In casual, spoken English, there are certain "filler-words" which are very common, but don't really add much to the actual meaning of the sentence. For example: "like, you know..., look....".

The same thing seems to exist in Italian. I want to a) confirm that this true, b) find out what the common filler-words are.

For example, are these common filler-words?:

  • guarda (look)
  • dai (come on now)
  • sai (you know)

What other Italian words or expressions would be in this category?

4 Answers 4


Yes, there are filler words. Those you mentioned actually can be used meaningfully ("dai" is an exhortation for example).

Aside from those you mentioned, other examples may be:

  • cioè
  • mah
  • mmm (though not exactly a word)
  • eh

and many others. An example dialogue using all of them:

A) Sai, ho visto Luca in giro con l'auto nuova.
B) Eh? Strano.
A) Perché?
B) Eh, guarda, non so se posso parlartene... cioè...
A) Dai...
B) Mmm, è che pensavo gli avessero tolto la patente... mah...
  • 1
    (I'm on a foreign keyboard most of the time, so I don't have the accented e letter at hand. Both cioe' and perche' actually are with accent, not apostrophe!) Commented Aug 26, 2016 at 9:52
  • 1
    Accents are now fixed.
    – DaG
    Commented Aug 26, 2016 at 9:53
  • 3
    I am a devotee of the High Church of Nitpicking.
    – DaG
    Commented Aug 26, 2016 at 9:57
  • 2
    Don't forget "Boh"!
    – user84976
    Commented Aug 30, 2016 at 12:13
  • Mah is used to convey uncertainty, as in: "Hai visto Marco ultimamente?" "Mah, sarà preso dallo studio" (I don't know where he is, but I think he might be busy studying) or "Cosa ne diresti se andassimo a correre domani?" "Mah, sono un po' stanco in questi giorni.." (I'm not interested in going jogging because I am tired. I want to be polite and not openly say "I don't want to come with you").
  • Insomma / cioè / are used to better explain a point or to get to the real point of the conversation: "Maria ha un po' di problemi a casa e al lavoro, e esce meno con gli amici. Insomma, è sparita dalla circolazione" or "Ti richiamo dopo. Cioè...quando avrò finito di studiare e mettere in ordine la casa".
  • Allora is kind of the equivalent of "so" in English. Used to start a conversation, to bring up a new topic or to call for attention: "Allora, come è andata in vacanza? Rcconta!" or "Allora, bambini, venite qui e mettetevi seduti" in cerchio".

NB "cioè" can sound like "c'è" in spoken language. I don't know if it is a northern Italy thing or not.


Insomma..., ecco una lista:

  • allora
  • cioè
  • dai
  • eh
  • guarda
  • insomma
  • mah
  • mmm
  • quindi
  • senti
  • sai

Ho aggiunto 'quindi' e 'senti'.

  • Anche "niente"... ho appena sentito una persona al telefono che lo diceva ogni due frasi: "Niente, adesso sto arrivando..."
    – CarLaTeX
    Commented Sep 5, 2016 at 5:28

I'll add the filler-words that I use the most, and which I also happen to find rather annoying (trying to get rid of this bad habit, with little success!):

  • Tipo or tipo che (the equivalent of like)
  • Praticamente or in pratica

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