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Mind the Gap: 15 Russian Filler Words

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Filler words. They come to the rescue when you run out of words. Sometimes, literally. They’re there when you hesitate with your answer, stutter trying to cover a lie, or…um just need a second to think. 

Today, we’ll be talking about Russian filler words and how to use them. But first, let’s set the stage… Let’s say I asked you to name out loud five movies with Matt Damon. Yes, right now. For real. 

Done? 

What was the sound you made when you were (painfully) trying to remember the fifth one? That’s a filler. 

I’m sure you could come up with at least a couple more filler words yourself if I told you they pop up whenever you stammer. And I bet “like” or “um” would be the first ones to cross your mind! And you’d be right. That’s the type of word we’ll be talking about today.

Contrary to common belief, filler words are not useless. They express hesitation, impatience, and surprise. They give you some time to gather your thoughts. And today, you’ll learn the top 15 Russian filler words and get a step closer to fluency. 

Filler words are extremely common, and knowing them is key to understanding native Russian speakers. Not to mention that it’s very common for even intermediate and advanced learners of Russian to just thoughtlessly insert a filler from their native language here and there. Voilà. Love it!

In this article, you’ll learnabout the functions of fillers, take an in-depth look into our list of Russian filler words, and find out some ways you can substitute—or even completely omit—fillers when speaking. Well, get ready to take notes!

A Woman Standing in Front of a Chalkboard and Thinking

Um… Yes! The Martian as well!

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Russian Table of Contents
  1. What are filler words?
  2. The 15 Most Common Russian Fillers
  3. Are Filler Words Our Friends?
  4. What’s Next?

1. What are filler words?

Filler words (or fillers) are words and sounds that we use to fill pauses while speaking. They send a signal to our partner that we haven’t finished our thought yet and just need more time to find the right words. 

Some filler words serve as a link between two ideas. But they’re more decorative than they are meaningful. In this regard, they’re similar to transition words. (Basically, the first word in this sentence is a transition word, just to give you an example.)

In some cases, fillers provide clues about the speaker’s emotions and attitude: uncertainty, hesitation, impatience, you name it. And no, it’s not only about negative emotions. Fillers can also help you gently approach delicate topics, for example, or let your partner know that you’re about to say something.

Types of Russian Filler Words

We can divide Russian fillers into two groups: linking words and “parasite words.”

Linking words are the transition words we mentioned earlier. They serve as a “bridge” that facilitates the transition from one idea to another. Even though, technically, you won’t lose much by removing them from a sentence, they’re still common in speech as well as writing. If you wrote essays in school, I bet you’re quite familiar with the concept of connecting two ideas.

Parasite words are junk words and sounds that serve no purpose other than filling the gaps in your speech. They’re harmless if not overused, but an excess of parasite words in your speech makes it interrupted and hard to follow. For this reason, most public speaking coaches recommend keeping them in check. I mean, no need to be a psycholinguist to notice the attitude we have toward parasite words. Just look at the name.

A Woman Trying to Understand What a Man Is Saying

“He’s really hard to follow…”
What “parasite words” do you know in your language?

2. The 15 Most Common Russian Fillers

Below, you’ll find both linking words and parasite words. Try your linguistic hunch at deciding which word belongs to which group. A tiny hint: If the word can be removed without affecting the meaning of the sentence at all, it’s a junk word. 

Also, pay attention to the punctuation. Russian fillers are often separated from the rest of the sentence with commas. 

#1

Ну (nu)“Well”
[often used before giving an answer to a question or to summarize]
Russian– Почему опоздал?
– Ну, я проспал.
Ну, я пошёл.
Romanization(Pochemu opozdal?)
(Nu, ya prospal.)
(Nu, ya poshyol.)
English“Why are you late?”
“Well, I overslept.”
“Well, I’m off.” [leaving]

#2

Слушай (slushay) “Listen”[used to attract attention before a question or an offer; informal]
Слушай, ты сейчас дома? Я к тебе заеду.
(Slushay, ty seychas doma? Ya k tebe zayedu.)
“Listen, are you home now? I’ll drop by.”

Слушайте (slushayte) is the formal version of it. It can also be used when addressing several people.

