Why do people use the word "Basically" alot? Like they would mostly start their sentence with "Basically I am trying to do this".

  • 4
    It's like using you know or umm a lot, it's a bad habit, might be used to buy time while they are thinking about what they will say next
    – Peter
    Jan 24, 2016 at 15:09
  • 3
    It's usually not much more than a "filler" word (as with well, so, erm, see, you know, etc.) A longer alternative with much the same "meaning" (to the extent that it really does have a meaning) would be something like The essence of what I'm trying to say is... (where often it's basically a device used to "play for time" while you think of how to say what you really want to convey). Like one might say much the same about OP's use of like above. Jan 24, 2016 at 15:11
  • Are you referring to written or spoken English?
    – GoDucks
    Jan 24, 2016 at 18:41
  • Also "Basically..." can be used when a person is unsure about what they are saying, or how it will be understood or reacted to by the recipient. (same for "what I'm trying to say is...")
    – user3169
    Jan 24, 2016 at 19:29

3 Answers 3


To quote Arch Lustberg, author of How To Sell Yourself,

"Sometimes we use garbage fillers, phrases, and sentences. I'm tired of 'so to speak,' 'if you will,' 'as it were,' 'at this point in time,' and 'in a manner of speaking.' John F. Kennedy had 'let me say this about that.' Richard M. Nixon's classic was 'let me make one thing perfectly clear.' Some others we hear all the time are: 'I'm glad you asked me that question,' 'to be perfectly honest,' and 'to tell you the truth.'" etc.

Overuse or misuse of words like "basically," "literally," and others qualify as such "garbage fillers," used either as a way to buy time while thinking of what to say next or simply as bad speech habits.


Mark Hubbard's answer, and in turn the quote from Arch Lustberg, are very insightful, as far as bad speech habits are concerned.

From a more Machiavellian interpretation though, the overuse of words like "basically" may point to the use of speechcraft and neuro-linguistic programming to get the addressee to agree with the speaker's point of view.

By using such words or phrases, the speaker draws attention and adds emphasis to the words that immediately follow -- and at times away from other things they said. This is especially effective if used at the end of a long argument, because it leaves a strong final impact, which makes it more likely to be remembered, and at the same time reinforces the conclusion (and maybe drawing attention away from supporting arguments).

Incidentally, Monty Python reference!


We use basically to show that you are describing a situation in a simple, general way, and that you are not concerned with less important details. So there is nothing wrong in using it. But, some of the speakers use it very frequently in their speech which probably decreases the significance of that word which isn't correct.

So it should be used in a limit. And most important thing is if the word ‘basically' is used in its proper sense it’s an attention-seeker word.

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