Using Gap Fillers
I’m answering a listener question today regarding colloquial expressions – gap fillers, to be more specific. Gap Fillers are really important when speaking English in a natural way and also in avoiding hesitation. Let’s find out more.
What Are Gap Fillers?
Gap Fillers hold many different meanings but are generally all used to stall or give yourself time to think when talking. It’s much better to use these fillers rather than simply saying “ummm” or “ahhh”.
Examples include: sort of, kind of, like, I mean, well, you know…
Should You Use Them?
First of all, I recommend familiarising yourself with them as much as you can. Using them too much can be quite annoying (“like” is the worst), but they have their place in English and are useful when you’re stalling and thinking of what to say next.
I use them without thinking. I had no idea I said “kind of” so often until I started a podcast and listened back to what I was saying. It was quite surprising.
In short, it’s a good idea to use them if you can, but don’t go overboard and use too many. Try to focus on one at a time and make sure you know how to use it properly rather than using many of them at once because you’ll end up sounding unnatural.
When you gain more confidence speaking English (high advanced levels) you might be able to move away from using so many fillers and speak more assertively and coherently, but keep in mind many native speakers can’t do this.
How to Practise Fillers
Hearing in Context
I suggest picking one of them and hearing how it’s used in different contexts. I recommend YouGlish and searching for the phrase you want to hear.
Once you are familiar with its usage and meaning, try to use it in a conversation. You can challenge yourself to use it 5 times in one chat, for example.
Keep repeating this with different, common ones and I’d say that should be a good way to practice them.
You can find lists online that show all of these fillers, but it might be better to just pick them up by listening carefully to things like this podcast.
Another great tip is to record yourself. When you hear yourself speak, you’ll notice all the things you’re doing and not doing. You might realise you’re saying “ammm” so much and this is often the first step to reducing it. In future talks, when you pause, train yourself to replace “ammm” or silence with “you know…” or something like that.
- Offender – A person (or thing) that commits a crime or does something bad
- To stall – To stop or pause progress in something
“There are no shortcuts to any place worth going.” – Beverly Sills