Слушайте, а давайте сходим в кино?
(Slushayte, a davayte skhodim v kino?)
“Listen, why don’t we go to the movies?” [formal or plural]

Слышь (slysh’) is a vulgar version of the first two. If you want to put on the face of a bad guy, go ahead with this one; otherwise, you’d sound blatantly rude. It is, however, a common slang term among not-the-most-polite guys who you might encounter in certain suburbs of large Russian cities. Anyway, if anybody’s addressing you this way, I’d refrain from interacting with them. Let me tell you, the communication is not going to be friendly.

#3

В общем (v obshchem) – “Bottom line” / “In short”[used to summarize; emotionally neutral]
Мы расстались. В общем, упустил я свой шанс.
(My rasstalis’. V obshchem, upustil ya svoy shans.)
“We broke up. Bottom line, I missed my chance.”
Надоело с ним ругаться. В общем, хватит с меня.
(Nadoyelo s nim rugat’sya. V obshchem, khvatit s menya.)
“I’m tired of arguing with him all the time. In short, I’ve had enough.”

#4

Короче (koroche) – “So” / “Long story short”
or Короче говоря (koroche govorya)
[used to summarize; can sometimes imply impatience]
Короче, был у меня друг…
(Koroche, byl u menya drug…)
“So, I had this friend once…”

Мне позвонили из той компании. Короче, меня не взяли на работу. 
(Mne pozvonili iz toy kompanii. Koroche, menya ne vzyali na rabotu.)
“I got a call from that company. Long story short, I didn’t get the job.”

#5

Так вот (tak vot) – “So”
[used to refer to a previous piece of information]
Помнишь его сына? Так вот, он поступил в Оксфорд. 
(Pomnish’ ego syna? Tak vot, on postupil v Oksford.)
“Do you remember his son? So he got into Oxford.”
Помнишь дом, который я тебе показывал? Так вот, мы его купили.
(Pomnish’ dom, kotoryy ya tebe pokazyval? Tak vot, my yego kupili.)
“Do you remember the house I showed you the other day? So we bought it after all.”

#6

Так сказать (tak skazat’) – “So to speak”
[used when one cannot come up with a better word]
Она выиграла в лотерею. Повезло, так сказать.
(Ona vyigrala v lotereyu. Povezlo, tak skazat’.)
“She won the lottery. Lucky, so to speak.”
Я решил искать другую работу. Хочу сменить обстановку, так сказать.
(Ya reshil iskat’ druguyu rabotu. Khochu smenit’ obstanovku, tak skazat’.)
“I’ve decided to look for another job. I need a change of scenery, so to speak.”

#7

В принципе (v printsipe) – “Basically” / “Technically” / “As far as it goes”
[used to skip over some details or look at the bigger picture]
Мне, в принципе, больше нечего сказать. 
(Mne, v printsipe, bol’she nechego skazat’.)
“Technically, I have nothing more to say.”
В принципе, мне здесь нравится.
(V printsipe, mne zdes’ nravitsya.)
“As far as it goes, I like it here.”

#8

И всё такое (i vsyo takoye) – “And that sort of thing” / “And so on”
[used to imply more things of the same kind]
Он жалуется, что ему некогда и всё такое.
(On zhaluyetsya, chto yemu nekogda i vsyo takoye.)
“He’s complaining that he doesn’t have time and that sort of thing.”
Хочу на Мальдивы: пляж, море, солнце и всё такое.
(Khochu na Mal’divy: plyazh, more, solntse i vsyo takoye.)
“I want to go to the Maldives because of the beach, the sea, the sun, and so on.”

A Guy Playing a Game on His Computer

«Он жалуется, что ему некогда и всё такое…»
What’s been keeping him busy?
Try to answer in Russian!

#9

Как-то так. (Kak-to tak.) – “That’s about it.”
or Вот как-то так. (Vot kak-to tak.)
[used as an independent sentence; concludes an explanation; means “That’s the end of my thought.”]
Как ты нашёл эту работу?
– Как обычно. Увидел объявление, отправил резюме, прошёл собеседование. Как-то так.
– (Kak ty nashyol etu rabotu?)
– (Kak obychno. Uvidel ob’yavleniye, otpravil rezyume, proshyol sobesedovaniye. Kak-to tak.)
– “How did you find this job?”
– “As usual. I saw the posting, sent my CV, and passed the interview. That’s about it.”

