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Sound Like a Brazilian: The Top 10 Portuguese Filler Words

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No language would be complete without its unique quirks and imperfections—like all of those small, seemingly meaningless words and sounds you hear in conversations! Yes, we’re talking about filler words. They may be unnecessary, but they’re definitely present in everyday conversations and other forms of speech. 

Portuguese filler words vary immensely between countries, so that even native speakers from Europe have difficulty understanding the Brazilian counterparts of their everyday fillers (and vice-versa). But after reading this handy guide, you’ll be able to understand and use filler words in Portuguese yourself!

As you can probably imagine, filler words get a lot of hate. Some think they’re grammatical crutches used specially by younger generations. Others think they just sound ugly. But who has never been thankful for fillers when they needed to buy some time to find what to say next? 

Learning about Portuguese filler words is important, regardless of whether you like them or loathe them. After all, you’re going to encounter them often in your conversations with native Portuguese speakers. But before you get too excited, remember that you shouldn’t rely too much on them either. So be open to learning them, but also understand how to substitute them when needed.

In this article, you’ll learn the top 10 most commonly used filler words in Portuguese, their meaning, and when to use them. We’ll also provide you with examples and alternatives so you can learn to sound like a Brazilian—without becoming a filler word machine.

A Group of Four Friends Chatting and Having Coffee Beverages

Out with Portuguese speakers? Prepare to hear many filler words!

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Portuguese Table of Contents
  1. Why do we use filler words?
  2. The Top 10 Portuguese Filler Words
  3. Pros and Cons of Filler Words
  4. Continue Learning More Portuguese with PortuguesePod101

1. Why do we use filler words? 

Filler words are used in spoken conversation to indicate a pause—maybe to think, maybe to look for the right words—while also letting the other party know that the speaker hasn’t finished talking yet. Keep in mind that fillers can be words or sounds. In either case, fillers don’t add meaning to the sentence. 

One thing you might notice, however, is that some people use filler words excessively. In these cases, the fillers are not used to indicate a pause but rather as a crutch or an automatic tic that interrupts the flow of speech. When that happens, it’s almost impossible not to notice them and the speaker risks annoying those who are listening. 

Putting it all together, why do we use filler words, then?

  1. To indicate hesitation. In other words, to buy ourselves time to think when speaking.
  2. To help manage the flow of discourse. They act almost like punctuation marks for speech.
  3. To emphasize ideas. They bring more attention to what has just been said or what is about to be said.
  4. To approach a certain topic more gently. In this case, they’re used at the beginning of a sentence to make it sound less harsh.

You might also notice that there are differences between the filler words used by younger generations versus older generations. Some say it’s a problem with the younger ones, that they’re “destroying” the language by employing so many filler words… But the truth is that each generation has its own fillers. 

In Portuguese, for example, older people might often use veja bem (“see”) or ou seja (“in other words,” but meaning “I mean”). Young adults and teenagers, on the other hand, prefer sabe (“you know”) or tipo (“like”).

As we go through the top 10 filler words used today in Brazilian Portuguese, we’ll give you some tips on the context in which they’re used, when to avoid them, and possible alternatives. By the end of this article, you’ll be able to understand and use them with confidence! 


2. The Top 10 Portuguese Filler Words

#1

PortugueseLiterallyEnglish Equivalent
Tipo“Type”“Like”

As the holy grail of Portuguese filler words, tipo is as common in Portuguese as “like” is in English. It can be placed at the beginning or in the middle of pretty much any sentence. It’s more commonly (though not exclusively) used by younger generations.

Tipo is used to buy time when speaking, but it can easily become a habit or tic. Language purists would argue that the word should never be used as a filler, that it indicates a lower level of education, and that it makes you sound like a Brazilian version of a “valley girl.”

However, it’s good to remember that languages evolve and that speakers are the makers of language. Using tipo will definitely make you sound more like a native. Just keep in mind the context: If you’re in a job interview or writing a formal message, don’t use it. In informal situations, just be mindful to not overuse it and you’ll be good to go!

You might also see tipo paired with the word assim (“as such”). The resulting expression (tipo assim) is used in the same way as tipo.

