What to say when you don’t know what to say
In everyday conversations, we often use short (and sometimes meaningless) words or sounds to fill small pauses in our speech. These are called filler words and they’re quite useful as they allow us to take a moment to think about what to say next.
This can be especially helpful in the context of speaking a foreign language, because we’ve all been there: Entering a conversation with a native speaker only to feel overwhelmed midway through. Using the appropriate fillers can buy you time and even help you feel more confident in these situations.
As a Greek learner, it’s essential that you become familiar with the common Greek filler words so that you can better participate in conversations!
Table of Contents
- Why do we use filler words?
- The Top 10 Greek Filler Words
- Pros & Cons of Filler Words
1. Why do we use filler words?
Well, one thing is for sure: Filler words usually don’t add any meaning to the sentence. So, why use them?
Greek filler words can be used to:
- Provide a few valuable seconds to think about what you’re going to say next
- Give you the time to think about how you want to say somethingespecially when you’re under pressure or talking about sensitive matters
- Hide your anxiety when speaking in public or when you’re not that comfortable with the language (perfect for beginners)
- Show hesitation, confusion, confidence, or determination
2. The Top 10 Greek Filler Words
|This is probably the most common Greek filler word. It’s usually placed at the beginning of a sentence, and it’s used to gain a few valuable seconds to think about how to say something or what to decide. However, be careful about using it as it can indicate hesitation, indecision, or even guilt.|
|– Γιατί δεν μου είπες ότι θα πάτε σινεμά;
– Εεε… το ξέχασα!
|– Yatí den mu ípes óti tha páte sinemá?
– Eeeh… to xéhasa!
|– “Why didn’t you tell me that you (plural) will go to the cinema?”
– “Err… I forgot!”
|λοιπόν…||Lipon…||“So…” / “Well…”|
|This filler can be placed either at the beginning of a sentence or at the end. When it appears at the beginning, it aims to give the speaker some time to think. When it appears at the end, it’s used to motivate the other person to respond or to take part in an activity or action.|
|Example 1: At the beginning of the sentence|
|– Λοιπόν… πού θα πάμε τελικά σήμερα;||– Lipón… pu tha páme teliká símera?||– “So… Where will we go today after all?”|
|Example 2: At the end of the sentence|
|-Λοιπόν; Τι έχεις να πεις για αυτό;||– Lipon? Ti éhis na pis ya aftó?||– “Well? What do you have to say about this?”|
|This Greek filler word is used to express uncertainty or mediocrity, and it’s placed at the beginning of a sentence.|
|— Σου άρεσε αυτό το βιβλίο;- Εντάξει… καλό ήταν.||– Su árese aftó to vivlío?Endáxi… kaló ítan.||– “Did you like this book?”- “Um…it was okay.”|
|Similarly to “Εντάξει…,” this Greek filler is used to express uncertainty or mediocrity, and it’s placed at the beginning of a sentence.|
|– Σου άρεσε η ταινία που είδαμε χθες;- Oκ… δεν εντυπωσιάστηκα.||– Su árese i tenía pu ídame hthes?– Ókei…den endiposiástika.||– “Did you like the movie we saw yesterday?” – “Um… I wasn’t impressed.”|
|This filler word expresses hesitation and it’s often used when the speaker is about to say something that makes them feel uncomfortable, especially when they’re being honest about something that might hurt the other person. It’s also used when one wants to avoid answering a question directly.|
|Example 1: Expressing hesitation|
|— Κοίτα… πρέπει να μιλήσουμε για αυτό που έγινε χθες.||– Κíta… prépi na milísume ya aftó pu éyine hthes.||– “Look… We need to talk about what happened last night.”|
|Example 2: Avoiding a question|
