Learn These “Filler” Words to Speak French Properly — Spoken French vs Written French

Understanding spoken French can be tricky because written French differs significantly from spoken French. We speak fast, swallow letters, and occasionally use vocabulary you probably don’t learn in school.

Some of the words we use don’t have any real meaning. So let’s explore examples of these French “filler words” and practice so you can use them yourself to sound more fluent!

C’est parti!

1) Our Main French Filler Word: "Euh"

Euh” is often used in French when searching for words, pausing the conversation, or yielding the floor.

That’s why we generally use filler words: they’re not supposed to mean anything, but they give us more time to think when unsure.

How to say “filler word” in French:

  • Un mot de remplissage = a literal translation, sometimes used
  • Un tic de langage = “a language tic, language habit” ; often used, because filler words can take up a lot of space as we’ll see later.
  • Un mot phatique = ‘phatique’ means “for communication, but without meaning.” This word is never used and almost no French person knows it, but I love it nevertheless!

For instance, “Allô” is phatique: it doesn’t mean anything by itself, but it signals that you picked up the phone or that you don’t hear well. All filler words are phatique as well.

All language has a ‘phatic’ function as well. Meaning, what’s important is not purely the informations and opinions that you share. For example, small talk is strongly ‘phatic’ : the content doesn’t really matter, what’s really important is that you’re taking the time to talk with someone and signal that you care.

2) Hein - Huh? Right?

Hein” is an important filler word with several specific meanings in spoken French, and yet you probably never heard of it in textbooks or classrooms, and it’s OK. However, everyday spoken French is almost like another language in parallel – so you also need to learn its rules and vocabulary.

Hein often serves as an informal way of saying “What?” or “Huh?” It sounds like a nasal sound [ɛ̃], such as in “vin” (= wine) or “pain” (= bread).

Tu viens, hein? (“You’re coming, right?“)
If you’re unaware of filler words like “hein,” you might miss out on nuances, get confused, and then lose focus on the crucial elements of the conversation.

3) Quoi - What?

Some fillers are “real” words, they have a grammatical meaning on their own.
For instance: “Quoi ?” means “What?

Tu fais quoi ?” = What are you doing?
C’est quoi, ça?” = What is this?

For me, “quoi” is one of the three leading French filler words, with “euh” and “hein”. We add it to a sentence to give it more weight, like :
Oh, c’est bon, quoi ! = It’s OK! Or, to be more explicit: “It’s OK, that’s all, that’s what I mean, what else is there to say.

Click here to learn more:
Quoi in French: What It Means and How to Use It

4) Interlude: Practice With Me

Pronounce these words out loud in front of your screen:

  1. Quoi
  2. Hein
  3. Euh

Congratulations! You can check the pronunciation in the video lesson above.

5) More French Filler Words: Alors, Voilà, Genre

Let’s see my three personal favorite filler words: Alors, Voilà, and Genre. They all mean something, but some use them more than strictly necessary. They became language habits more than actual grammatical adverbs.

1 – Alors (silent s) means “then”, “therefore”, or “while.”
– J’aime le fromage, alors j’oublie jamais d’acheter un camembert. = I love cheese, so I never forget to buy a camembert cheese.
– Il a plu alors que j’étais dehors. = It rained while I was outside.

More informally, we also use it in, like:
Et alors ? = So what? / Why do you care? (a bit aggressive/dismissive)
Alors ? = So? What’s happening? What’s next?
– Alors, quoi de neuf ? = And so, what’s up? → In that one, Alors is used as a filler word for transition or emphasis.

2 – Voilà means “there it is” or “that’s all there is“.
Voilà Romain ! = Here is Romain / Here comes Romain!
Voilà, c’est ça. = Yes, that’s it, exactly.
It’s a good word to add some weight to your sentence or end it in a more final way.

3 – Genre is more informal than Alors or Voilà. You can pronounce it with a nasal vowel, like “genre”, or with an “o”, such as “jore,” people say it either way.
Le genre = a kind, a gender,
Il avait un genre de chapeau. = He had some kind of hat.

But genre by itself is an adverb that’s almost exactly like “Like” in English :
Il était là, genre, tout va bien, quand je lui ai dit un truc du genre, salut. = He was there, like, everything’s fine, when I told him something like, “Hey”.

Here is an excerpt from a dialogue from La Cité de la Peur, a French comedy from 1994.

– (Faudra) trouver des gimmicks, des phrases chocs. = (You’ll have to) find gimmicks and catchy phrases.
– Quel genre ? = Like what?
– Bah genre, genre, euh, euh… des phrases chocs, quoi ! = Well, like, like, um, um… catchy phrases, you know!
– Quel genre ? = Like what?
Genre des phrases chocs ! = Like catchy phrases!
Ah. = Ah.

6) Interlude: Practice With Me

In the video lesson, I show you a small clip from the French TV show Dix pour cent (Call my Agent, 2015), where the character Andrea says:

Enfin voilà, quoi, je… je… je sais pas comment il a fait, mais, euh, mais il sait tout.” = Anyway, that’s it. I don’t know how he did it, but he knows everything.