#10

Просто (prosto) – “Just”
[used when looking for an excuse; the speaker might feel guilty]
Я просто подумал, что так будет лучше.
(Ya prosto podumal, chto tak budet luchshe.)
“I just thought it would be better this way.”
Я просто проходил мимо.
(Ya prosto prokhodil mimo.)
“I was just passing by.”

#11

Это… (eto) “Um” / “You know” / “Well”
or Это самое… (eto samoye)
[used when the speaker is really struggling to find the right words or delaying their reply as long as they can]
Я это… передумал.
(Ya eto… peredumal.)
“You know, I…um…changed my mind.”
Я его это самое… Выкинул.
(Ya yego eto samoye… Vykinul.)
“I…well…I threw it away.”

#12

Типа (tipa) – “Like” / “Sort of”
[used when the speaker is being slightly sarcastic about their own words; sometimes just a junk word]
Мы с ним типа «друзья».
(My s nim tipa druz’ya.)
“We are, like, ‘friends’.”
Типа того. (Tipa togo.) – “Something like that.” / “Sort of.”
– Так вы с ним друзья?
– Типа того.
– (Tak vy s nim druz’ya?)
– (Tipa togo.)
– “So you’re friends?”
– “Sort of.”

#13

Как бы (kak by) – “Kinda” / “Sort of”
[similar to “типа” and pretty often used as simply a junk word]
Не мешайте! Мы тут как бы работаем.
(Ne meshayte! My tut kak by rabotayem.)
“Don’t disturb us! We’re kinda working here.”
Я как бы его помощник.
(Ya kak by ego pomoshchnik.)
“I’m kinda his assistant.”

#14

Блин (blin) – “D*mn” [lit. “pancake”]
[mild expletive]
[might get out of hand as it can be inserted anywhere in the sentence; breaks the flow completely]
Я, блин, никак не могу до него дозвониться.
(Ya, blin, nikak ne mogu do nego dozvonit’sya.)
“D*mn, I still can’t get through to him.”
Я, блин, везде, блин, поискал уже, блин.
(Ya, blin, vezde, blin, poiskal uzhe, blin.)
“D*mn, I’ve already d*mn looked in every single d*mn place!”

#15

Э-э-э… (e-e-e) – “Er”
[sound of perplexity or active thinking]
– Ты дом закрыл?
– Э-э-э… Вроде да.
– Столица Аргентины?
– Э-э-э… Сантьяго? Нет, Буэнос-Айрес!
– (Ty dom zakryl?)
– (E-e-e… vrode da.)
– (Stolitsa Argentiny?)
– (E-e-e… Sant’yago? Net, Buenos-Ayres!)
– “Did you lock the house?”
– “Er… Yes, I guess.”
– “What’s the capital of Argentina?”
– “Erm… Santiago? No, Buenos Aires!”

A Businessman Looking at His Wristwatch and Talking on the Phone with a Concerned Look on His Face

Which of the previous examples describes this situation well?

3. Are Filler Words Our Friends?

Short answer—yes and no. Sorry for the ambiguity. 

If you check again the functions of filler words, you’ll see that sometimes they can help you out. Using Russian fillers in your conversations with native speakers can signal to your partner that you’re about to say something or need some time to let your brain catch up with your tongue. 

Some fillers are like good red wine: a bit bitter, but probably harmless if used in moderation. (Excessive use, on the other hand, will have some consequences.) And yeah, it might also help your speech flow. We all become eloquent under the spell of wine.

The parasite words though… You should probably wave them goodbye. They bring nothing to the table and litter your speech if overused. And in many formal situations, such as interviews and public speeches, they can make you sound more hesitant and less confident. 

Should you study Russian filler words anyway? 

That’s a yes. Even if you’re not going to use them yourself, you’ll hear them a lot. 

RussianPod101 has some tips for you on how to Improve Your Listening Skills. Make sure to read through them if you feel like listening isn’t your strongest suit (yet).

