Um, I think this will be er, useful

An article on comes out in praise of ‘verbal stumbles’ – the “uhs”, “ums” and “ers” we all use to fill in gaps in our speech.

Apparently there is an organisation called Toastmasters International who charge every time one of these fillers is used. And conventional wisdom says using fillers rather than staying silent makes you seem stupid or nervous.

But “uh” and “um” don’t deserve eradication; there’s no good reason to uproot them. People have been pausing and filling their pauses with a neutral vowel (or sometimes with an actual word) for as long as we’ve had language, which is about 100,000 years. If listeners are so naturally repelled by “uhs” and “ums,” you’d think those sounds would have been eliminated long before now. The opposite is true: Filled pauses appear in all of the world’s languages, and the anti-ummers have no way to explain, if they’re so ugly, what “euh” in French, or “äh” and “ähm” in German, or “eto” and “ano” in Japanese are doing in human language at all. (Source:

There’s also evidence to suggest that markers such as “ah” and “um” help listeners recognise what follows, and that the use of these doesn’t affect the speaker’s standing.

For language learners, using “um” and “uh” gives us space to think about what we’re saying next, without breaking the conversation. My high school French teacher actively encouraged me to use a sort of French-sounding “errrr” in my speaking exams as he said this would add to the impression that I had a decent level of spoken French (this was not entirely true).

What fillers are used in your target language?