Uncover the secret of sounding more native in Spanish with our comprehensive guide to Spanish filler words or ‘muletillas.’ Learn common fillers, their meanings, and how to use them naturally in your conversations. Improve your listening comprehension and speak Spanish more fluently by mastering these unique linguistic elements.
Muchachos, are you ready for a super practical class today? The Spanish language might sound like an impossibly fast stream of syllables when you first start listening to native speakers, but believe us, Spanish speakers actually also need to pause and think every now and then!
You might have missed these pauses because you’re still reeling from that whirlwind of words, but it could also be because you missed the filler words that those latinos have used to keep up with themselves.
Filler words in Spanish are called muletillas which translates to “little crutches” and they couldn’t be more aptly named! Today, you’re going to learn over 20 of these common muletillas which will be a great boost for your foreign language learning process, especially your listening comprehension and your spoken everyday language skills.
Why learn filler words?
We already gave away the first reason in the introduction: learning Spanish filler words can improve your understanding of spoken Spanish because you’ll recognize the words and understand their function in someone’s speech.
Another big reason is for your own speaking because filler words are such an intuitive and natural part of people’s speaking, when you incorporate them into your spoken Spanish you will immediately sound a little more like a native speaker. They don’t generally follow the grammar rules but filler words help to maintain a conversation. They can emphasize points or show agreement or understanding. Finally, filler words can be used to fill pauses in casual conversations and to help maintain a natural flow of speech in real-life situations.
A brief word of caution, though, don’t go over the top and make every 4th word a filler word, because that could make you sound overly doubtful or plainly incoherent.
Most common filler words in Latin American Spanish
You’ll find that filler words can vary quite a bit from one country to the next and even from region to region within one country. Fortunately, there are also a big collection of them that are used across most Spanish-speaking countries.
Since our blog is geared towards Latin American Spanish, we’ve left out the few that are almost exclusively used in Spain, and included the Spanish muletillas that are most common across Latin America. We’ll also make to mention when the word is more commonly used in certain countries!
You might already know that this word means either “this” or “east”, but as a filler word it carries neither of those meanings, and speakers use it as a word to fill up a pause for the speaker to thinking, often used in the middle of a sentence or as general Spanish sentence starter. The second E is usually dragged out a lot so it sounds more like “esteeeee”.
* Creo que esa película es, este, interesante pero los actores no son muy buenos.
* (I think that film is, uhm, interesting but the actors aren’t very good.)
The usual meaning of bueno is good, of course, but in this context it’s more similar to how English speakers use “well” as a pause filler. Usually used at the start of a sentence.
* Bueno, si tu quieres, vamos.
* (Well, if you want to, let’s go.)
o sea / es decir
We’ve put these two together because their meaning is practically exactly the same, “in other words” or “I mean” and they can be used to link two parts of a sentence or when starting a new sentence.
* O sea/es decir, me estás diciendo que me amas?
* (In other words, you’re telling me you love me?)
This is the expression that come pretty close in meaning to the word “like” as a filler word, and sometimes more like “as if”. Como que is usually used in the middle and there’s often a short pause after it.
* Me miró raro el señor, como que me reconocía o algo.
* (The man looked at me funny, like he recognized me or something.)
The literal translation is “to see” but this translates very well to “let’s see” and is usually used when starting a new sentence to offer a deeper analysis of the topic at hand.
* A: ¿Como podemos solucionar el cambio climático?
B: A ver, hay que analizar varios factores para eso.
* A: (How can we solve the problem of climate change?
B: Let’s see, we have to analyze several factors for that.)
pues / po
It’s very important to learn the meaning of pues (and its abbreviations versions pe, and po, very common in Peru and Chile, respectively) in Latin America since it’s quite different from how it’s used in Spain.
While in Spain it is roughly equivalent to “well” and is used as a linking word (“since”) at the beginning or middle of a sentence, in Latin America it’s mostly used at the end of the sentence as a way to emphasize or offer a solution and can be translated to “then”.
* A: Quiero hablar español como tú.
B: ¡Entonces practica bastante, pues!
* A: (I want to speak Spanish like you.
B: So practice a lot, then!)
This is a filler word that’s also a linking word to link ideas between clauses or sentences so usually comes in the middle or at the start of a sentence.
When used informally, it means “sure” or “definitely” in Latin America.
* A: Es muy difícil cambiar nuestros hábitos, ¿no?
B: De hecho.
* A: (It’s very difficult to change our habits, isn’t it?
It might not surprise you to learn that ajá is the Spanish equivalent of “aha” as an interjection to express agreement with the person speaking or simply to show you’re listening. Used at the start of a sentence, often with nothing else, it’s a common affirmative filler word. It’s a good word to practice that good old guttural jota too!
