the first thing that came into my head. The way 'like' is used as a filler, it doesn't really mean anything more than 'um'. To illustrate that it doesn't express unsureness, a classic example would be "It's like totally the best thing ever". – Tara B – 2012-04-25T18:32:23.063

@TaraB: I fear this can get an endless debate. :) Don't you think that the origin of this filler was sometimes some unsureness. You know somebody isn't an mechanic, but something similar, and say 'like a mechanic'. And then it becomes a bad habit to name everything 'like', even if you're sure? It reminds me of people who say "Ich glaube wir haben ganz sicher eine Chance", where the "glaube" is a contradiction to "ganz sicher" - either you believe, or you are sure. I guess it comes from a double bind, when a sportsman wants to express that he is critical and positive thinking meanwhile. – user unknown – 2012-04-25T20:04:32.887



When Germans hesitate while speaking, they use the following fill-ins

  • Äh
  • Äh(e)m
  • Also
  • Mhh / Hm
  • (Na) Ja

Often they are used in combination.

Ich war gestern auf der .. Ähhh .. Kirmes. (Forget what you want to say)

Und, .. ähm, ja, das ist mir jetzt echt peinlich. (Embarrassing)

Hm, na ja, was soll ich jetzt dazu sagen? (Speechlessness)

Ich war das wirklich nicht, Äh, also, ich glaub' das zumindest. (Uncertainness)

Hi, ähhhm, ich wollte dich mal fragen, ob du, ähh, Lust hast was essen zu gehen. (Nervousness)

And I don't think there is any difference in usage by different age groups.


Posted 2012-04-25T08:44:32.450

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4+1 I like the "tag" you wrote on the side! If you could slowly add more as you remember them, it'd be fantastic. :D – Alenanno – 2012-04-25T10:19:46.727

@Em1 The first 3 fillers are based on the English word, yes? Are they pronounced the same? Also, why does the last one have brackets? Yep, I'm a beginner in Deutsch. – verve – 2012-04-25T15:54:16.343

1@verve: Based on which English word? Also doesn't mean the same as 'also' in English. It's more like 'so'. – Tara B – 2012-04-25T16:34:59.427

@verve: Grr, too late to edit my comment. I just realised 'so' has lots of meanings. I mean in the sense of "So, what are we going to do now", for example. – Tara B – 2012-04-25T16:50:24.360

1@verve Äh, Ähm are equivalent to the English Um. Also is so. Hm is again similar to Um. And Na is in brackets, because you can just say Ja and Naja. – Em1 – 2012-04-25T21:15:53.873

Just to help with the clarification of "also": it means "so" in the sense of "therefore", but can also be used as "namely" or similar - it NEVER means "additionally" in German! I've noticed one very strange phenomenon with "also": Some German speakers tend to "import" this filler into English in stressful situations (e.g. presentations) instead of the English "I mean". Naturally it sticks out like a sore thumb. Has anyone else noticed this? – Mac – 2012-04-26T13:42:29.453

@Mac Do you mean the English also or the translation of the German also? So, do you mean like I do right now, or that German thinks that German also is same as English also? – Em1 – 2012-04-26T13:47:12.443

@Em1 lol, how confusing :) Bin mir jetzt nicht sicher, wie Dein zweiter Satz gemeint ist... mir geht's darum, dass manche Deutsche den Unterschied nicht kennen bzw. selbst wenn sie ihn kennen, trotzdem in Stresssituationen das deutsche "also" in ansonsten tadellosen englischen Sätzen verwenden. :) – Mac – 2012-04-26T14:35:58.013

2I suggest adding (German) "So" as the translation of "like" :) E.g. "And then, like, you have to push that" => "Das musst du dann so drücken (oder so)". – None – 2012-05-02T21:38:48.753


No one speaks perfectly so everyone has to buy some time sometimes and the most used tender for this in German are "Ähhhh" or "Ähhm"... Two Germans with a considerable wealth in "Ähhh" are Boris Becker and Edmund Stoiber.

As for the like I'd say that so is quite similar. It also has a notion of comparing, even adults use it sometimes as filler and teens can write whole novels just with this... often it comes with voll

Ich war dann voll so voll sauer so und der Typ war dann halt so irgendwie voll krass komisch so... weiß ich nich'... so voll schüchtern halt

Also I use so way more than I'd need to.


