Guarda… Cioè… Insomma… The Italian FILLER WORDS

Words matter… but what happens when you cannot find the right one? In this lesson we will see some words that might be helpful in this case! They do not have a real meaning: we just use them in order to take time and think while we are talking. We call them “riempitivi”!

Improve your vocabulary by learning the FILLER WORDS

Just like the word “riempitivi” suggests, they are words or groups of words that we use to fill the sentence when we don’t known what to say. That’s why we don’t use them with their proper meaning!

We can divide them in 3 groups, depending on where we use them in the sentence:


They are those words that we use to start a sentence, usually when we are asked a question and we can’t give an immediate answer.  Some are more formal, for example:

  • DUNQUE (so)
  • ONESTAMENTE (honestly)
  • MI FACCIA PENSARE (let me think)

Some other are less formal:

  • FAMMI PENSARE (let me think – using the “tu”)
  • BEH
  • SENTI (hear me out)
  • GUARDA (look)
  • SAI (you know)
  • MAH

For example:

– Cosa facciamo questo fine settimana? (What are we doing this weekend?)

Fammi pensare… potremmo andare al mare! (Let me think… we could go to the beach!)

Sai, mi sembra un’ottima idea! (You know, I think it’s a great idea!)

Dunque, se prendiamo il treno delle 10.30 dovremmo arrivare per pranzo! (So, if we take the 10.30 train we would arrive for lunch!)

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In the second group we find the words we use in the middle of a sentence, when the right word does not come to our mind or we want to take time to think about what to say next. We have some that works for both formal and informal situations:

  • PRATICAMENTE (practically)
  • ONESTAMENTE (honestly)
  • SOSTANZIALMENTE (essentially)
  • NEL SENSO (I mean)
  • PER INTENDERCI (to let you understand)
  • TUTTO SOMMATO (after all)

Instead, just for the informal situations, we have:

  • DICIAMO (let’s say)
  • CHE SO IO (what do I know)
  • CIOÈ (I mean)
  • SAI (you know)

As you see, you can use “sai” both as starter and as median!

For example:

Sono arrivato alla festa e praticamente non c’era più nessuno! Nel senso… c’era qualcuno, però sai poca gente, e tutto sommato non era molto divertente! E poi cioè, a me non piace neanche ballare! (I arrived to the party and… practically… there were no more people! I mean… there was someone, but, you know, few people… and after all it was not really funny! And then… I mean… I don’t even like dancing!)


In the final group, we have the finalizers. We use them at the end of a sentence or of a bigger speech. We use them in general to indicate that we have done talking: the speech is over and there is nothing left to say. For formal and informal contexts we can use:

  • INSOMMA (in short)
  • IN CONCLUSIONE (in conclusion)
  • E QUANT’ALTRO (you name it! – this in particular at the end of a list)

While for the informal contexts we have:

  • OK
  • CHE DIRE (what can I say)
  • BENE (well)
  • VABBÈ (whatever)

For example:

– Siamo andati in montagna ed è piovuto tutto il tempo. Vabbè, che dire: un’esperienza da dimenticare. (We went to the mountains and it rained all the time. Well… what can I say: an experience to forget)

Insomma, vi siete rovinati le vacanze! (In short, you ruined your holidays!)

Moreover, as you probably already noticed, many filler words can be combined, creating very long chains!

For example:

Sì, cioè, insomma, è vero che non ho fatto i compiti, però onestamente, saiVabbè, diciamo che non ho avuto tempo! (Yes, I mean… in short…it’s true that I didn’t do my homework, but honestly, you know… Ok, let’s say I didn’t have time!)

Also watch our lesson about how TO BE VAGUE in Italian!

Let’s see if you’ve mastered the contents of this class. Have a go at completing the exercises!

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