* A: Que lindo está ese mural, ¿no?
* A: (That mural painting is so pretty, isn’t it?
There’s a meme doing the rounds about all the different meanings of the word ya depending on the intonation and context which shows just how versatile this word is, but today we’ll focus on the most common uses as a filler word (omitting its meaning as a literal translation of “already”). It’s a very versatile word.
Below is an example where it’s used at “yes” or “okay”.
* A: ¿Puedes ayudarme a cargar estas cajas?
B: Ya, ¡claro!
* A: (Can you help me carry these boxes?
B: Yeah, sure!)
Dale is used a great deal in Argentina and Uruguay and means “go ahead” or “okay”.
* A: ¿Puedo servirme otro tamal?
* A: (Can I have another tamal?
B: Go ahead!)
wey (güey) / huevón (weón)
Now let’s look at a funky combination of two filler words that sound similar and are used in a similar way, but whose actual meaning is unrelated.
Wey (also spelled güey) is a quintessentially Mexican expression which can just mean “man/woman” for extra emphasis, or can be an insult meaning stupid person. It comes from the word buey which means ox.
Huevón is very common in Peru (and weón in Chile) is the superlative of huevo, so translates to “big egg” and also means “man” or “dude” when used among friends or as an insult in other situations. This one does change if you want to refer to a woman: huevona.
* Oye Leo, hace tiempo no te veo. ¿Cómo has estado wey/huevón?
* (Hey Leo, I haven’t seen you for ages. How have you been, man?)
verdad / no cierto
We’ve put these two together because they both mean “right?” in the sense of approval from the other person. They’re always used at the end of the sentence, with rising intonation.
* La conferencia estuvo genial, ¿verdad / no cierto?
* (The conference was great, right?)
You might already know that fin means “end”, but en fin can actually be translated to “anyway” or “all in all”. It’s used to summarise what the (same) speaker just said, at the start of a new sentence.
* La organización del evento ha sido un poco difícil. En fin, todo saldrá bien.
* (Organizing the event has been a little difficult. Anyway, everything will work out fine.)
lo que pasa es / es que
Oooh, this is a really good filler word when you need to explain something, whether it’s true or an excuse since it can be translated to “the thing is…”. Used either in the middle or the start of a sentence (and often followed by a pause as the speaker is searching for the right words or excuse!).
* A: Así que.. no hiciste tu tarea, eh?
B: Es que… mi mamá me pidió ayudarla en la cocina.
* A: (So.. you didn’t do your homework, eh?
B: The thing is… my mom asked me to help her in the kitchen.)
¿entiendes? / ¿sabes? / ¿te das cuenta?
We’ve put these three together even though they have slightly different meanings, they’re used with the same purpose: to check if the other person has understood what you just said. It is always used at the end of a sentence.
* Voy a dejar de comer en las noches porque es más sano, ¿sabes?
* (I’m going to stop eating at night because it’s healthier, you know?)
Here’s another super important one! In most Latin American countries, it means “just” or “only” and is invariably used at the end of the sentence. In Mexico, however, you can also use it practically anywhere in the sentence, even at the start, with the same meaning.
* Dame medio kilo de harina nomás.
* (Give me just half a kilo of flour.)
Even though this filler word is primarily used in Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay, it’s so omnipresent in people’s speech there that we have to include it. It roughly means “hey”, or “guy/dude” and is used at the start of the sentence or when pausing.
* Che, ¿vos sabes a qué hora sale este tren?
* (Hey, do you know what time this train leaves?)
A convo chockfull of filler words
Time for a challenge! Identify the 10 Spanish filler words used in the conversation and see which ones can be interchanged for others that have a very similar meaning. (The answers can be found at the end of the article.)
Miguel: Tania! ¿Qué tal? Este…. ¿Vas a ir a la fiesta más tarde?
Tania: A ver… en realidad no estoy segura. Como que no tengo mucha energía hoy.
Miguel: Es que hoy será un día muy especial. Le voy a pedir la mano a Rebeca, sabes.
Tania: ¿En serio?
Miguel: Ajá… en fin, ¿crees que ya te animas a ir entonces?
Tania: De hecho, ¡wey! ¡Quiero ver su cara cuando le pides la mano!
Miguel: Ya pues. Nos vemos a las 8 en el bar de Tito.
Tania: ¡Ya! Allí nos vemos.
Terminamos, ¿no cierto?
We’re pretty sure this class will have helped you get one step closer to speaking Spanish more like a native Spanish speaker. Trust us, now that you know these filler words, you’ll be hearing them pop up more often than the song Despacito in the supermarket! En fin… ya hablarán como latinos pronto, ¡muchachos!
* Answer: the eight filler words from the conversation
- A ver
- Como que
- Es que
- De hecho