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Japanese Conversation Openers and Fillers

From Namiko Abe,
Your Guide to Japanese Language.

In conversations, openers and fillers are used quite often. They don't always have specific meanings. Openers are used as signals that you are about to say something, or to smooth communication. Fillers are usually used for pauses or hesitation. English also has similar expressions such as "so," "like," "you know," and so on. When you have opportunity to hear native speakers' conversation, listen carefully and examine how and when they are used. Here are some openers and fillers frequently used.


Marking a new topic

Sore de
それで So
で So (informal)


Saying something off the topic

ところで By the way
Hanashi wa chigaimasu ga
話が違いますが To change the subject
Hanashi chigau kedo
話、違うけど To change the subject (informal)


Adding to the current topic

たとえば For example
言い換えれば In other words
そういえば Speaking of
Gutaiteki ni iu to
具体的に言うと More concretely


Bringing up the main topic

Jitsu wa
実は The fact is ~, To tell the truth


Shortening the preliminary topics

Sassoku desu ga
さっそくですが May I come straight
to the point?

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Introducing someone or something you have just noticed

A, Aa, Ara
あ、ああ、あら "ara" is mainly used by
female speakers.

Note: "Aa" can also be used to show that you understand.


Hesitation Sounds

Ano, Anou
あの、あのう Used to get
the listener's attention.
ええと Let me see ...
ええ Uhh ...
まあ Well, say ...


Asking for repetition


(with a rising intonation) What?
(with a rising intonation) What? (informal)

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