Hoje eu andei de bicicleta e, tipo, tô super cansada. (“Today I biked and, like, I’m super tired.”)
Não sei, tipo, eu gosto dele, mas às vezes ele me irrita. (“I don’t know, like, I like him but sometimes he annoys me.”)
Tipo assim, se você não tentar, nunca vai saber. (“Like, if you don’t try, you will never know.”)

#2

PortugueseLiterallyEnglish Equivalent
Ééé“Uh”

Maybe you remember that é is the verb “is” in Portuguese. However, as a filler word, it loses this meaning and acts more like a sound that fills a moment of pause. It’s probably the most common filler sound in Brazilian Portuguese. 

This filler is the result of a tendency to prolong the last sound of a word when trying to indicate a pause in speech or when thinking about what to say next. For example:
  • Eu queroooo… cinco pães, por favor. (“I want, uh… five loaves of bread, please.”)
  • Eu vou visitar aaaa… tia Ana hoje. (“I’ll visit, uh… Aunt Ana today.”)
You can use this strategy and/or the filler sound ééé—or even hummm—when searching for words, thinking about your answers, or stalling for a magic solution to drop from the skies (although this is more unlikely).

Éééé… difícil responder essa pergunta. (“Uh… it’s difficult to answer this question.”)
Eu quero, ééé… um café e um pão com manteiga. (“I want, uh… a coffee and one bread with butter.”)

A Woman Pausing to Look Up and Think while Taking Notes

Éééé… como era mesmo? (“Uh… how was it, again?”)

#3

PortugueseLiterallyEnglish Equivalent
Bom / Bem“Good” / “Well”“Well”

This filler in Portuguese is commonly used at the beginning of a sentence to indicate hesitation or to buy more time. It’s also used when beginning a somewhat sensitive phrase, as a way of approaching the topic more gently.

You’re more likely to hear bom being used as a filler word in Brazilian Portuguese, while bem is more often used in European Portuguese. 

Bom… Eu não sei o que eu faria na sua situação, mas tenta falar com ele. (“Well… I don’t know what I’d do in your situation, but try to talk to him.”)
Bom… O prato do dia parece uma boa opção. (“Well… The daily dish looks like a good option.”)


#4

PortugueseLiterallyEnglish Equivalent
Então“Then”“So”

Então can be used at the beginning of a sentence as an indicator that a previous topic is being approached again. But more often, it doesn’t carry any meaning and is rather used as a filler word out of habit. 

Compared to other Portuguese fillers, it’s not as frowned upon in formal settings. But as a rule of thumb, it’s good to avoid filler words in general when it comes to formal situations, as they can be seen as language crutches. 

A possible substitute for então when it’s used to resume a conversation about a previous topic is como eu disse (“as I said”) or como eu estava dizendo (“as I was saying”).

Então, tenho que te contar o que aconteceu ontem. (“So, I have to tell you what happened yesterday.”)
Então, menina, foi uma briga enorme! (“So, girl, it was a huge fight!”)

A Man Sitting on the Couch and Talking on the Phone with a Remote in His Hand

Então, deixa eu te contar sobre esse filme. (“So, let me tell you about this movie.”)

#5

PortugueseLiterallyEnglish Equivalent
Assim“As such” / “This way”“Like” / “So”

In informal conversations, people use assim in two ways:
  • To begin a sentence, stretching the i
  • To manage the flow of sentences, just as the word tipo is used.
It’s also used to smooth things over when starting to approach a delicate topic. It can be pronounced in a way that draws the vowel i out a bit, buying the speaker even more time to think.

As mentioned before, assim can also be paired with the ubiquitous filler word tipo, creating a common filler expression: tipo assim.

Assim, eu não acho que ele tem toda a culpa. (“So, I don’t think he is entirely to blame.”)
Assiiiiim… você acha mesmo que essa viagem é uma boa ideia? (“Sooo… do you really think this trip is a good idea?”)    
Ele chegou tão atrasado que, tipo assim, a festa já tinha terminado. (“He arrived so late that, like, the party was already over.”)
Eu penso que, assim, não faz sentido essa briga. (“I think that, like, this fight makes no sense.”) 

#6

PortugueseLiterallyEnglish Equivalent
E aí“Then”“What’s up”

(“then”) is a common word you’ll hear countless times when a Brazilian is telling a story:

A festa estava indo bem, mas aí ele correu para o palco, e aí tirou o microfone das mãos dela. Aí, todo mundo ficou em silêncio. (“The party was going well, but then he ran to the stage, and then he took the mic off her hands. Then everybody went silent.”)

