Get 40% off with the Now or Never sale. Hurry! Ends soon!
Get 40% off with the Now or Never sale. Hurry! Ends soon!
CzechClass101.com Blog
Learn Czech with Free Daily
Audio and Video Lessons!
Start Your Free Trial 6 FREE Features

Czech Filler Words: When “Ahem” isn’t Enough

Thumbnail

Filler words. The elusive umbrella term for all sorts of mysterious sounds, phrases, and individual words that no textbook in the world could prepare you for.

It feels like politicians all over the world love to indulge in this kind of endeavor, but regular mortals do so with equal vigor…and less class.

Nevertheless, you should get familiar with Czech filler words even if your personal goal doesn’t involve diving into the pool of Czech politics. Regular peeps love them as well, and you might sometimes feel that they’re a part of every single Czech sentence. Or that you’re in the famous show The Office (I’ve never heard so many “okays” in such a short span of time).

My personal motto is: Instead of using this verbal “cotton fluff,” just pause and smile for a second.

Ready? 

In this article, I’ll walk you through the most common Czech filler words and give you some advice to help you navigate through the confusing valley of Czech conversation fillers. So, basically… We can begin, like…now?

A Woman in a Yellow Long-sleeved Shirt Looking Unsure about Something

Ummm…

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Czech Table of Contents
  1. What are filler words and why do we use them?
  2. Czech Fluff That Will Buy You Some Time When You’re Speechless
  3. Pros and Cons of Using Filler Words: Look for the Silver Lining
  4. CzechClass101.com Helps You Learn Czech Fast

1. What are filler words and why do we use them?

    A filler word can be described as a word without meaning that is used to slow down, pause, or hesitate.
    Fillers have very little lexical value.

You know, all those “um, uh, er, ah, like, okay, right, and you knows” that buy you some time when you’re clueless or weren’t really paying attention when Grandma was telling you about the latest (nerve-wrecking) twist in her favorite soap opera and shrieked, “What would you do if you were in Esmeralda’s shoes?” And now she’s looking at you expectantly, waiting for you to chime in.

With filler words, you can buy more time to think about what to say. Choose wisely. Sometimes, it’s better to pause for a second or to say that you don’t understand. (Not sure how to do it? We’ve got you covered: how to say “I don’t understand,” in Czech.)

What would your answer be?

Ummm… Right?

    Czech filler words play a strategic syntactic role. Their function is (sometimes) to focus the listener’s attention on what’s to follow.
    They can also function as a pause vowel (“ummm”) or a holophrasis, which is a single-word phrase that expresses a complete thought (such as oukej – “okay”).

Beware: Pause vowels and some of the Czech conversation fillers are perceived as a sign of nervousness. You should be cautious and avoid them if you want to appear confident at a job interview, for example.

If you find yourself using filler words way too often, it might be a good idea to work on your vocabulary and practice Czech conversational phrases. (Check out this list.) If you struggle with real-life conversations, you’ll find some useful tips here.

2. Czech Fluff That Will Buy You Some Time When You’re Speechless

In the Czech language, fillers are often used at the beginning or in the middle of a sentence. 

Let’s look at the most common ones.

1.Tak / Takže – “So”

This cute little word is pronounced like no English word and just like the Norwegian “takk” – “thank you.” It’s one of the most commonly used Czech fillers, having countless meanings and functions.

    While tak is used almost exclusively at the beginning of a sentence, takže usually goes last and indicates an open ending of a statement peppered with uncertainty.

Example:
Q: Kdy se budete brát? – “When will you get married?”
A1: Tak… říkali jsme si za 7 let nebo tak… – “So, we were thinking in 7 years or so…”
A2: Říkali jsme si za 7 let, takže… – “We were thinking in 7 years, so…”

A Woman Thinking in Front of a Chalkboard that Has Speech and Thought Bubbles Drawn on It

Not all filler words have a negative impact on the convo.

2. No – “Well”

This might be the uncrowned king of all Czech filler words. It’s pronounced almost like the English “no,” which tends to drive native English speakers crazy. Remember, no indicates hesitation; the Czech word for “no” (ne) sounds completely different.

Example:
Q: Neříkala náhodou, že už to neudělá? – “Didn’t she say she wouldn’t do that again?”
A: No, asi si to rozmyslela, takže… – “Well, I guess she changed her mind, so…”

3. Prostě – “Just” / “Simply”

The meaning of the Czech “just” actually leans toward that of the English filler “like,” and as such, it’s used in similar contexts/situations. It either opens or closes the statement.

Example:
Q: Proč jsi mi to neřekl? – “Why didn’t you tell me?”
A: Prostě… Nechtěl jsem, abys to věděla. – “I just…didn’t want you to know.”

4. Jako – “Like”

There’s nothing like a bowl of “like” during small talk, am I right? The Czech jako (“like”) is often used at the very beginning of the sentence as an (angry) opener.

Example:
Jako… Je mi to úplně jedno, víš? – “Like, whatever, you know?”
Jako, co jsi čekala? – “Like, what did you expect?”

5. Vlastně – “Actually”

This one is every politician’s/teacher’s/student’s favorite. It’s a little less casual and it’s often used in tandem with takže (“so”) as takže vlastně. This is an especially powerful combo when: “It’s on the tip of my tongue, just a sec, please, I really need to pass this exam.”