Posted 2012-04-25T08:44:32.450

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10Also, both can be used as verbs: And he like "really?" becomes Und er so "echt?" – Ansgar Esztermann – 2012-04-25T09:19:22.437

I don't know... I have NEVER heard subject + like without verb in the way you suggest. He's like takes not more effort to pronounce and is rule-compliant so your grammar center in your brain won't crinch... I don't see why language would degrade if it does not make it much easier. Anyway... you are right about the German... the verb is omitted and that does same you some pronunciation alright. – Emanuel – 2012-04-25T09:27:21.693

@AnsgarEsztermann Emanuel is right. You don't use it as verb. You just elide the verb. Of course, it's sounds like an ungrammatical sentence, but I think, actually, there's also missing a colon: Und er so: "Echt?". In a written text you have to add fragt, sagt, whatever, but in spoken language it's ok. But, and that's the most important point regarding this question, in that context it is NO FILLER! Yes, you can shorten the sentence to Und er: Echt?", but so* has a connotation of emphasizes here. – Em1 – 2012-04-25T09:33:30.047

7You've got another one in your example: 'halt' is often just filler. – Tara B – 2012-04-25T12:38:01.530

@TaraB Halt is also no filler, and if at all very rarely used. In the context above it is absolutely no filler. If it were, the words eigentlich, denn and others would also be filler: Was machst du denn eigentlich so? – Em1 – 2012-04-25T12:47:21.723

1Perhaps it depends where you are, but I have definitely heard halt used a lot (in north Germany) pretty much just as filler. I realise it's not just filler, but when it is used almost every sentence and sometimes more than once in the same sentence, it's at least partly filler. – Tara B – 2012-04-25T12:53:58.000

Why is there 2 "volls" in the example? Also, if one wants to use voll is it always "voll so" or "so voll"--any correct order? So, like means "so" AND "voll so" = same thing, right? – verve – 2012-04-25T16:03:32.517

@verve Don't bother. Never, really never, speak like that. It's the language of young, cool boys and girls. But, of course, your right, there are, at least one, too many voll's. – Em1 – 2012-04-25T21:18:57.863

4@Em1 Sorry but TaraB is right. "halt" can be used as a filler and is used thus by many people quite excessively. You don't even have to go to northern Germany to experience that. Just because you haven't encountered it yet does not mean it doesn't exist. – nem75 – 2012-04-26T16:02:00.800

@nem75 Absolutely right. – Mac – 2012-04-27T13:30:00.857

1@Em1 I'm not sure where you live, but to say "halt" was "if at all very rarely used" is wrong for basically all of Germany. "Halt" is an extremly common "pseudofiller" with a whole lot of connotations. While I agree that it is a very bad idea for non-natives to use words like that actively, they're still part of the spoken language they should be aware of passively. – Mac – 2012-04-27T13:37:19.723

@Mac Ich sage auch sehr häufig das Wort halt in Sätzen, aber das ist für mich kein Lückenfüller. Das ist imho halt was anderes. Das ist halt so. Alles kein Lückenfüller. Es entsteht gar keine Lücke, die gefüllt werden müsste. Im Gegenteil, es ist eine - eigentlich unnötige - Dekoration, die sich im Sprachgebrauch so eingeführt hat. Und ich denke - weiß es aber nicht -, dass es für das like äquivalent ist, weswegen ich den Teil auch nicht in meiner eigenen Antwort behandelt habe. Es kann durchaus schon mal genutzt werden, ist aber in der Regel kein Lückenfüller. – Em1 – 2012-04-27T13:53:41.823

@Mac Vergleiche auch die Definitionen im Duden von Ähm und von Halt.

