Muletillas—Filler Words in Spanish

Sometimes we just don’t know what to say. You know? Right? You see what I mean? Okay, I’ll stop. But really, I mean, you understand, yeah? Okay?

Spanish has its share of muletillas, and if you’re going to speak Spanish, it’s essential to learn (and use!) at least a few. Here are some of my favorites.

BadHabits_FillerWords

  • Vale. Seriously, you must know vale. You simply cannot live in Spain without using it several times a day. (If you talk on the phone, multiply by three.) Vale comes from the verb valer, meaning “to cost, to be worth,” but has come to mean something like “fine” or “right” or—mainly—“okay.” So anytime you feel like saying “Okay,” don’t go with “Está bien,” but “Vale.”
  • Venga. Another term used a lot in telephone conversations, venga reminds me of when I’m trying to end a conversation without explicitly telling the other person I’d like to end it. “Welppppp,” I’d say sometimes when trying to get off the phone as non-confrontationally as possible. “I’d better let you go.” It’s kind like of that. Of course, it has other uses. It can be used to try to get someone to hurry up: “Venga, que llegamos tarde” (“Come one, we’re going to be late”) or to express incredulity: “¡Venga ya! No me lo creo” (Yeah, right! I don’t believe it”).
  • Bueno, pues. These two words can be used together or separately. Bueno usually means good, but in this context it’s more like “well,” as in, “Well, we better get going” and not as in “I’m doing well.” Pues is an especially versatile word. See the WordReference entry, which lists the following possibilities (among many):
    • Pues eso—Right
    • Así pues—So then
    • Pues entonces—In that case
    • Bueno pues—Okay then
    • Vaya pues—All right already
  • O sea. This is better pronounced as one word, osea. It’s kind of like “or rather,” but it has a life all its own. It is equivalent to “digo” and “quiero decir” in many cases. If you understand Spanish, please refer to this entry by a one Mr. Alberto Bustos.
  • A ver. I love this phrase! I first heard it when studying abroad. It means something like “let’s see” or “let me see,” and you can use it alone or with other words. For instance, if you want to meet up with someone, you might say, “A ver si quedamos un día” (“Let’s see if we can meet up one day”). If you’re trying on a new dress, you could say, “A ver cómo me queda” (“Let’s see how it looks on me”). It’s quite the versatile phrase.

What are you favorite (or least favorite) filler words in Spanish?

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14 comments

  1. These are great — I can’t think of another one to add to the list. During my first few weeks in Madrid when I was a student, I thought everyone was saying “haber” instead of “a ver”. It was such a moment of clarity when I finally figured out what everyone was saying!

  2. Love this post! It’s funny how they change according to dialect as well! In PR most of them are used, maybe with different frequencies. the use of ‘vale’ is nowhere near Spanish usage, and ‘venga’ is not really used either. In PR, really common ones are:
    -’dale’, used mostly like ‘vale’, but less frequently. it can also mean like “come on!” if you’re trying to convince someone to do something
    -’este’, used when you’re trying to think of something to say, like ‘umm’
    -’tú sabe”, pretty self explanatory haha

    Me encanta la expresión ‘a ver’, I remember really learning it because my host mom in Madrid used it alllll the time!

  3. ah….I remember “vale” well!! and thank you for “venga”. While I know the literal meaning I was quite confused on our taxi ride to the airport when we were going home from Madrid nearly 3 years ago. I heard the driver on the phone “venga, venga, venga!!!” and I had no clue what he was trying to say. I figured it was some colloquialism so thank you for clearing that one up! I still use “a ver” often and I recall using “pues……..” a lot as well. I didn’t know a few of the ones you listed so thank you for the lesson ;)

  4. I loved explaining ‘vale’ to my mom when she was here. I told her it basically meant ‘okay.’ She then asked if she can say ‘Estoy vale.’

  5. I wrote up a fairly detailed post on precisely this if you’re interested: Spanish Sentence Starters and Filler Words (Muletillas): The Grease of the Language Gears

    “Vale” is one that’s very common in Iberian Spanish (Spanish from Spain) but never used anywhere else (that I’ve heard), “pues” is common everywhere, “a ver” seems to be, again, isolated to Spain (though I could be wrong about that one–if it’s used elsewhere I still feel like it’s probably most common in Spain, at least), and “venga” is another one that I suspect might be more common in Spain (I think “mira” fills its place elsewhere).

    Regardless that was an excellent list, and I just love these sorts of things: idiomatic colloquial sayings and expressions, slang, etc. Just too much fun, and very useful. Thanks, Kaley, I get especially excited when I see you’ve done a post about the language there.

    Cheers,
    Andrew

    1. FWIW, one of my Spanish professors was from Colombia and she said “a ver” all the time, but then again her parents were from Spain and Italy, so.

      1. Ok, like I said, that’s one I’m not entirely sure of but I know I’ve heard Spanish people use it a lot but I don’t recall hearing it from anyone from anywhere else.

  6. Someone mentioned above they thought “a ver” was “haber.” I thought the same thing too! All my Spanish teachers in the USA used that expression and I never could figure out what it meant. Then I got to Spain and realized it was “a ver!”

    Also “hombre!” I think that’s an Iberian Spanish thing, and I have not yet managed to used that muletilla successfully in a conversation, mostly because I don’t really understand how to use it.

  7. To add to the Pues section: “pues, nada.” another kind way to wrap up conversation and is like saying, “anyways, I didn’t really have anything …” Loving your blog Kaley! I just started teaching Spanish and plan to use some of your posts. Gracias! Tell Mario hi :)

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