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?

  • Wann sagt man denn like in Canada? When do you say like in Canada? Commented Apr 25, 2012 at 13:26
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    @userunknown Actually it's mostly a US thing, generally referred to as "valley-girl speak". Wikipedia has a good article on it.
    – Benubird
    Commented Apr 25, 2012 at 14:03
  • 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
    Commented Apr 25, 2012 at 15:48
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    @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
    Commented Apr 25, 2012 at 16:41
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    @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
    Commented Apr 25, 2012 at 18:32

11 Answers 11


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.

  • 5
    +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
    Commented Apr 25, 2012 at 10:19
  • @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
    Commented Apr 25, 2012 at 15:54
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    @verve: Based on which English word? Also doesn't mean the same as 'also' in English. It's more like 'so'.
    – Tara B
    Commented Apr 25, 2012 at 16:34
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    @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
    Commented Apr 25, 2012 at 21:15
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    I 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)".
    – user1561
    Commented May 2, 2012 at 21:38

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.

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    Also, both can be used as verbs: And he like "really?" becomes Und er so "echt?" Commented Apr 25, 2012 at 9:19
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    You've got another one in your example: 'halt' is often just filler.
    – Tara B
    Commented Apr 25, 2012 at 12:38
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    Perhaps 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
    Commented Apr 25, 2012 at 12:53
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    @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
    Commented Apr 26, 2012 at 16:02
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    @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
    Commented Apr 27, 2012 at 13:37

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'".

  • Is the "so" based on the English word?
    – verve
    Commented Apr 25, 2012 at 15:58
  • 3
    @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
    Commented Apr 25, 2012 at 16:04
  • Do you happen to have a pronunciation source?
    – verve
    Commented Apr 25, 2012 at 16:08
  • IPA: [zoː] de.wiktionary.org/wiki/so BTW: nice example there: »Ich so: „Kommst du mal eben mit?“ Und sie nur so: „Nee.“«
    – feeela
    Commented Apr 25, 2012 at 16:09
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    @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
    Commented Apr 25, 2012 at 16:44

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!"

  • This should be the accepted answer.
    – Liglo App
    Commented Aug 8, 2015 at 17:51

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.


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.

  • The German hm is also a filler noise.
    – Wolf
    Commented Dec 9, 2014 at 12:01

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.

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    As "ich sag' mal" seems to be popular predominantly in the northern parts of Germany, the usual way to pronounce it is "ich sach ma". Commented Mar 31, 2017 at 14:00
  • @ChristianGeiselmann, das kann gut auf den Sprecher, den ich im Kopf habe, zutreffen.
    – Carsten S
    Commented Mar 31, 2017 at 14:03

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

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

One equivalent to like is oder so:

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


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.

  • Good answer. But note that "so" has already been discussed by Emanuel in his answer. Commented May 3, 2012 at 7:30

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.

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