But if you do decide to cut some filler words from your speech…

Here are some ideas to help you “purify” your speech. These tips actually helped me limit the use of “ну” back in the day. It was my personal favorite. These tips might be useful for your native language as well!

  • First of all, you need to learn how to spot your junk words. For this, you can read a short text (a news article, for instance) and then summarize it out loud while recording yourself. When listening to your recording, mark all the fillers you hear. Focus on the one that pops up the most. You’ll work at reducing its use in your speech from now on. 
  • Record yourself one more time now, paying attention to limit that one word you’ve chosen. Listen again. Is it already getting better? Repeat as many times as you need.

Don’t try to get rid of all the small imperfections in your speech at once. It’d make you too self-conscious, and you might start stuttering. That’s not our goal. Pick one word and stick to it.


  • Also, you can ask a friend or relative to poke you every time you use the “forbidden” word. 
  • Don’t be scared of pauses. “Awkward” is not the only adjective for “silence” in a conversation. Make it meaningful, resting, calming. You choose.
  • Try to use shorter sentences. Even simple ideas, when stacked, will need some linking eventually. Your convo partner will also benefit from having the info split into digestible chunks.
  • Calm down. You might overuse junk words when you’re anxious, hesitant, or preoccupied. Slow down. Breathe in. Breathe out. Think about speaking slower. It’ll give your brain more time to process the information before you put it into words.
  • Use more meaningful synonyms. When you do need some time to think, instead of “это…” or “э-э-э…” (which don’t make you sound very smart), you can use:

Дай(те) подумать… (Day-te podumat’…) – “Let me think…” [informal / formal]
Минутку. (Minutku.) – “Just a moment.”
Я думаю… (Ya dumayu…) – “I think…”
Мне кажется… (Mne kazhetsya…) – “It seems to me…”

And, again, no need to aim at 100% purity. Even if you decide to say goodbye to some junk words, don’t turn them into your foes. They’ll keep popping up here and there anyway, it’s only natural. Remember: perfectionism and eloquence rarely go hand in hand.

➤ Feel free to also check out RussianPod101’s advice on How to Improve Your Speaking Skills.

Someone Holding a Pair of Scissors and Getting Ready to Cut a Red Ribbon

Cut your junk words one at a time.

4. What’s Next?

To sum it all up, we use fillers when we hesitate, look for the right words, or want to connect two ideas. Native speakers mostly use filler words spontaneously and unconsciously. If you want to insert them in your speech as well, be prepared to make some deliberate efforts at first. Just don’t get carried away and drop an occasional filler from your native language. Keep it Russian till the end!

Also, remember to not overuse the fillers. Yes, most of them do serve as linking words, but an overabundance of them will make your message difficult to follow. If you feel like you need some help getting rid of the fillers in your speech, here’s some advice:

1) Start cutting them one by one by being more conscious of what you say.
2) Try altering the speed of your speech.

And don’t become desperate in your pursuit of perfection! 

So, how many Russian filler words out of our top 15 can you recall from memory? Don’t peek into your notes just yet! To practice, start using two or three fillers in your Russian sentences or at least try to notice them in the speech of Russian speakers.

By the way, if you happen to have more questions about Russian filler words, our teachers will help you dispel any doubts. With MyTeacher, a Premium PLUS service from RussianPod101, you get personal 1-on-1 coaching with a tutor. Feel free to ask anything about Russian grammar, vocabulary, or culture—our teachers are there to help you! You can also opt to receive assignments, grammar and vocabulary exercises, and even voice recording tasks to improve your pronunciation. Too many benefits to fit in one paragraph. Just give it a try!

Eager to learn more? RussianPod101 has lots to offer! 

  • Our vocabulary lists will equip you with more meaningful words to use between (or in place of) fillers. 
  • You should also check out our list of 20 essential Russian idioms that will make you sound like a native speaker. Some of them are really funny!
  • Our article of essential Russian Business Phrases will help you hesitate less during important meetings!

Happy learning with RussianPod101!

About the author: Dzhuliia Shipina is a Russian linguist and a language teacher. For the past few years, she’s been traveling around the world and sharing her passion for languages with other inquiring minds. She invites you to explore the beauty of Russian and unravel its mysteries together.

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