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I'm talking about Speech disfluency or hesitations in speech while your brain is still thinking about what to say. “Um, er, uh, so, yeah, you know, like, etc.”

In French, how are these expressed? What are some common filler phrases attached to the beginning of sentences that are simply said while the person is still piecing together a coherent thought?

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6 Answers

up vote 14 down vote accepted
  • Euh
  • Hmmm, hum
  • Eh bien (sometimes spelled et bien) and relatives: eh ben, ben, bah, and especially in the south eh beh (pronounced é bé),
  • Tu vois (may be phonetically contracted in tvois)
  • Tu sais (may be phonetically contracted in tsé)
  • Enfin
  • Quoi as a postfix
  • Any combination of the above : for instance, a whole sentence with only these (that may actually be uttered) : euh, bah tu sais, ben enfin tu vois quoi
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mmm”, “tu vois” and “en fait” are the most used currently.

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Euh and ben (I've also seen it spelled bun; etymologically related to bien).

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It's always "ben", "bun" doesn't exist. But I agree these are the most common. –  Louhike Aug 18 '11 at 18:43
    
I've seen it spelled bun. There is likely no standard for such an informal word. But I'll edit my post to place "ben" in the seat of honor here. –  Brennan Vincent Aug 18 '11 at 19:20
    
"bun"? never saw it.. where was it? –  Nikko Aug 19 '11 at 13:58
    
I am with @Louhike on that: pretty sure "bun" doesn't exist. It sounds awfully suspiciously like an English spelling of the sound (doubt a French speaker would pronounce it the way of "ben"). –  Dave Sep 1 '11 at 2:06
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I use hum. Sometimes hum hum.

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Ca se prononce comment? –  Brennan Vincent Aug 18 '11 at 18:40
    
@Vincent : pronounced "eum" –  subtenante Aug 18 '11 at 18:46
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In Québécois French it's pretty common for people to say "umm" just like in English.

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On top of the answers already listed on this page, we also say Alors ! in certain circumstances:

— Ca c'est bien passé ton examen ?
— Alors ! Oui, au début, mais lorsqu'ils ont commencé à me poser des questions [...]

Or also:

— Que pensez-vous de ce projet ?
— Alors ! L'idée est séduisante, c'est certain. Je me demande juste si nous avons les fonds nécessaires.

I'd say this is an equivalent of Well!.

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