    When you’re at wit’s end and you’ve already said everything you know about the topic BUT you want to make it look like there’s so much more knowledge in you, give yourself a moment to channel it by saying takže vlastně.

Example:
Q: “If Albert Einstein drove his black BMW into town on Monday and then stayed for half a dozen blue moons, what flavor was the ice-cream he ate the night he got back?
“A: Vlastně… Musím si rozmyslet, jak to říct jednoduše. – “Actually, I need to think about how to put it simply.”

An Old Lady Whispering Something into Her Surprised Husband’s Ear

You know, I actually wanted to marry your brother.

6. Víš – “You know”

This is everyone’s and their mom’s favorite cross-cultural gem, widely loved by all drama queens and people who love attention and/or want to seem like they’re really trying hard to explain things to you in an assertive yet understanding manner.

Also, it’s a great buffer for not-so-pleasant news announcements. It’s way more elegant than “ummmm.”

Example:

Q: “Can I have the diamond earrings you borrowed a year ago back?”

A: Víš, prodala jsem je. Potřebovala jsem je na kabelku Chanel. – “You know, I sold them. I needed the money to buy a Chanel purse.”

7. Vole / Ty vole – “You bull”

Please, do not use this Czech filler in formal/professional or otherwise respectable settings.

  • This very common, temperamental word can be used in situations where a native English speaker would utter “oh my god,” “sh*t,” or worse, as well as the aforementioned angry jako (“like”) or in place of a joyous shriek. Also, it indicates surprise or shock in some situations.
  • It’s used as an interjection.

As you can see, it’s a pretty versatile champ.

A Little Boy Expressing Shock

Ty vole!

Example:

Ty vole, ty šaty stojí majlant! – “Oh my gosh, the dress costs a fortune!”

Ty vole, to se mi nepovedlo. – “Darn, I messed up.”

Ty vole, já jsem jí to říkala stokrát a ona mě neposlechla! – “Like, I told her like 100 times, and she wouldn’t listen!”

Q: Jaké bylo to rande? – “How was the date?”

A: Ty vole. Hrůza. – “Oh my god. Disastrous.”

8. Hele – “Look”

This is a very commonly used sentence opener that works just like its English counterpart. It’s kind of similar to the English “hey,” as well.

Example:

Q: Proč mi lžeš? – “Why are you lying to me?”

A: Hele, já jsem ti nikdy nic nesliboval, takže… – “Look, I never promised you anything, so…”

Hele, to bude v pohodě. – “Hey, it’s gonna be alright.”

9. V podstatě – “Basically”

This is another “smart” Czech filler word that might help you think about what you want to say without coming across as rude.

Example:

Q: Mohl bys mi to vysvětlit? – “Could you explain it to me?”

A: V podstatě o nic nejde. – “Basically, it’s not a big deal.”

10. Teda – “Then” / “Thus” / “Therefore”

Teda can be used as an interjection at the beginning of a sentence anytime you’d say something like “oh my gosh” in English. Many people use it as the English “like” and say it anywhere, anytime, first thing in the morning, last thing before bed.

Example:

Teda mami, ta večeře je vynikající! – “Oh my gosh, mom, the dinner is delicious!”

3. Pros and Cons of Using Filler Words: Look for the Silver Lining

You know, a healthy amount of fillers is like a tiny dab of perfume on your wrist. 

Like a pinch of cayenne in your signature soup recipe. 

Like the way you carry yourself around your town so confidently that all lost tourists know you’re a local and that you most definitely can help them find their way back to the hotel.

However, they can make you look ignorant, too anxious, or off-puttingly into yourself.

My advice: If you want to use the filler word solely to buy more time, don’t use it at all. Pause for a few seconds. Just stop and think silently without any “uuuhs” or “erms” that could deter your speech. That’s how professional speakers roll, too! If your filler word abuse stems from your lack of comprehension (you have no idea what the Czech person is saying), maybe you should boost your listening skills!

A Man Pushing the Pause Button with His Finger

Instead of drowning your thoughts in filler words, pause for a few seconds.

Now… The pros and cons of using Czech filler words. 

Pros:

  • They’re game changers. People don’t really notice them, but using fillers makes you sound authentic, like you’re really comfortable speaking the language and actually speak it all the time. You know what I mean?
  • Using fillers in a foreign language is almost like swearing or dreaming in a foreign language—it’s a sign that speaking (and more importantly, thinking) in that language is becoming second nature. 
  • They help the conversation flow smoothly without awkward silence.

Cons:

  • You might sound too hesitant.
  • Filler word overuse might make you seem self-conscious and less confident than you actually are.

4. CzechClass101.com Helps You Learn Czech Fast

That’s it, guys! I hope you enjoyed this article and learned something new!

If you’re taking your Czech studies seriously, you might grab a Czech grammar book or learn online (the latter of which is way more convenient). Seriously, learning a new skill has never been easier. Just grab your phone and get to work!

CzechClass101.com will make learning Czech easy, exciting, and fun. With us, it’s not about endless memorizing or thick textbooks. Learn Czech the better way—with us, you’ll make progress faster than you could imagine. You’ll utilize your time and effort to their full potential, and enjoy the process.

What will you find here? 

Sign up now, it’s free!

One last thing: Let us know in the comments if this article helped you. Oh, and which filler words are you most guilty of using in your native language?

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Czech