18 May 2020

These common Spanish fillers will help you sound more natural in conversations

If you’ve learned Spanish from classes or on your own, you may know all the grammar rules and vocabulary, but you might be self-conscious about how you sound when conversing with native speakers. When it comes to speaking are you worried you sound too formal or unnatural? Fillers in Spanish are called muletillas, which literally translates to little crutches. They are words or phrases that native Spanish speakers often use to start sentences or express ideas. They can also help you gain some extra time to gather your thoughts. Find out the most common Spanish fillers people in Spain use so that you can join in on the conversation naturally.

These common Spanish fillers will help you sound more natural in conversations

Vale – okay

Vale translates loosely to “okay”. This filler word will come in handy when you want to agree with a statement or show that you understand something. You can also use it as a question when you want someone to show that they agree or understand.

- Perdona, ¿me podrías decir dónde está el centro comercial?
- Excuse me. Could you tell me where the mall is?
- Por supuesto. Está justo detrás de ese edificio blanco.
- Of course. It’s right behind that white building.
- Vale. ¡Muchas gracias!
- Okay. Thanks very much!

Nos vemos a las siete, vale?
-See you at seven, okay?

Pues – well / so

Using pues can buy you time in a conversation when you’re still thinking of a response. This filler word means “well” or “so”. It’s usually used at the beginning of a sentence. You can stretch out the e sound like you would in the word weeell (pueees), buying you even more time.

- ¿Quieres ir al cine hoy?
- Do you want to go to the movies today?
- Pues… No sé porque he quedado con mi hermana.
- Well… I don’t know, because I have plans with my sister.

Bueno – well / okay / yeah

Bueno is a Spanish filler that is similar to pues. You can either use it to express uncertainty or to give you more time to think of your response.

- Qué tal tu cita con Juan?
- How was your date with Juan?
- Bueeeno, la verdad es que no muy bien.
- Weeeell, the truth is not very good.

En plan – like / as

A favourite among teenagers and young people in Spain, en plan means “like” and can be used in the same way you would in English. You can also use it to describe the way in which something is done.

Se queda ahí, en plan, que parece que no está pero se entera de todo.
He’s there, like, it seems like he’s not but he notices everything.

Si el portero se pone en plan chulito, le dices mi nombre y te dejará entrar.
If the doorman gets all smug, tell him my name and he’ll let you in.

¿Sabes? – you know?

This one might be familiar to you from English already, you know? Tack this onto the end of your sentence and you’ll sound just like a native Spanish speaker.

Pablo es un muy buen tío, ¿sabes?
Pablo’s a really great guy, ya know?

¿Sabes qué? is another common one that translates to “you know what”?

¿Sabes qué? Voy a devolver esos pantalones que me compré. El color no me va bien.
You know what? I’m going to return those pants I bought myself. The colour doesn’t look good on me.

O sea – I mean / in other words

This Spanish filler is used by a lot of Spanish speakers around the world. You can use it at the beginning of a sentence or to help rephrase, clarify or add a detail to a previous statement.

Mi marido, o sea, mi ex, se va a casar con otro.
My husband, I mean my ex, is getting married to someone else.

Todavía tengo mucho trabajo hoy. O sea, no podré venir al gimnasio.
I still have a lot of work today. In other words, I won’t be able to come to the gym.

Así que / entonces – so

Así que and entonces are 2 other muletillas that mean “so” and can help you get your thoughts together before speaking.

- Vienes el sábado al Opium?
- Are you coming to Opium on Saturday?
- No me gusta bailar, así que…
- I don’t like dancing, so… (implies that they probably won’t go)

Entonces, vamos a tomar un helado?
So, are we going to get some ice cream?

To conclude…

Hopefully you recognized some of these Spanish fillers and even if you haven’t, you might notice them from now on. Pay attention the next time you’re having a conversation with a native Spanish speaker or when you’re watching a film or series in Spanish and see if you pick up on them. Hearing these useful muletillas in context will help you get an even better understanding of how to use them too! If you’re interested in learning Spanish in the heart of Barcelona or online from the comfort of your home wherever you are in the world, check out our courses.