|– Είσαι ερωτευμένη αυτήν την περίοδο;- Κοίτα… το μόνο που μπορώ να πω είναι ότι είμαι καλά.||– Íse erotevméni aftín tin período?– Kíta… to móno pu boró na po íne óti íme kalá.||– “Are you in love currently?”- “Look… The only thing I can say is that I am fine.”|
#6 ξέρω ‘γω
|ξέρω ‘γω||Xéro ‘go||Say|
|This is a Greek slang term that literally means “I know,” though it has the opposite meaning and is used to convey uncertainty or indecision.|
|– Τι άλλο μας λείπει να κανονίσουμε για το πάρτι;- Να ορίσουμε μια ώρα, στις πέντε ξέρω ‘γω, ανάμε εο το πάρτι;||– Ti álo mas lípi na kanonísume ya to párti?– Νa orísume mia óra, stis pénde xéro ‘go, ya na páme na párume tin túrta.||– “What else are we missing for the party?” – “Let’s set up a time, say at five, to go pick up the cake.”|
#7 Δεν μου λες…
|Δεν μου λες…||Den mu les…||“Hey…”|
|If you love gossip, then this is the filler word for you! It’s used at the beginning of a question, when the speaker is trying to extract information from someone.|
|– Δεν μου λες… τι είπατε με τη Μαρία τελικά;||– Den mu les… ti ípate me ti María teliká?||– “Hey… What did you discuss with Maria on the end?”|
#8 Όπως και να το κάνουμε…
|Όπως και να το κάνουμε…||Ópos ke na to kánume…||N/A|
|This phrase literally means “However we do this…” though there isn’t an exact English equivalent. It shows certainty about something—a general truth.|
|– Στεναχωρήθηκες που έφυγε ο Γιώργος;- Όπως και να το κάνουμε, ζούσαμε για πολλά χρόνια μαζί.||– Stenahoríthikes pu éfiye o Yiórgos?– Ópos ke na to kánume, zúsame yia pollá hrónia mazí.||– “Are you sad about George leaving?” – “Well, (however we do this), we were living together for many years.”|
|Although this filler word can be translated as “basically,” its use is not quite the same in Greek. It’s rather meaningless and better resembles the English filler “well…”.|
|– Στεναχωρήθηκες που έφυγε ο Γιώργος;- Βασικά… ποιος είναι ο Γιώργος;||– Stenahoríthikes pu éfiye o Yórgos?– Vasiká… pios íne o Yórgos?||– “Did you feel sad about George leaving?” – “Well (basically)… Who is George?”|
#10 ας πούμε
|ας πούμε||as púme||“let’s say”|
|This Greek filler word is often used in the middle of sentences in order to demonstrate an example.|
|– Οι υψηλές θερμοκρασίες, ας πούμε, είναι από τα πλεονεκτήματα της Ελλάδας.||– Ι ipsilés thermokrasíes, as púme, íne apó ta pleonektímata tis Eládas.||– “High temperatures are, let’s say (for example), one of the advantages of Greece.”|
3. Pros & Cons of Filler Words
Well, now that you’ve learned the most popular Greek filler words, you should use them regardless of the occasion? What should you be aware of?
Filler words do help, for sure:
- Adding filler words to your speech will make you sound more like a native.
- You gain time to think about what to say next (ideal for beginners).
- Most of them are simple to use and easy to pronounce.
However, there are two things you should take into account:
- It’s best to avoid them in business and formal Greek, since some of them might sound inappropriate or even rude.
- Excess use of filler words should be avoided, mainly because you may sound confused, indecisive, or boring—you might even annoy your listeners.
Looking for more phrases to make your Greek sound more natural? See our vocabulary list of the Essential Idioms That Will Make You Sound Like a Native Speaker!
The biggest advantage of using filler words is that they instantly make you sound more natural! What are your favorite fillers in Greek? And what are some common filler words in your native language? Let us know in the comments!
Interested in speaking Greek like a native?
Then check out these articles, as well:
➝ 10 Unique and Untranslatable Greek Words
➝ How to Say Hello in Greek: Do it Like a Local!
➝ Compliments in Greek: The Ultimate Guide to Greek Compliments
➝ Angry Expressions in Greek
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