Every language has its very own way to stall a conversation. When the speaker suddenly comes to a halt because the brain can’t keep up, there is this short buffer time, which gets filled with a set phrase.
In this case I’m not talking about uhms and ehs. But about actual words or sentences that are used to fill in the gaps. Although not very pleasant to listen to in a formal setting, those conversation fillers can make you indistinguishable from a native speaker, when used correctly in a casual conversation.
What is it called?
The most overused Swedish conversation filler of all time is ‘vad heter det’, ‘what is it called’, mostly contracted to ‘vahettere’. This is used when you cannot find the proper words to express something or the name of something. Let’s say that you saw a movie last night, which was ridiculously cheesy and you want to tell your colleagues about it during the coffee break. Now, suddenly, you can’t remember the name and you go ‘vahettere’ and wave your hand.
This gives you a bit of room to think and, at the same time, invites the listener to pitch in with suggestions. This is very useful for you, still in the process of learning Swedish. As you can use it for getting the listener to help you out without giving away that you don’t know the word. You just can’t remember it!
What was it now?
Next up we’ve got ‘vad var det nu, då’, which means ‘what was it now’. Also used when not knowing what to say, when losing your train of thought, or if you can’t remember what the word is. This is basically interchangeable with ‘vad heter det’. But there is a second variant with ‘hur’, ‘how’, instead of ‘vad’, which is used, not for single words, but when you are explaining or retelling how a series of events took place and what happened. Now you remember only half of the story and to win some time you say ‘hur var det nu, då’.
These phrases are really something that can make you seem more fluent that you really are. And they will certainly help you to take your Swedish to the next level. Allowing for a more flowing conversation and opening up for input from the listener, so that you can expand your vocabulary.
For more Swedish tips, visit Say It In Swedish.
Written by Joakim Andersson
Joakim is a Swedish musician, YouTuber, Podcaster, and entrepreneur who calls himself an enjoyer of life. He is the founder of Say It In Swedish, which is a podcast, web and mobile app, and YouTube channel that teaches modern Swedish in a fun and easy-going way for free. Check it out at Say It In Swedish.