In the sentence above, you can see that does have a meaning, but it can also be easily overused.

As a filler word, is often paired with e (“and”). When that happens, it can be used in different ways:
  • As “and then”: In the previous example, you can see e aí being used to continue telling what happened.
    • Eles entraram na sala, e aí viram o presente. (“They got into the room and then they saw the gift.”)
  • As “and then?” or “what happened?”: It can be used by itself to ask what happened next.
    • Tive uma entrevista de emprego hoje. (“I had a job interview today.”)
    • E aí? (“And how did it go?”)
  • As “what’s up!”: Used to greet people in an informal way.
    • E aí, tudo bem? (“What’s up, all good?”)
  • “So”: Used just as então, at the beginning or in the middle of a sentence.
    • Eles já acordaram, aí vamos sair em 1 hora. (“They woke up already, so we’ll leave in 1 hour.”)

E aí, prontos para o filme? (“So, ready for the movie?”)
E aí, Luciana! (“What’s up, Luciana?”)

#7

PortugueseLiterally and English Equivalent
Cara / Mano / Meu“Dude” / “Bro” / “Mate”

Imagine you have to tell a juicy piece of gossip to your best friend. A Portuguese speaker might begin the story in one of the following ways, depending on their region:
  • Cara, você não vai acreditar! (“Dude, you won’t believe this!”)
  • Mano, você não vai acreditar! (“Bro, you won’t believe this!”)
  • Meu, você não vai acreditar! (“Mate, you won’t believe this!”)
These words are all variations of “dude,” “bro,” “mate,” or similar words. If you were to talk to people from different areas of Brazil, you might discover many more, like velho/véi (“old man”), rapaz (“man”), mana (“sister”), and more. 

Their placement is not restricted to the beginning of the sentence, though. In informal Portuguese, they can be used in any part of the phrase. As filler words, they don’t add any meaning, but instead help with the flow of the sentence. 

One way you can substitute these words is by using the name of the person you’re talking to. But, again, don’t overdo it: people might be weirded out if you say their name too many times.

Cara, o dia tá lindo! (“Man, the day is beautiful!”)
Doeu muito, mano. (“It hurt a lot, dude.”)
Ela foi lá, meu, e partiu pra briga! (“She went there, mate, and started a fight!”)


One Businessman Whispering Something in the Ear of Another Businessman

Mano, ele colocou a culpa em você, meu. (“Man, he blamed you for it, bro.”)

#8

PortugueseLiterallyEnglish Equivalent
“Isn’t it?”“Right?” / “You know”

is the contraction of não é (“isn’t it”). This filler is commonly used at the end of a sentence, like “right?” would be used in English. But it can also be used almost like a comma in informal spoken Portuguese: 
  • Ele chegou atrasado, né, aí foi um pouco chato. (“He arrived late, you know, so it was a bit annoying.”)
It can also be used to emphasize a negative answer, in which case it means “of course not”: 

A: Você saiu na chuva, mesmo doente? (“You went out in the rain, even though you’re sick?”)
B: Não, né. Eu remarquei o encontro. (“Of course not. I rescheduled the date.”)

Amanhã vamos no shopping, né? (“We’ll go to the mall tomorrow, right?”)
Você assistiu o vídeo que eu te mandei, né? (“You watched the video I sent you, right?”)
Ela sempre quis conhecer a Argentina, né, então foi ótimo. (“She always wanted to go to Argentina, you know, so it was great.”)


#9

PortugueseLiterally and English Equivalent
Sabe“You know”

Used just like the English equivalent, sabe appears at the end of sentences in Portuguese. However, when it’s used as a filler word, the question implied—Você sabe? (“Do you know?”)—is rhetoric. The speaker is not really asking if you know anything specific, it just marks the end of the sentence.

Eles sempre tiveram um bom relacionamento, sabe. (“They always had a good relationship, you know.”)
A situação é complicada, sabe. (“The situation is complicated, you know.”)

#10

PortugueseLiterally and English Equivalent
Ah / Ai“Oh”

These interjections can be used as filler words when placed at the beginning of sentences. They normally indicate exasperation, excitement, or surprise.