– Em1 – 2012-04-27T13:55:55.520

Vllt, kann mal irgendjemand ein Beispiel zeigen, wo halt als Lückenfüller verwendet wird. Ich habe hier, in dem ganzen Thread, noch nicht ein einziges Beispiel dazu gesehen! – Em1 – 2012-04-27T13:58:03.067

Ahh.. Oder interpretiert ihr das Dekorieren von Text als Füllen. Dann würde ich es verstehen und zustimmen. Vielleicht bin ich zu fixiert auf das Stopfen von Sprechpausen. – Em1 – 2012-04-27T14:05:20.640

@Em1 Lol, ganz genau - "filler" ist alles, was nicht nötig ist und wie Du sagst "zur Dekoration" eingefügt wird - hat mit einer tatsächlichen Lücke nicht viel zu tun :) – Mac – 2012-04-27T14:56:19.400

"Dekorieren" ist in dem Zusammenhang kein ganz unproblematischer Begriff, denn er bringt eine positive Bedeutung mit die hier nicht unbedingt passt. Füllwörter sind IMO Wórter, die eine Aussage sachlich nicht bereichern, sondern in der gesprochenen Sprache (höchstens!) dazu dienen die Einstellung des Sprechers zur Aussage zu verdeutlichen. Lackmus-Test ist für mich: würde ich Wort X so in einer wissenschaftlichen Ausarbeitung verwenden? Und da gehören halt Füllwörter wie "halt" halt für mich halt so nicht so dazu, also so halt gar nicht so. – nem75 – 2012-04-27T16:42:18.533

@nem75 Das ist jetzt aber ein eher proskriptiver Ansatz, oder? Ich (und ich vermute auch Em1) möchte hier ungern werten: es wird in der Umgangssprache "halt" oft so gemacht. Ob es einen objektiven Nutzen hat, steht m.E. auf einem ganz anderen Blatt. Eine wissenschaftliche Ausarbeitung kann meiner Meinung nach jedenfalls nicht als Maßstab für umgangssprachliche Ausdrucksweisen herangezogen werden. Mir selbst gehen Füllwörter etc. im Übermaß auch oft auf die Nerven - ganz ohne möchte ich mich aber trotzdem nicht unterhalten müssen :) – Mac – 2012-04-27T17:03:53.657

@Mac, nee da verstehst du mich miss. Wo hab ich gesagt, dass man Füllwörter in gesprochener Sprache nicht verwenden soll/darf? Es ging mir nur um die Definition für "Füllwort"... – nem75 – 2012-04-27T17:45:24.787

Achtung... es gibt Füllwörter und Modalpartikeln. Letztere können massiert auftreten. Objektiv haben sie wenig Sinn und doch trägt jedes zur Färbung bei. Hier wäre dann halt vielleicht wohl doch irgendwie schon auch mal ein Beispiel angebracht... keines dieser Wörter würde ich als Füllwort bezeichnen. Wenn doch dann wären es alles Füllwörter weil hier keins durch besonders viel Aussage hervorsticht... Ein Füllwort für mich wäre .. naja... tja... halt sowas halt so... oder eben das Wort so. Aber halt hat für mich immer einen gewissen färbenden Einschlag, den so so nich hat – Emanuel – 2012-04-27T19:24:28.457


I'm not sure about local specifics, but around the western and northern areas of Germany, "hmm" and "äh"/"ähm" are generally used in a role corresponding to "umm".

A often-used equivalent to "like" in the language of younger speakers is "so". For example, a phrase like "...and he was like, 'no way'" in that sociolect would be "...und er so, 'nie im Leben'".


Posted 2012-04-25T08:44:32.450

Reputation: 280

Is the "so" based on the English word? – verve – 2012-04-25T15:58:03.203


@verve No, but it's a typical mistake to mix that up by Germans who speak English. so [en] ≃ deshalb [de]; so [de] ≃ like that [en]

– feeela – 2012-04-25T16:04:08.060

Do you happen to have a pronunciation source? – verve – 2012-04-25T16:08:09.093

IPA: [zoː] http://de.wiktionary.org/wiki/so BTW: nice example there: »Ich so: „Kommst du mal eben mit?“ Und sie nur so: „Nee.“« – feeela – 2012-04-25T16:09:55.460

1@jstarek: This isn't the use of 'like' that verve is asking about in the question, though. Here 'was like' is being used in place of said, rather than as filler. It can't be left out of the sentence without changing the meaning (or even without making the sentence incomplete). – Tara B – 2012-04-25T16:44:01.787

@feeela: But 'so' in English can also mean something more like the German meaning of 'so'. Not exactly the same, but closer than the 'deshalb' meaning. For example: "She liked to have everything just so" (that's quite old-fashioned though). – Tara B – 2012-04-25T16:47:26.200

+1 for the so - Fein beobachtet! – Wolf – 2014-12-09T12:02:30.603


While there are a lot of "translations" for um, especially by Em1, I'd like to concentrate on the like part of your question.

the most fitting word i can think of that's used as a mere filler with no meaning is halt. Often there's usage of so as well.

