EACH LANGUAGE HAS, YOU KNOW, ITS, UM, VERBAL TICS. How to avoid them and speak properly!

Hello guys,

I’m sure you heard about verbal tics but just in case you don’t I’m going to explain you what they are.

Verbal tics are those sounds or words speakers make unconsciously and frequently to fill air time. They are also called non-words or fillers. English verbal tics include the sounds umahuh, or the words like, right or you know.

Many of us have developed a conversational bad habit or verbal tic. The unfortunate part of having the verbal tics is that, like the facial ones, they are not easily ignored and can disturb people’s understanding. Just to let you understand what I’m talking about, have a look at this example in English.

A simple question such us “Did you enjoy the party?” will change in meaning depending on how it’s said. If I ask you “Did you ENJOY the party?” the effect is different than if I ask you “Did you enjoy the PARTY?”. Basically, I’m emphasising a specific part of the sentence to give my question a tacit meaning.

So, what happens if I have verbal tics? You will be unsure of the meaning because the emphasis gets lost. “Em, did you enjoy, you know, the party?” All these non-words don’t help my interlocutor in understanding  what I really want to know.

As you can imagine each language has its own potential verbal tics.


English Like, You know, right, um, ah, uh, actually, I mean, anyways, in other words, so
Italian Cioè, praticamente, quindi, infatti, per cui, eh, però
French en fait, enfin, tu vois, genre, tu vois ce que je veux dire, oauis, tout à fait, franchement
Spanish entonces, pues, ya, pero, claro, luego, vale


If this is something you do, what can you do about it?

First of all you should become aware of your own verbal tics by either recording your conversations or having some friends give you honest feedback. For example, I asked to my friend Anna to write down all the verbal tics I possess in English and I was surprised to find out that I probably use too often 2 annoying  non-words: “You know” and “I mean”.

So, do the same.

1) Ask someone or record yourself making a presentation and find out which are your conversational tics.

2) make note of when and where you add the tic.

Try to avoid them day by day just being focused on what you are saying.


Learn a language and speak properly!



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