Which filler words is she using here? Listen to the way she uses them. Repeat after her too!

The extra mile: learn French with “Dix pour cent” (Call my Agent) and Comme une Française lessons

7) Even More French Filler Words

Tiens means to hold on and take it, but we rarely use it that way. Instead, we use it to grab someone’s attention or express surprise.
Tiens, il est pas là, Claude ? = Oh, Claude is not here? (surprise)
Tiens, toi, viens ici. = Hey, you, come here. (grab their attention)
Tiens, regarde, c’est ça que je faisais. = Hey, look, that’s what I was doing. (grab their attention)

Du coup (silent p) originally means “as a result”, but it’s generally used as any transition between ideas. Or even between any parts in a sentence, in everyday spoken French. It’s as versatile as “so” in English.
Du coup, voilà Romain. = So, here is Romain.
Tu fais quoi, du coup ? = So what are you doing?
Du coup je pars. = So, I’m leaving.
Some people started using it way too much, but that’s because it’s a great expression that can fit anywhere.

The extra mile: lyrics analysis

In the video lesson, I’m using a short clip from a song about using “du coup” way too much. In this blog post, let’s take a look at the lyrics of that extract, together.

Listen to the song:
Les Wriggles – Du coup (lyrics)

Lyrics of the short extract (in French with English translation) :

“Euh, du coup, faut voir, on était un peu crevé, tu vois. Mais, du coup, on l’a quand même fait. Alors, ça donne un truc, quand même, du coup, assez intéressant. Il manquerait plus, du coup, qu’à trouver, genre, des paroles dessus…*
Uh, so, we’ll see, we were a bit tired, you know. But, so, we did it anyway. So, it turned out to be something, still, so, quite interesting. Now all that’s left, so, is to find, like, some lyrics for it…

Guitare classique ? Ca change ouais
Ouais… Bah du coup, c’est pour savoir ce que t’en penses parce que…
Bah écoute, je vais écouter, je vais t’dirе, ouais
Du coup, nous, on était plutôt cont…
Par contre, je… Je pеux te dire un truc ?
Bah, du coup, Steph, tu peux tout m’dire, hein.
Tu dis beaucoup « du coup » !”

Classical guitar? That’s a change, yeah-
Yeah… So, I just wanted to know what you think because…
Well, I’ll listen, I’ll tell you, yea
So, we were quite pleased
However, I… Can I tell you something
Well, so, Steph, you can tell me anything, hu
You say “so” a lot

Key informal vocabulary:

  1. Du coup: as you can see, we use this filler word to fill in gaps, to conclude something, or to imply causality simply. Its meaning varies depending on the surrounding context. It’s commonly used in informal conversations to keep the dialogue smooth and expressive. It can be translated by “well”, “so”, “hence” etc.
  2. Crevé: it is a French slang word for fatigué (“tired“) or épuisé (“exhausted”) It literally means “dead”, so we use it to say we are “deadly tired”.
  3. Ouais: it’s an informal way to say “oui” in spoken French, like the English “yeah”.
  4. Bah écoute: a common French expression used informally to say “well, listen” or “well, you see”. This conversational filler introduces a comment, suggestion, or opinion. It’s a way to catch the listener’s attention or signal that the speaker is about to share their thoughts. It makes the conversation more engaging and can be followed by a statement or explanation.
  5. Un truc : informal French for “quelque chose” (= something) or “une chose” (= a thing)

Extra practice:
In these lyrics, find the filler words that we’ve seen before. Even better if you do it by listening to the song, not just reading the lyrics!

8) Final Interlude: Recap & Practice

Pronounce the filler words that we’ve seen today, out loud:

  1. Euh
  2. Hein
  3. Quoi
  4. Alors
  5. Voilà
  6. Genre
  7. Tiens
  8. Du coup

By understanding and practicing these filler words, you’ll comprehend spoken French better and sound more like a native when you speak.

And now, keep exploring modern, everyday French with me!

Click here to get your next lesson:

À tout de suite.
I’ll see you right now in the next video!

→ If you enjoyed this lesson (and/or learned something new) – why not share this lesson with a francophile friend? You can talk about it afterwards! You’ll learn much more if you have social support from your friends 🙂

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Join the conversation!

  • I always smile when I hear other, for me typically French fillers or phrases like – hop, when handed something, or
    – bah oui
    -fin bref
    Is the later a more dated expression?
    Thanks for another lovely lesson!

    • Bonjour Harriet,

      Yes, “bref” is still used and not much of a dated expression.

      Bonne journée,

      Comme Une Française Team

  • Salut Geraldine!!
    You didn’t want to do quand même? The most used filler word in French??

    I have only heard tiens used as an instruction to take something when with friends, not to grab attention..

    Is “de coup” like the English “You know” which means nothing at all and many people repeat many times when talking? Often the listener doesn’t know !! 😀

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