Filler words in Chinese

It came up in conversation the other day that “我不知道” is not really used in the same way in English - it is more literal i.e. I do not know, rather than “hmm I’m not sure, let me think” which is often what I use it as in English.

Apparently people more often use : “我要想怎麼說…” or something like that - any thoughts on this, or whether there are there any other good phrases to use?

And, has anyone found any differences in these everyday sayings / filler words that are different in Chinese to English?

P.s. I love being able to put my random learning thoughts onto the forum, it does make LTL online classes seem more like a real life school :slight_smile:


whether there are there any other good phrases to use

Here are some of the classics:

  • 那个
  • 就是
  • 然后

These don’t really mean anything other than “well, uhm…” filler noises that could make you sound more fluent.

Chinese, of course, has hundreds other filler words and phrases, some of them are more or less formal. I actually have a special secret spreadsheet for filler words. For example here are some of my favorites:

  • 总体来说呢 or 一般来说=generally speaking
  • 关键是=the key is/the important part is
  • 但另外一个方面=on the other hand
  • 毫无疑问=without a doubt
  • 据了解=it is understood
  • 对我的了解=according to my understanding
  • 我们换一个角度看待这个问题=Let’s look at this from another angle.

If you can train your muscle memory to say any of these effortlessly that should give you enough time to think what you want to say next :slight_smile:


If I want to say “I am not sure” I would probably say
In Beijing 那个 is used EXCESSIVELY as a filler word. I have heard sentences and whole conversations that consisted 50-70% of 那个.
Personally, it drives me insane. A typical sentence that would drive me mad, but really does happen in real life would be



1 Like

就是 is also really common from my experience but I love 关键是 from Ben.

I must admit though I can’t ever remember hearing it, but maybe that’s from my memory of when my Mandarin was at a lesser level.

1 Like

:rofl: :rofl: :see_no_evil:
sounds like my Bavarian mother using “der Dings” (person) and “das Dings” (anything) excessively. (German: das Ding= the thing)
Dem Dings sein Dings hat gestern den Dings wegen dem Dings gefragt, weil des Dings doch, - ah, du weißt schon.

1 Like