July 01, 1995

A Little Filler, You Know, Can Go a Long Way

Everybody frowns upon the nonsense phrase and the filler. But only the highest of the high-brow seem to avoid either in everyday language. Russian, has a rich arsenal of filler words. And for the foreigner searching desperately for the right word or phrase, these fillers can provide relief, humor, and even escape.

Let’s start with the direct Russian equivalent for the ubiquitous English “you know.” Russians say this, but rarely and in a different way: “Знаете ли?” For example, “А я, знаете ли, предпочитаю...” (“You know, I prefer...”).

This is perfect Russian, but very few native speakers would use it today – you will most likely hear it in a Chekhov play or in TV interviews with film and theater critics.

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