Although ai also means “ouch,” when used as a filler, it acts like “oh” does in English. Ah is used in the same way, although it’s less common. 

Ah, aí, não sei. (“Oh, then I don’t know.”)
Ai, sério? (“Oh, really?”)
Ai, chega de grito!
(“Argh, no more screaming!”)
Ah, será que eles já chegaram? (“Oh, I wonder if they already arrived!”)

/! Bonus: You can put a bunch of filler words together and actually create a sentence with meaning!
  • Ai, aí não, né? (It works like an exasperated “C’mon!”)

A Woman Talking on Her Cell Phone with Eyes Closed and a Hand to Her Head

Ai, não acredito! (“Oh, I can’t believe it!”)

3. Pros and Cons of Filler Words

As you begin listening to native Portuguese speakers, you’ll quickly notice that filler words are everywhere. 

If you’re serious about speaking the language well, you should know if and when to use filler words. As we already hinted at before, there are pros and cons to adding those words to your speech. Let’s take a closer look at them.

1 – Pro: Filler words help you sound like a local.

No native speaker can avoid filler words all the time. So as you learn these words and start incorporating them into your speech, you’ll begin to sound more natural. 

Most of us don’t learn new languages to become a perfect writer or a master of grammar—instead, we learn them to engage in conversations, to interact, and to communicate. Striving for a perfect sentence is not as important as being able to understand when certain words are used without meaning (so you don’t get stuck trying to figure out what tipo means). 

2 – Pro: They buy you time to search for words.

Especially when learning a new language, it’s good to have tools that give you time to search for words when speaking. After all, the vocabulary might not come automatically for you, and using filler words can help you keep the conversation going. 

Plus, if learning and incorporating filler words into your speech makes you feel more comfortable, that’s very  important for boosting your fluency!

3 – Con: It’s easy to overuse filler words.

Because you’ll hear these filler words often and they impart a sense of confidence, it’s easy to get addicted to them and not even realize you’re overusing words like tipo and . But trust me, other people will notice if you exaggerate and it can become annoying. 

4 – Con: They shouldn’t be used in formal situations or contexts.

Remember to avoid filler words in formal situations, such as business meetings, job interviews, or presentations. Likewise, don’t use them when writing a formal email or message. Using filler words in these contexts convey unprofessionalism and a lack of knowledge on what you’re talking about. It can also indicate a lack of confidence, especially when you’re speaking in public. 

So what can you do to mitigate these cons? You have two options. 

The first is to substitute the filler words. If you’re in a situation where you’ve been asked a question and need some time to think, you can use a few tricks like:

  • Repeating the question back: O que eu espero aprender com essa experiência? Eu espero… (“What do I expect to learn from this experience? I expect…”)
  • Adding phrases like boa pergunta (“good question”) and vamos ver (“let’s see”).
  • Being honest and saying you need to think. This works better in an informal situation, in which you can simply say deixa eu pensar (“let me think”).

The second option is to become comfortable with silent pauses. This is an important skill to master in any language, not only in Portuguese. Short silent breaks can actually convey a sense of security and confidence in what you’re saying. It can also give your audience time to absorb what you’ve just said.

A Man Giving a Speech

Avoid filler words in presentations and formal settings.

4. Continue Learning More Portuguese with PortuguesePod101

Are you ready to identify and use Portuguese filler words after reading this guide? We hope we gave you a good overview of what filler words are, how to use them in Portuguese, and how to substitute them when necessary. Now, you won’t be flabbergasted by the way native speakers say seemingly meaningless words like tipo all the time!  

Do you think we missed any popular Portuguese filler words? Or did any of them surprise you at all? Let us know in the comments below!

Going forward, we suggest you try to pay attention to the way native speakers use the different filler words and why they do it. As we mentioned before, sometimes it’s to buy time while other times it helps with the flow of the sentence. Doing this will help you understand when to use filler words yourself. 

There are more free Portuguese resources and a variety of vocabulary lists available on PortuguesePod101.com to help you continue your language learning journey. Go ahead and choose your favorite tools to expand your learning opportunities.

If you want to take your learning experience further, members of PortuguesePod101.com get access to the largest language lesson library in the world, with thousands of real lessons by real teachers. Perfect for anyone who wants to learn from anywhere, feel motivated, and be ready to speak Portuguese with confidence.

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