gap fillers

[ uhhh…erm….like…I mean…..you know…well…. so…..]

These little words that native speakers use when speaking can be confusing. They’re often used when pausing or searching for what they want to say. You may think they have no meaning, but in fact, these little words and expressions help prepare the listener for what will be said next. The Cambridge Online Dictionary explains it like this: “Discourse markers are words or phrases like anyway, right, okay, as I say, to begin with. We use them to connect, organise and manage what we say or write or to express attitude”Click here to read the full explanation with examples:


Here is a general introduction to discourse markers, or gap fillers, in speech:

Gaby Wallace, in the video clip that follows, explains the usage of three common discourse markers used in (American) English speech- actually, like and you know


In the following clip, listen to Will Smith talking to TV host Ellen Degeneres about how his wife always takes in lost or stray animals. Note his repeated usage of the fillers- like, uh and you know.


About Michele

Energetic and passionate English (EFL) teacher with more than ten years teaching experience.

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