It's very common in kids aged up to maybe 16 or 18, especially when they're trying to formulate an opinion, or making a point in free speech. Teachers do put in quite some effort to make that word vanish.

Dann kam halt der Kontrolleur und hat halt so gesagt dass ich halt ohne Fahrschein 40 Euro zahlen soll, so. So voll unfreundlich halt.

Do not mistake this usage of halt with the Modalpartikel or even the command "halt!"


Posted 2012-04-25T08:44:32.450

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This should be the accepted answer. – Barth Zalewski – 2015-08-08T17:51:58.983


The filler word in Vienna depends on your age and social status. But a classic is "Oida" ("Alter").

  Oida, die war voi schorf, Oida.

As a rule of thumb, the more you hear "Oida" in a group, the the lesser is the social status of the group. But to be exact I'd have to know which dialect of which viennese district you want to know.

There are differences between the language spoken in Meidling, Floridsdorf, Innere Stadt or Döbling - depending on the people living there.


Posted 2012-04-25T08:44:32.450

Reputation: 236


You are asking how to translate something from "low" English to "high" German.

In the first place, these construct do not translate from "low" English to "high" English.

"Ummm ..." is a filler noise, not really a word, and "like" is also a filler to, like, generate a delay so that thought can catch up with tongue.


Posted 2012-04-25T08:44:32.450

Reputation: 41

The German hm is also a filler noise. – Wolf – 2014-12-09T12:01:14.087


One filler that can be as irritating as "like" when overused is "ich sag' mal".

Das ist, ich sag' mal, schon ziemlich nervig, wenn jemand ständig, ich sag' mal, Füllphrasen einfügt.

Carsten S

Posted 2012-04-25T08:44:32.450

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1As "ich sag' mal" seems to be popular predominantly in the northern parts of Germany, the usual way to pronounce it is "ich sach ma". – Christian Geiselmann – 2017-03-31T14:00:46.887

@ChristianGeiselmann, das kann gut auf den Sprecher, den ich im Kopf habe, zutreffen. – Carsten S – 2017-03-31T14:03:15.623


One equivalent to like is oder so:

Das Buch hieß: Im Westen nichts Neues, oder so.

Martin Peters

Posted 2012-04-25T08:44:32.450

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Both @Emanuel and @schlingel mentioned "voll" as an important word in teen language.

  • voll krass (germany)
  • voll arg (austria)


Posted 2012-04-25T08:44:32.450

Reputation: 189


In some regions you may meet "sozusagen" used quite frequently as a filler. Usually then it is pronounced sloppily "sozagn"

Ja, und dann ist der sozagn die ganze Strecke wieder zurückgedackelt sozagn.

Of course this is a bad habit.

In university I had a literature teacher who inserted "nicht wahr also" in literally every single sentence. But this was rather his personal whim, nothing you would probably meet in the wild. Once I took the effort and counted his "nicht wahr also". I got at 120 "nicht wahr also" in 45 minutes.

Christian Geiselmann

Posted 2012-04-25T08:44:32.450

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There are a number of such filling words as "like" in English. A quite common one is "so":

So, weißt du, wie ich das meine so?

Also quite often used is "quasi" and "also". Not always in the same positions, but they get so much over use, that something is dying inside me every time I hear someone saying this.

You'll also find that people usually have individual, favorite fill-words. I personally knew someone who used "offiziell" at least once in every sentence. And a former supervisor of mine was ending every sentence in "… wie?", even if it didn't make sense.


Posted 2012-04-25T08:44:32.450

Reputation: 479

Good answer. But note that "so" has already been discussed by Emanuel in his answer. – Hendrik Vogt – 2012-05-03T07:30:48.103